Cruel Solitaire Strategy Guide

By Dan Fletcher

Cruel Solitaire is an unusual solitaire game, that many people think has a low success rate. Careful planning will allow the advanced solitaire player to win more than 50% of the games they play though.

The trick to winning cruel solitaire is to know when to deal from the talon. When you first start playing cruel solitaire, it seems like dealing from the talon randomly shuffles the cards, but this is not the case. A deal from the talon just redeals the cards in the same order they currently appear.

This allows an advanced player to have some knowledge of what will happen when the talon deal is done... which vastly improves the chances of winning every game of cruel solitaire that you play.

There are certain easy-to-learn patterns that help with this.

If all the stacks to the left of a stack have 4 cards in them before the redeal, then after the redeal, the card that is on top will stay on top.

For example, suppose the first 3 stacks appear like this:

Stack-A: 4 Cards

Stack-B: 4 Cards

Stack-C: 5 Cards with a 5 of Diamonds on top.

All the stacks before Stack-C have 4 cards in them, so after a redeal, the 5 of Diamonds will still be at the top of Stack-C.

This is the same no matter how many cards are in Stack-C. So if the stacks are like this:

Stack-A: 4 Cards

Stack-B: 4 Cards

Stack-C: 2 Cards with a 5 of Diamonds on top.

Then the 5 of Diamonds will still be on top of Stack-C after a talon redeal.

But if an earlier stack does not have 4 cards in it, then the card will NOT stay on top after a redeal.

So if the stacks are like this:

Stack-A: 5 Cards

Stack-B: 4 Cards

Stack-C: 2 Cards with a 5 of Diamonds on top.

Then the 5 of Diamonds will NOT be on top of Stack-C after a redeal.

Knowing this pattern will give you much greater control over cruel solitaire, and allows for some powerful strategies that will vastly increase your chances of winning.


Because of the above pattern, it does not always make sense to move a card to the talon at the first opportunity. Instead, you can keep the card, and just make sure that you don't put any extra cards in the stacks to the left of it.

This way, you can keep redealing, to expose new cards, and you will KNOW that the card will always remain in play. Only when you can't make any more moves should you then move the card to the foundation.

This gives you the most opportunity to keep playing, without blocking play. And it leads to a general procedure, that you can follow to win a lot more games of cruel solitaire...


Here is a procedure that will help you to win cruel solitaire. It isn't perfect, and you'll probably make your own alterations to it as you get better at the game, but it shows how to carefully play cruel solitaire to avoid blockages.

A - Find the rightmost card that can go onto the talon.

B - Do all the moves to the right of that card that you can, starting with highest rank ones

C - Redeal

D - Go back to A

Once there are no more moves that can be made to the right of the card, then move the card in the stack to the foundation, and then redeal, and go back to A.

If no cards can play, then order all the cards you can, starting with the highest rank ones, and then redeal.

That's it!

You can definitely tweak this procedure to make it better, but I've tried to keep it simple here, and it should allow you to play cruel solitaire a lot better than before.

Have fun!

Dan Fletcher is a developer at dogMelon. They make Classic Solitaire, a fun pack of Solitaire Card Games for Mac, Palm, and PC. Classic Solitaire includes Cruel Solitaire, along with many other great solitaire games. Try a free demo today! [source]

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Last Update: September 18th, 2012