Pyramid Solitaire: A Strategy Guide for Beginners
Pyramid Solitaire is a fun solitaire game with a very distinctive pyramid-shaped opening picture. There is a large element of luck, but there are certain strategies that can be used to dramatically increase your chances of winning.
The goal of Pyramid Solitaire is to remove all cards from the table and claw. Cards are removed in pairs when their total is 13. The exception is kings, which are removed alone.
Cards can only be removed when they are fully exposed (i.e. when the entire 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
Although the rules of pyramid solitaire are quite easy to understand, the game itself offers interesting complexities. You need to plan which cards to remove to maximize potential options later in the game. Sometimes you have to leave a card for later in the game, or you’ll create a stalemate. And sometimes you have to carefully remember the order of the cards in the coupon, or you’ll end up with cards left over.
At the beginning of the game, scan the first four rows looking for situations that will make the game impossible to complete. This happens when all the cards that can be combined with a card are in the triangle below it.
This happens because a card cannot be selected until all the cards in the triangle below it are first removed.
For example, suppose part of the deal is (Taken from Classic Solitaire Deal 20064)
Q J 8
6 J 4 J
All the jacks appear in the triangle below the top 2. So to expose the top 2, all the jacks would have to be removed first… But that’s impossible because the jacks can only be removed in combination with the 2s. We will be able to remove three of the jacks, but we can never remove the top jack because the 2 he needs are above him.
So if the four combined cards appear in cards under a triangle, then the game cannot be completed and you can also deal again.
If only three of the combined cards appear in the lower triangle, then you have discovered a potential dead end later. Wherever that fourth combined card is, it MUST combine with the top card. So if the fourth combo card is in the claw, you need to remember that and be careful not to use it on any card other than the top one.
Another impasse to check at the beginning is to see if all the combined cards appear in the triangle above a given card.
For example, suppose the deal was like this (Taken from Classic Solitaire deal 3841)
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 8 meet in the triangle above the bottom 5, so the game cannot be completed.
However, this last case does not occur very often, so it is not worth spending too much time checking for it. Usually just a cursory glance at the middle 3 cards on the bottom row is enough.
So to summarize, before we even start playing, we check if the game is winnable (make sure there are no instances where the four combined cards meet in the triangle below or above a given card). We also check the times when three of the combo cards appear below… as they will need special attention to make sure we don’t waste the fourth card and create a dead end.
So what about the overall game?
Well, for starters, always remove Kings when you can. There is absolutely no reason not to remove Pops because they are not used in combination with other cards, so you gain nothing by waiting.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there is often no need to rush. You can go through the claw three times, so it will often be better to wait and see what cards are left, rather than jumping in and removing a hand as soon as you can.
Finally, try to remove the cards evenly between the nail and the picture. Ideally, you want to finish removing cards from the tableau at the same time the claw is used.
You still won’t be able to win every pyramid solitaire game with the above strategy, but you should find that your probability of winning is greatly increased.
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