By Dan Fletcher
Pyramid Solitaire is a fun solitaire game, with a very distinctive opening tableau in the shape of a pyramid. There is a large element of luck involved, but there are certain strategies that can be used to dramatically increase your chances of winning.
The aim of pyramid solitaire is to remove all the cards from the tableau and the talon. Cards are removed in pairs, when their combined total is 13. The exception to this is with Kings, which are removed on their own.
Cards can only be removed when they are completely exposed (ie: When the whole card is visible, with no cards above them)
The combinations of cards you can remove are:
- Ace and Queen
- 2 and Jack
- 3 and 10
- 4 and 9
- 5 and 8
- 6 and 7
Whilst the rules for pyramid solitaire are quite easy to understand, the game itself offers come interesting complexities. You have to plan out which cards to remove to maximize potential options later in the game. Sometimes you must leave a card for later in the game, or you will create an impasse. And sometimes you have to carefully remember the order of the cards in the talon, or you will have cards left over at the end.
At the start of the game, scan the first four rows, looking for any situations that will make the game impossible to complete. This happens when all the cards that can be combined with a card occur in the triangle below it.
This occurs because a card cannot be selected until all the cards in the triangle below it are removed first.
For example, suppose part of the deal was like this (Taken from Classic Solitaire deal 20064):
2 J 9 Q J 8 6 J 4 J
All of the Jacks occur in the triangle below the top 2. So to expose the top 2, all the Jacks will have to be removed first... But that's impossible, because the Jacks can only be removed in combination with the 2's. We will be able to remove three of the Jacks, but we cant ever remove the top Jack, because the 2 it needs is above it.
So if the four combination cards appear in a cards underneath triangle, then the game cannot be finished, and you may as well redeal.
If only three of the combination cards appear in the underneath triangle, then you have discovered a potential impasse later on. Wherever that fourth combination card is, it MUST be combined with the top card. So, if the fourth combination card is in the talon, you must remember this, and be careful not to use it on any card other than the top one.
Another impasse to check for at the beginning, is to see if all the combination cards appear in the triangle above a card.
For example, suppose the deal was like this (Taken from Classic Solitaire deal 3841):
7 8 J 4 2 4 A 6 8 2 8 5 9 Q 2 7 8 9 7 K 4 K A 5 3 Q 6 10
All the 8's occur in the triangle above the bottom 5, so the game cannot be finished.
This last case doesn't occur very often though, so it isn't worth spending too much time checking for it. Just a cursory glance at the middle 3 cards on the bottom row is normally enough.
So to summarize, before we have even started playing, we check to see if the game is winnable (Make sure there are no cases where the four combination cards occur in the triangle below or above a card). We also check for times when three of the combination cards appear below... as these will need special attention, to make sure we don't waste the fourth card and create an impasse.
So what about general play?
Well, to start with, always remove Kings whenever you can. There is absolutely no reason not to remove the Kings, because they aren't used in combination with any other cards, so you gain nothing by waiting.
Another thing to consider is that often there is no need to rush. You can cycle through the talon three times, so often it will be better to wait and see what cards are remaining, rather than jump in and remove a combination as soon as you can.
Finally, try and remove cards evenly between the talon and the tableau. Ideally, you want to finish removing cards from the tableau at the same time as the talon is used up.
You still wont be able to win every game of pyramid solitaire with the above strategy, but you should find your probability of winning has greatly increased.