Canfield (solitaire)

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A Patience game
Alternative namesDemon
Named variantsChameleon, Rainbow, Selective Canfield, Storehouse, Superior Canfield
TypeReserved packer
DeckSingle 52-card

Canfield (US) or Demon (UK) is a patience or solitaire card game with a very low probability of winning. It was an English game first called Demon Patience and described as "the best game for one pack that has yet been invented", but was popularised in the United States at the turn of the 20th century by casino owner Richard A. Canfield, who turned it into a casino game.[1][2] As a result it became known as Canfield in the United States, while continuing to be called Demon Patience in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.[3] It is closely related to Klondike, and is one of the most popular games of its type.[4]


The game is first recorded in England by Whitmore Jones in 1892 as Demon Patience. She describes it as "by far the best game for one pack that has yet been invented," and goes on to say that its "very uncomplimentary name" seems to derive from its ability to frustrate. "Truly a mocking spirit appears to preside over the game, and snatches success from the player often at the last moment, when it seems just within his grasp." Nevertheless when the player does succeed in getting the patience out, "it is a triumph to have conquered the demon."[5]

In 1894, noted gambler Richard A. Canfield, took over the Clubhouse in Saratoga Springs, New York.[6][7] He encouraged gamblers to "buy" a deck of cards. Some sources say the cost was $50,[8] others say it was $52.[9][10] The gambler would then play a game of solitaire and earn $5 for every card they managed to place into the foundations; if a player was fortunate enough to place all 52 cards into the foundations, the player would win $500. Although players made a loss on average (of about five to six cards), the game proved to be popular, and Canfield became rich. The disadvantage of the game was the need to hire a croupier for every gambler playing the game.

Sources differ over precisely which game Canfield actually used. He himself called the game Klondike, but the name Canfield stuck in North American circles.[11] Confusingly, Canfield was also the British name for a different game that was originally named Klondike and is the game that most people are familiar with today. Since we do not know the precise rules used at Canfield' casino, an argument has been made that the game originally played there was in fact the one now commonly known as Klondike, and not the one popularly known in the US today as Canfield.[12]

Method of play[edit]

The initial layout in the game of Canfield

To play the game, one must first deal thirteen cards face down into one packet and then turn the top card up. These cards form the reserve, the top card of which is available for play. Then a card is placed on first of four foundations to the right of the reserve. This card is the first foundation card all other cards of the same rank must also start the other three foundations.

Below the foundations are four piles, each starting with a card each. This will be the tableau and the top cards of each pile are available for play. Cards on the tableau are built down by alternating colors, while the foundations are built up by suit, wrapping from King to Ace if necessary. Any gaps on the tableau are filled from the reserve; in case the reserve is used up, cards from the waste pile are used. Cards on the reserve can also be distributed to the foundations or to the tableau. Cards on the tableau are also moved one unit, provided that the entire column has to be moved.

When no more plays are possible on the tableau and no more cards can be placed to the foundations, especially from the reserve, one can deal cards from the stock (the undealt cards) three at a time into the waste pile and use these cards to build to the foundations or to the tableau. One can make unlimited re-deals as long as there are moves, although Richard Canfield himself restricted the number of times that gamblers could re-deal the stock.

The game is won when all cards are placed in the foundations.


Some variants of the game include:

  • Chameleon, where the reserve only has 12 cards, and there are only three tableau columns. Building in the tableau is down, regardless of suit, and the stock is dealt one at a time with no redeals. All or any cards may be moved from the end of one tableau pile to another.
  • Rainbow, in which the tableau builds down regardless of suit. Cards are turned one at a time and no redeals are allowed (in some sources one can deal from the stock one card at a time and two redeals are allowed in this game).
  • Selective Canfield, where one can deal five cards right after the reserve is dealt. One can place any one of these five into the foundations and the remaining four cards become the tableau.
  • Storehouse (Reserve or Thirteen Up), in which one should remove the deuces (twos) and place them on the foundations. The reserve and the cards on the tableau are then dealt. The stock is dealt one card at a time, and it can be used only twice. Furthermore, the method of building in this game is by suit.[13] The Storehouse variant makes the game easier than Canfield.[14]
  • Superior Canfield, where the entire reserve is visible, and gaps can be filled by any card, not just those from the reserve.
  • Eagle Wing (Thirteen Down): similar to Storehouse.
  • Variegated Demon: double pack game in which Aces are always the base cards and there is a tableau of five cards. Sequences or single cards may be moved and there are two redeals.

Other closely related solitaire games include Duchess and the two-deck game American Toad. Beehive is a much simpler solitaire game that uses uses a Storehouse layout, but requires players to match cards of the same value, and is geared towards children.[15]

Racing Demon, an English game known as Nerts or Pounce in the US, is a real-time variation of Canfield that enables the game to be played competitively between multiple players. It was the inspiration for the commercially produced Dutch Blitz and Ligretto.


Under the standard rules using a three card draw, Canfield can't be completed successfully very often.[16]

Running a computer solver on 50,000 random Canfield deals has shown that about 71% of all games are winnable. In the average game, 39.9 cards were able to be moved to the foundation. Because the reserve cards are hidden, and because the three-at-a-time dealing of cards from the stock means that cards played early in the game can impact which stock cards are available much later, it is very difficult by normal playing standards to come anywhere near theoretically possible win rates. This would make it plausible for expert-level players to claim win rates of around 35%.[17]

In the Storehouse variant, the maximum possible win rate drops to about 44%. In practice, however, Storehouse is a much easier game to win, likely due to getting all four foundations at the start of the game. Most players will be able to win close to 44% of their games, regardless of skill level, a much higher win rate than is usually achieved by casual players of Canfield.[18]


  1. ^ "Demon" (p.137) in The Playing Card Kit by Richard Craze, Simon & Schuster, 1995. ISBN 0-7318-0526-7
  2. ^ "Canfield" (p.10) in Card & Dice Games by N.A.C. Bathe, Robert Frederick Ltd, 2004.ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  3. ^ "Canfield" (p.32) in Little Giant Encyclopedia of Games for One or Two, The Diagram Group, 1998. ISBN 0-8069-0981-1
  4. ^ "Canfield" (p.307) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  5. ^ Whitmore Jones (1892), p. 19.
  6. ^ Holiday (1947), p. 128.
  7. ^ Fists vs Wits – Part II: Richard Canfield at Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  8. ^ Morehead, Philip D. (ed.) "Canfield" (p.197) in Hoyle's Rules of Games (3rd edition), 2001. ISBN 0-451-20484-0
  9. ^ Curtis, Tony. "Are there any Las Vegas casinos that offer Solitaire?", Las Vegas Advisor, September 25, 2014. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  10. ^ Arnold, Peter. "Demon" (p.227) in The Complete Book of Card Games , Hamlyn Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-0-600-62191-1
  11. ^ "Canfield" (p.426) in The Penguin Book of Card Games by David Parlett, Treasure Press, 1987. ISBN 1-85051-221-3
  12. ^ Keller, Michael. "What game was played at Canfield's Casino?", Solitaire Laboratory, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  13. ^ "Thirteen-Up (Storehouse)" (p.308) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  14. ^ "Canfield" (p.82) in 101 Great Card Games by David Galt, Publications International, 1999. ISBN 0-7853-4044-0
  15. ^ "Beehive" in Whiter, Barb (2000). The Encyclopedia of Games. Hinkler Books. p. 89. ISBN 9781865152547.
  16. ^ "Demon (Canfield)" (p.428-9) in The Penguin Book of Card Games by David Parlett, Treasure Press, 1987. ISBN 1-85051-221-3
  17. ^ Wolter, Jan. "Experimental Analysis of Canfield Solitaire". Politaire. Archived from the original on 2018-04-29. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  18. ^ Wolter, Jan. "Experimental Analysis of Storehouse Solitaire". Politaire. Archived from the original on 2017-06-24. Retrieved 6 November 2021.


  • Whitmore Jones, Mary (1892). Games of Patience for One or More Players. 3rd Series. London: L. Upcott Gill.

See also[edit]