Solitaire Lexicon

Solitaire, as in any specialized field of knowledge, uses it's own language and terms to describe what's going on. As you play the various games, you'll come across a few words or phrases that are used again and again. Here are some definitions for these common terms:

Ascending Sequence
A run of cards that goes up in value (e.g. 9-10-J).

Playing one card (or group of cards) upon another, according to the rules of the game. Building may be specified one or more in several ways, according to the rules of a particular game:

  • By Alternate Color - Build red on black, or black on red, regardless of suit
  • By Color - Build red on red, or black on black, regardless of suit
  • By Suit - Cards must be played in a sequence of the same suit
  • Down - Cards must be played in a sequence of descending rank
  • Regardless of Suit - Build using rank alone, ignoring color and suit
  • Up - Cards must be played in a sequence of ascending rank

A standard deck has two colors: Hearts and Diamonds are red, Clubs and Spades are black.
A vertical pile or group of cards.

To turn up cards from the deck and place them in the layout.
Most games use a standard 52-card deck of playing cards with no Jokers. There are also many games that use two 52-card decks shuffled together. A few games use non-standard or cut decks.
Descending Sequence
A run of cards that goes down in value (e.g. J-10-9).
Cards permanently removed from play.

Face Card
A King, Queen, or Jack.
This is the ultimate destination for cards in many games. The Foundations may be part of the original layout, or they may be created during gameplay, according to the rules of the particular games.

Cards remaining after a layout has been dealt. A hand must generally be kept face down until called for in the game.

The initial ordering or placement of the cards on the table (or screen). The layout includes the stock, wastepile, foundations, tableau, and reserve.

Another name for a deck of cards.
A single-player card game. Known as "solitaire" in America.

The numerical order of the cards is generally A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K, with the ace ranked lowest, and the king ranked highest. In some games the ranking is continuous – downwards from 3-2-A to K-Q-J, or upwards from J-Q-K to A-2-3. Also, in some games the ace is ranked above the king. In still other games, the ace may be ranked at the top or at the bottom as a player chooses.
To pick up cards from the layout and them re-deal them. In some games the cards must be picked up in a specified order. Also, some games the cards are shuffled between redeals, and in others they are not.
Some games include a reserve, which is generally pre-filled with cards from the stock during the initial deal. These cards can often only be removed from the reserve in specific ways, which vary from game to game.
A horizontal pile or group of cards.

To randomize the cards in a deck. This is typically done be hand, by splitting the deck into halves and then riffling them back together a few times. A mechanical card-shuffler may also be used. In computer solitaire, the shuffling is performed by a random-number generator.
A single-player card game. Known as "patience" in England.
Where the cards are dealt from. At the start of a hand, the stock contains the entire deck (or decks). In general, cards are removed from the stock and played to the foundations, tableau, or waste, until the stock is empty.
A standard deck of playing cards has four suits: Hearts , Diamonds , Clubs , and Spades . Each suit has 13 cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A).

Single cards, groups of cards, or piles of cards, each of which may be manipulated as described in each game. The tableau is generally the part of each game that gives it its own distinct flavor.

The numerical value of a card. For number cards the value is simply the face value of the card (2, 3, 4, etc.). For the other cards, the ace generally has a value of 1, a jack has a value of 11, a queen has a value of 12, and a king has a value of 13.

In many games, if a card cannot be played to a foundation or tableau pile, it is moved to a wastepile.
This varies by game, but generally involves: putting all the cards into some predefined order; filling the foundations; or removing all the cards from the tableau.

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Last Update: September 16th, 2012