Ode to Solitaire

Ode to Solitaire

by Katie Coopersmith © Gifts for Card Players

Ever played Patience? Or Success? What about Kabala?

If you’re shaking your head ‘no’ right now, you’re probably incorrect…because all of the above names are actually used in different countries to refer to solitaire!

Solitaire is a peculiar cultural institution. It’s a favourite game of kids at summer camp, procrastination-happy office workers, introverts, and people all around the world.

But few people know the true story of how this loner’s game came to be.

On My Own: Turning Solitaire into a Solo Sport

In fact, the Danish name ‘Kabala,’ which means ‘secret knowledge,’ may have been created as a result of the fact that the game was once seen as a fortune-telling exercise.

Solitaire was first mentioned in writing in a German game book in 1783…however, at the time, it was a competitive – not a one player – game. It’s thought that solitaire morphed into a solo entertainment because people got into the habit of practicing solo for competitive games.

Moving into the roaring 1800s, some have hypothesized that Napoleon was partial to a game of solitaire during his exile in the South Atlantic. Several different forms of solitaire are actually named after him! The French connection might be too good to be true, though, as many people believe Napoleon would have been far more likely to play the popular games of the day, such as Whist.

Later in the 1800s, solitaire had become popular in both France and England, and it was even enjoyed by British royalty! In the 20th century, many new forms of solitaire were invented; and, finally, in the 1980s, solitaire was computerized and placed forever in the holy canon of addictive screen games.

Solitaire On Screen

Microsoft has actually admitted that they invented Microsoft Solitaire to “soothe people intimidated by the operating system” of their new computers!  Ever since, a decline in office productivity due to office workers playing solitaire on their computer has actually been a serious concern in many working environments… New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg even fired an employee over it!

When Wes Cherry, the guy who developed Microsoft Solitaire as a college intern, was asked whether he was bitter about not being paid for the hundreds of millions of people who play the game, he replied “Yeah, especially since you are all probably paid to play it!”

All of this hoopla just goes to show what an enjoyable pastime solitaire can be. Just don’t let your boss catch you playing!

Solitaire Variations to Try

Today, the Solitaire Central Rulebook contains rules to a whopping 1700 different variations of the game! That’s a lot more variations than there were in 1874, when Lady Codogan’s Illustrated Games of Patience (containing 24 variations) was published.

Many people know how to play some of the more common variations like FreeCell, Klondike, and Pyramid, but here are some variations that you may not have heard of. They’ll keep you entertained all by your lonesome for hours!

Golf solitaire: This variation is just like ‘normal’ solitaire (Klondike), except that you’re aiming to get the lowest score possible. Underachievers, unite!

Yukon solitaire: As the name suggests, Yukon is a variant of Klondike solitaire. However, in Yukon, the player is allowed to move groups of cards at once.

Poker solitaire: This one is so much fun! Lay out a 5×5 grid and try to find the best Poker hands possible in each column and row.

Accordion solitaire: To play this variation, spread out the cards on the table in front of you like an accordion, so that each card overlaps the next and all cards are visible. Whenever a card matches the card immediately to its left, or the card three spots to its left, in suit or rank, remove both cards from the ‘accordion’. The game is won when you’ve removed all the cards from the accordion.

The Odds are in Your Favour

Just how difficult is it to win a game of traditional (Klondike) solitaire? According to Usman Latif of TechUser.net, not that difficult! Latif found that only about one in every 400 solitaire games is unwinnable, for one or more of the following three reasons:

  • There are no aces in the 15 playable cards
  • None of the eight available cards in the deck can be moved to any of the seven stacked rows
  • None of the seven playable cards in the seven stacked rows can be moved to a different stacked row

So there you have it…it seems almost everyone who plays solitaire is a winner. Find yourself a secluded spot and get to playing!



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