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Solitaire refers to any game of a huge family of single-player card games. The various solitaire games are similar in goal and in type, but the games vary greatly when you get into the details.
The result of this? There is a wide variety of different solitaire games. Think Rummy in terms of game variables, and move upward exponentially. In general, the term "solitaire" is used to refer specifically to the most well-known form of the game, called "Klondike". This is the game most modern players think of when the word "solitaire" comes up, the version on your PC and the version you are most likely to learn how to play. But don't limit yourself to this straightforward version. Even within the world of Klondike there are variations, such as Westfall where thirty cards are dealt into ten piles of three – this variation also features a free play space in the middle of the playing space for easier player maneuvering and strategy. This is just one of what seem to be limitless combinations of rules and strategy.
With such a vast array of variations on the solitaire theme it would be impossible to describe all facets of the game. Some games set themselves apart by involving more than one player -- others use more than one standard deck of cards or a complex variety of rules. This also means there is a game for players of every skill level. Still, most solitaire games have one thing in common – they are basically "ordering" games, where cards are taken from a shuffled unordered state into a numerical or class order as laid out in the game's rules. Solitaire games involve dealing cards from a single shuffled deck into a prescribed arrangement on a large flat surface (traditionally a tabletop) from which arrangement the player tries to reorder the deck by suit and rank. This is done through a series of transferring cards from one place to another under certain restrictions. Some games allow for the reshuffling of the deck or the placement of cards into new or "empty" locations, sometimes in the form of so-called "cells", others times in simple blank spots that arise during game play.
With websites like FreePlaySolitaire.com or good old Games.com's "Solitaire" games the possibilities for play have opened considerably. New games geared at online multi play have appeared, and ironically the game known as Patience in the United Kingdom has become as frantic as video poker, with tournament play, online forums, and even strategy guides everywhere.
WorldofSolitaire.com has 41 versions of solitaire online as of this writing. This website is particularly intriguing because as soon as you arrive, you're dealt a hand of solitaire – no intro and membership and rules reviews to slow you down. Load the site, deal the Klondike, and as you play the smooth attractive game they offer, they figure you'll be interested enough to lead you further. It worked on me.
The most popular versions in online play are Klondike, Baker's Dozen, Golf (a quick game where you can build your tableaux in either direction), FreeCell, Forty Thieves, and the more complicated Spider games.
Another exciting facet of the online solitaire game is tournament play – both for cash and for fun. One popular site advertises "over 9,000 tournaments a day", and the cash prizes astounded me: grand prizes of $1,000 or more.
Like most games, solitaire has its own terminology; here's a quick breakdown.
Solitaire is at the mercy of strategy writers, as is any game of cards. The difference is that I've noticed a big difference in my own solitaire play after following a few simple rules. These rules are adapted, by the way, from material freely available on the internet as sites such as chessandpoker.com, gambling-gates.com, and others. These strategies specifically apply to Klondike, and are for instructional purposes only.
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