15 Strategy Tips Pros Use in Solitaire: Play Like One

Ahh, Solitaire – many of us learned this classic card game as children when gaming was nothing more than a pass time. However, did you know most people never master this game, even after playing it their whole lives? So I thought it would be nice to do something about it and share some tips that the pros use to increase their chances of winning. 

Here are 15 strategy tips to up your solitaire game:

  1. Learn the rules of solitaire.
  2. Flip the first card on the stockpile to get an extra option.
  3. Move cards on the table first.
  4. Always look through the stockpile to see what’s available.
  5. Use free cells to store cards you can’t use right now.
  6. Build ace stacks evenly.
  7. Only move cards if there’s a good reason.
  8. Move cards into larger stacks first.
  9. Handle your face-down cards first.
  10. Don’t clear a table stack if there’s no king.
  11. Use the undo button wisely.
  12. Use the ace as a temporary king.
  13. Decide if the red or black king is best for empty spots.
  14. Move cards, even when they run against the above tips.
  15. Be patient as you learn. 

I already touched on why many new players find solitaire so hard on this link. But with just a bit of planning and practice you can skyrocket your win percentage.

This article will explore these strategy tips for succeeding at Solitaire. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, this cheat sheet will help you win more games and climb that leaderboard.

1. Learn the Rules of Solitaire

Before you can start playing like a pro, you need to learn the rules of Solitaire. This basic card game only requires a deck of 52 cards. The game’s goal is to move all the cards from the tableau to the foundation. Those foundations are built from ace to king.

The tableau consists of seven piles, six of which are face down and one face up. You arrange the six face-down cards in a suit, ace through king. The face-up pile is placed in the center of the tableau and is called the stockpile.

The game starts with seven cards dealt on the tableau, three cards to the first pile, two cards to the next, and one card to the last. Additional cards are dealt one at a time to the first three piles from the stockpile.

When you have no moves left, you can take a card from the deck to deal a new card to each of the seven piles. However, if you can move some or all of the cards in a particular stack, do so. 

Video: Rules of Solitaire (plus how to deal it)

2. Flip the First Card on the Stockpile To Get an Extra Option

You might want to flip over the first card on the stockpile before dealing the initial seven cards to the tableau when you’re just starting. Doing so will give you an extra card. I recommend moving this card to a foundation or another pile.

However, this method does not always work, as another card might block the stockpile card. In this case, you can try to move another card instead. Also, don’t forget that you can move cards on the tableau before dealing new cards from the deck. Constantly freeing up more space for more cards will help you get started on clearing some of the tableau piles.

3. Move Cards on the Table First

When playing Solitaire, it’s always good to move cards from the tableau to the foundation first, which will clear up some space and allow you to work with more cards. 

Still, be careful not to move any cards blocking other cards – you’ll need to find another way to free it up. That usually means moving another card from the tableau.

For example, if you have five clubs in the first pile and two clubs in the second pile, you can move the two clubs to the foundation, freeing up the five clubs so you can move them to another stack or a foundation.

4. Always Look Through the Stockpile To See What’s Available

It’s always a good idea to look at the cards in the stockpile. Checking back in with these cards will give you an idea of what’s available and might help you make some more moves.

You can move any card in the stockpile to any other pile, including the foundation. So, if you see that there’s a card that you can use in the tableau, move it over and start working with it.

Still, don’t just look at the top card in the stockpile. Make sure to look through all the cards to avoid missing anything.

5. Use Free Cells To Store Cards You Can’t Use Right Now

There might be times when you have a card that you can’t use right away. That might be because the card is blocked or there’s no place to move it. In this case, you can store the card in a free slot to free up space in the tableau and allow you to work with other cards.

You can move any card from the tableau to a free cell. You can also advance cards between free cells. So, if you have a card in one free cell and another free cell has a card that you can use, move the card from the first free cell to the second free cell.

Just be careful not to fill up all the free cells. If you do, you won’t be able to move any more cards in a pinch.

Video: Step by Step Instructions – Tutorial to Win at Solitaire

6. Build Ace Stacks Evenly

It’s always wise to build the ace stacks evenly when playing Solitaire since it will make it easier to move cards around.

You can build the ace stacks by moving cards from the tableau or using the Ace of Spades as a wild card. Just make sure that each pile has approximately the same number of cards.

If you have a card that’s not an ace, you can move it to another stack. Otherwise, you can use the ace of spades as a wildcard to match the other card in the stack.

7. Only Move Cards if There’s a Good Reason

It’s crucial to move cards only when there’s a good reason. Keeping the goal in mind will help you make more moves and eventually clear the tableau.

If you can’t see any way to move a card, then the card is blocked, and you won’t be able to do much about it. However, if you can see a way to move another card to make way for the blocked one, go ahead and do it. There’s no need to hold on to the card if there’s no good reason to do so.

8. Move Cards into Larger Stacks First

Solitaire involves moving all the cards from the tableau to the foundation. When playing, you want to move as many cards as possible in each turn. That’s how you decrease the number of turns needed to clear the board.

One way to do this is by moving cards into bigger stacks first. When possible, try to move cards that are all together in one pile to the foundation. Keeping your cards in their final stacks will decrease the number of moves needed to clear the tableau.

Finding a set place for all of your suited cards is especially helpful when dealing with kings or aces. Moving one of these cards to the foundation clears the tableau for all other cards below them.

9. Handle Your Face-Down Cards First

When you are dealt cards at the beginning of the game, always handle your face-down cards first. Focusing on these cards will give you a better idea of what kind of hand you have and what your possible moves are.

I use this strategy religiously because it helps me stay organized and plan my game moves accordingly. It also helps me avoid making careless mistakes.

For example, if I get an ace of spades and two of hearts, I will put the ace of spades in my first stack. I will also put the two of hearts in my second stack. That way, I know that the ace of spades is my highest card, and the two of hearts is my lowest card.

10. Don’t Clear a Table Stack if There’s No King

In Solitaire, it can be tempting to clear the stacks as soon as possible. However, if you don’t have a king to put in the empty spot, you might be left without any moves. Try to keep at least one table stack until you can free up the king spot. This strategy might end the game sooner, but you’ll at least have a chance to win.

You might also want to try to keep the ace spot open. Keeping an ace on the tableau can be a helpful way to move cards around when you don’t have any other moves.

11. Use the Undo Button Wisely

The undo button can be a lifesaver,  whether you play online or on a tabletop, but it’s essential to use it wisely. You want to make sure the undo will help you move cards around more easily.

For example, if you’re about to move a card to the foundation and there’s a chance that you might not have enough cards in the deck to undo the move, then don’t go back a step. That way, you won’t end up losing cards.

However, if you’re sure that you can undo the move, then use it. Thinking about your turn and whether it was beneficial will help you make more moves and eventually clear the tableau.

12. Use the Ace as a Temporary King

In some cases, you can use the ace as a temporary king. For example, if you have an ace and two 2 cards of the same suit, you can place the two on an empty table spot. You can then put the ace on top of the two and add the second 2 to the stack. 

However, you should only use the ace as a temporary king if you know you can replace it soon. Otherwise, you may lose the ace and be unable to finish the game.

Wonder if your win percentage is any good? I have a detailed article on what kind of win percentage is good for various skill levels.

13. Decide if the Red or Black King Is Best for Empty Spots

kings in solitaire
Kings play an important role in your overall Solitaire strategy. Many players overlook or don’t know how to play the Kings correctly. Just follow the list below and you will do a lot better.

When you’re trying to free up a spot on the board, it’s essential to decide if the red or black king is best for the job. Here are some things to consider:

  • The black king can only be placed on a black suit, while you can put the red king on a red or black suit.
  • The black king can only be positioned on an empty spot if no other black cards are on the board. The red king can be placed on an open slot even if other red cards are on the board.
  • The black king can move two spaces per turn, while the red king can only move one row at a time.
  • You can’t use the black king to block other cards, while the red king can block other cards.
  • The black king can only be used in the tableau, while you can also use the red king in the foundation.

After considering all of these factors, you should decide which king is best for the job.

14. Move Cards Even When They Run Against the Above Tips

When you’re stuck with no other options, it’s time to break the rules. Sometimes, you’ll need to move a card to the foundation even if it doesn’t follow the above tips.

For example, if you have an ace and two cards of the same suit, you can put the two on an empty table spot. You can then place the ace on top of the two, allowing you to build or sequence cards on it.

Still, if you’re out of moves and don’t have any other cards of that suit, you’ll need to move the ace to the foundation. Moving the ace might not be the best move, but it’s better than losing the game.

15. Be Patient As You Learn

It can be frustrating when you’re stuck and don’t know how to move on, but being patient is essential. If you get too frustrated, you’ll make mistakes and may end up losing the game.

Instead, take a deep breath and try to find a solution. The answer might not be easy to find, but it’s there if you look hard enough.

While it’s essential to be patient, watching the timer is also critical if you play a timed game. If you run out of time, you’ll lose the game. That’s why it’s so crucial to make as many moves as possible and clear the tableau fast.

So, the idea is to find the sweet spot between patience and being time conscious.

Interested to play a harder Solitaire variant? The next difficulty step is Spider Solitaire, where you can expect to win around 1 out of 3 games (largely depending on which type of Spider Solitaire you play). You can read about strategy tips for Spider Solitaire here.

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