How Many Different Versions of Solitaire Are There?

Most people upon hearing the word ‘Solitaire’ will instantly think of the popular card game that comes with any version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. A substantially lower number even consider the fact that Solitaire, as we have all come to know it, originated as a classic table-top card game. In the United States it is, indeed, generically known as Solitaire, while in the United Kingdom they call it Patience—and that’s where the complications start. For instance, Mahjong, the almost equally popular tile game is also a type of Solitaire, even if it makes no use of playing cards per se. Then, Patience has several variants, including FreeCell and Klondike (on which the Windows version is based). Klondike itself has a further number of variants… and the list seems never-ending. We’ve listed some of the most popular Solitaire versions below, in hopes of shedding light on the matter.

Patience can be rightfully considered the matrix version of Hearts, FreeCell and free pyramid Solitaire games, which are now available to be played online, on Fexi. The aim of Patience is to sort out all the fifty-two cards in a regular playing pack, according to a specific criterion. Typically, at the beginning of the game all the cards have been shuffled and grouped according to a certain pattern. The point is to then regroup the cards. In some variants of the game, you’re allowed to reshuffle the game, while in most you have to recreate the four original suits of cards.

Klondike is what most of us know as Solitaire off of our computers, so the rules are less important here, as are the stats, odds and probabilities behind the game. The total number of possible hands is an astronomic figure, which exceeds 7,000 trillion. Not all of these hands are winnable, of course. Probability experts estimate that some 8.5% to 18% of all possible hands are technically unwinnable, while .25% are unplayable since the very first move. Yet other hands are part of the 80-90% winnable hands, but players lose out early on, as they make a wrong move, thus blocking their course from then on.

Agnes is a variant of Klondike, and it’s very similar to it. The main difference resides in dealing the cards. After dealing out the first twenty-eight cards, the four slots which are randomly filled in the Klondike version have to be occupied by the same card, from all four suits. For instance, if a ten of hearts fills out the first slot, the remaining slots will have to be taken up by the other three tens in the deck. Of course, this is but one variant of the Agnes game, popularly known as Agnes Bernauer. There also exists an Agnes Sorel, in which the cards in the tableau can only be followed by cards of the same color.

Westcliff can be regarded as the beginner’s Klondike, since it’s much easier to win. The odds are nine out of ten games can be won. The main difference between Westcliff and ‘classical’ Klondike solitaire is that the cards in the foundation slot remain turned up, once they’ve been turned over—which is precisely what makes the game easy to win.