Klondike (solitaire)

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A patience game
GNOME Aisleriot Solitaire (cropped).png
Game setup
Alternative namesCanfield, Solitaire, Patience, Seven up, Sevens
Named variantsAgnes
DeckSingle 52-card
See also Glossary of solitaire terms

Klondike is a solitaire card game. In the U.S. and Canada, Klondike is the best-known solitaire card game, to the point that the term "Solitaire", in the absence of additional qualifiers, typically refers to Klondike and is considered its other name.[1] Equally in the UK, it is often just known as "Patience".[1] Elsewhere the game is known as American Patience,[2] as well as Fascination, Triangle or Demon Patience.[3]

Klondike is traditionally known in England as Canfield, whereas in America the name Canfield is given to the patience game called "Demon" in England,[4] which is a different solitaire card game devised by Richard Canfield (although Canfield himself called his game Klondike).[5]

According to Tung (2015), the game became popular in the late 19th century, and may have been named "Klondike" after the Canadian region where a gold rush happened.[6][7] Its inclusion in Microsoft Windows in the 1990s has contributed significantly to its popularity in modern times.[8] It is considered the most popular version of solitaire.[9]


Video demonstration of playing solitaire.

Klondike[a][10] is played with a standard 52-card deck, without Jokers. After shuffling, a tableau of seven fanned piles of cards are laid from left to right. From left to right, each pile contains one more card than the last. The first and left-most pile contains a single upturned card, the second pile contains two cards (one downturned, one upturned), the third contains three (two downturned, one upturned), and so on, until the seventh pile which contains seven cards (six downturned, one upturned). The topmost card of each pile is turned face up. The remaining cards form the stock and are placed facedown at the upper left of the layout.

The four foundations (light rectangles in the upper right of the figure) are built up by suit from Ace (low in this game) to King, and the tableau piles can be built down by alternate colors. Every face-up card in a partial pile, or a complete pile, can be moved, as a unit, to another tableau pile on the basis of its highest card. Any empty piles can be filled with a King, or a pile of cards with a King. The aim of the game is to build up four stacks of cards starting with Ace and ending with King, all of the same suit, on one of the four foundations, at which time the player would have won. There are different ways of dealing the remainder of the deck from the stock to the waste, including the following:

  • Turning three cards at once to the waste, with no limit on passes through the deck.
  • Turning three cards at once to the waste, with three passes through the deck.
  • Turning one card at a time to the waste, with three passes through the deck.
  • Turning one card at a time to the waste with only a single pass through the deck, and playing it if possible.
  • Turning one card at a time to the waste, with no limit on passes through the deck.

If the player can no longer make any meaningful moves, the game is considered lost. At this point, winning is impossible.

Probability of winning[edit]

A lost game of Thoughtful Klondike (under draw three rules). The stock is shown at the upper-left. The upper section of the Tableau shows downturned cards, and the lower section shows the upturned cards. No cards can be moved except for two pointless moves: 2♥ from foundation to tableau, or 7♠ between tableau piles.

The probability of being able to win a game of Klondike with best-possible play is not known, although Hoyle's Rules of Games suggests the chances of winning as being 1 in 30 games.[11] The inability of theoreticians to precisely calculate these odds has been referred to by mathematician Persi Diaconis as "one of the embarrassments of applied probability".[12] The best information about the winnability of Klondike concerns a modified version of the game called "Thoughtful Solitaire" or "Thoughtful Klondike", in which the location of all 52 cards is known.[13] The probability of winning Thoughtful Klondike (with draw three rules) has been calculated as being approximately 82%, more precisely as having a confidence interval of 81.956% ± 0.096%.[14] Thoughtful Klondike is not quite the same as simply playing with all cards face up, as this would allow an impossible movement of a pile if the top downturned card happened to be in sequence with the upturned card underneath it. Using physical cards, Thoughtful Klondike can be played by peeking at the face-down cards, while with electronic programs Thoughtful Klondike can be played by allowing unlimited use of undos to return to the start if a choice turns out to be unfavourable.

Because the only difference between the two games (regular and thoughtful) is the knowledge of card location, all thoughtful games with solutions will also have solutions in Klondike. Since any winnable Klondike game must necessarily be winnable when played thoughtfully, the results on Thoughtful Klondike tells us that 82% is an upper bound on the winnability of regular Klondike when we don't know the location of all cards. The true probability with best play might be much smaller, because the difference between a right and wrong move cannot be known in advance whenever more than one move is possible and some cards are still hidden. Ultimately, very little is known about the winnability of regular Klondike. A Klondike-playing AI using Monte Carlo tree search was able to solve up to 35% of randomly generated regular Klondike games,[15] placing a lower bound on the winnability percentage. One experiment found a skilled player could win 189 out of 442 games (43%),[16] but this gives a massive gap of almost 40% between that number and 82%.


Standard scoring in the Windows Solitaire game is determined as follows:[17]

Move Points
Waste to Tableau 5
Waste to Foundation 10
Tableau to Foundation 10
Turn over Tableau card 5
Foundation to Tableau −15
Recycle waste when playing by ones −100 (minimum score is 0)

Moving cards directly from the Waste stack to a Foundation awards 10 points. However, if the card is first moved to a Tableau, and then to a Foundation, then an extra 5 points are received for a total of 15. Thus in order to receive a maximum score, no cards should be moved directly from the Waste to Foundation.

Time can also play a factor in Windows Solitaire, if the Timed game option is selected. For every 10 seconds of play, 2 points are taken away. Bonus points are calculated with the formula of (20,000 ÷ (seconds to finish)) × 35, if the game takes at least 30 seconds. If the game takes less than 30 seconds, no bonus points are awarded.


Single 52-card deck[edit]

Below are some variations of the game of Klondike:

  • In Agnes, the stock is dealt in batches of seven on reserve piles and every one is available. Furthermore, the bases of the foundations depends on the twenty-ninth card, which is dealt on the foundations.
  • In Easthaven, less commonly known as Aces Up,[b] twenty-one cards are dealt into seven piles of three, two face-down and one face-up. A space in this game can only be filled by a king or any sequence starting with a king (although they can simplify the rule and put any card or a sequence in an empty space, as it does in several rules), and when a play goes to a standstill, seven new cards are dealt to the tableau, one top of each pile. Easthaven may include 2 or 3 card decks. The two deck version is either called Double Easthaven or Gypsy.
  • In Nine Across nine columns of cards are dealt, as opposed to the seven of conventional Klondike. The player can choose which cards to form the foundations; if one or more eights are exposed, for example, the player may decide to build on eights, and the piles are built up 8-9-10-J-Q-K-Ace-2-3-4-5-6-7. If eights are built on, sevens fill up spaces and so forth. The stock is dealt through one by one as many times as required.
  • In Thumb and Pouch, a card in the tableau can be built upon another that is any suit other than its own (e.g. spades cannot be placed over spades) and spaces can be filled by any card or sequence.
  • In Whitehead, all cards are dealt face up, building is by color (red on red, black on black), a sequence made up of cards that are of the same suit can be moved as a unit, and a space can be filled by any card or sequence.[18]
  • In Westcliff, thirty cards are dealt into ten piles of three cards, two face down and one face up. A space in this game can be filled with any card or sequence.
  • In Kuipers, the rules are identical to Klondike but with eight columns instead of seven. Turning one card at a time to the waste, with no limit on passes through the deck. This lowers the probability of being able to win to approximately 5% and really honours the name of the game: Patience.

Tarot deck[edit]

The game can be played with a Tarot-style 78-card deck (such as a Tarot Nouveau). There are two ways of doing this. Each has nine increasing tableau stacks.

  • Klondike Nouveau Run: use five foundations, and either use the Fool as the first card in the trumps foundation, or remove it before playing. The Knight (Chevalier) appears between the Jack and the Queen.
  • Klondike Tarot Evens: use six foundations; the usual four, and then use the red knights (cavaliers) as the royals for trumps 1-10, and the black knights as the royals for trumps 11-21.

Gambling Variant[edit]

In some casinos, Klondike is turned into a gambling game, by playing with the rule of dealing cards one at a time and going through the stock once. For example, a player would pay $50 to play, and the house would pay $5 for each card played to the foundations.[19] This form of Klondike is sometimes called Las Vegas Solitaire.

Joker Solitaire[edit]

Joker Solitaire is a variant of Klondike created by Joli Quentin Kansil which adds two jokers that serve as limited wild cards. This adds more skill because players are required to make many calculated decisions.[20]

Double Solitaire[edit]

Klondike has been turned into a two player game under the name Double Solitaire.[21] Players have their own deck and can't play to each other's tableaus, but share their foundations. Players take turns until they can't play a card from their talon. The first player to play all their 52 cards is the winner. Informally, "Double" Solitaire can be played as a party game with more than 2 players and each player plays at his or her own speed, often leading to spirited discussions when a player strategically refuses to place a card on a foundation to block another player from then placing a card on top of that card.

Computerized versions[edit]

Digital versions of Klondike have helped popularize the game, and provide numerous advantages that are lacking when playing with a physical deck.[22] Notable examples of computerized versions include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Parlett 1991, p. 156-157.
  2. ^ Heinrich, Rudolf (2011). Die schönsten Patiencen, 35th edition. Vienna: Perlen-Reihe. p. 16-17. ISBN 978-3-99006-001-8.
  3. ^ Morehead & Mott-Smith 2001, p. 32.
  4. ^ Parlett 1979, p. 94/95.
  5. ^ "Canfield" (p.425) in The Penguin Book of Card Games by David Parlett, Treasure Press, 1987. ISBN 1-85051-221-3
  6. ^ "A brief history of Solitaire, Patience, and other card games for one". TheWeek. 5 June 2015.
  7. ^ Douglas Brown, Walter Brown Gibson (1985). 150 solitaire games. Barnes & Noble. p. 132. ISBN 0064637026.
  8. ^ "The Three Most Played Solitaire Card Games in the World". 23 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Klondike" (p.303) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  10. ^ Morehead, Albert, ed. (1963). "Klondike". Official Rules of Card Games (53rd ed.). Cincinnati, Ohio: The United States Playing Card Company. pp. 239–240.
  11. ^ "Klondike" (p.195) in Hoyle's Rules of Games (3rd edition) by Philip D. Morehead (ed.), 2001. ISBN 0-451-20484-0
  12. ^ Diaconis, Persi. "Mathematics of Solitaire". Mathematics Department and Graduate School Colloquium Archive 1998-1999. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  13. ^ "Searching Solitaire in Real Time" (PDF). ICGA Journal. September 2007. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  14. ^ Blake, Charlie; Gent, Ian P. (2019). "The Winnability of Klondike Solitaire and Many Other Patience Games". arXiv:1906.12314 [cs.AI].
  15. ^ Bjarnason, Ronald; Fern, Alan; Tadepalli, Prasad (2009). "Lower Bounding Klondike Solitaire with Monte-Carlo Planning". Proceedings of the Nineteenth International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling.
  16. ^ "The Application of Human Monte Carlo to the Chances of Winning Klondike Solitaire". Jupiter Scientific. 2013.
  17. ^ Highest Score in Windows Solitaire, Microsoft Help and Support, KB101766.
  18. ^ "Whitehead" (p.81-83) in The Little Book of Solitaire, Running Press, 2002. ISBN 0-7624-1381-6
  19. ^ "Las Vegas Solitaire" (p.304-305) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  20. ^ "Joker Solitaire" (p.305-306) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  21. ^ "Double Solitaire" (p.306-307) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  22. ^ "The Advantages of Playing a Digital Version of Solitaire". 18 August 2020.
  23. ^ Garreau, Joel (1994-03-09). "Office Minefield". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  24. ^ "Solitaire". Atari Mania. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  25. ^ "A little history". casteel.org. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Nintendo Shares A Handy Infographic Featuring All 51 Worldwide Classic Clubhouse Games". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 21 July 2020.


  1. ^ All rules are from the book cited.
  2. ^ But not to be confused with Aces Up which is a different patience, see Parlett and Morehead & Mott-Smith.