How To Win Pyramid Solitaire

Pyramid Solitaire is a fun solitaire game, with a very distinctive opening tableau in the shape of a pyramid. There is a lot of luck involved, but there are certain strategies that you can use to dramatically increase your chances of winning.

The aim of Pyramid Solitaire is to remove all the cards from the tableau (the region containing the cards in play) and the talon (the pile of face-down cards waiting to be dealt). Cards are removed in pairs, when their combined total is 13. Kings are worth 13 by themselves, and are simply removed on their own whenever you encounter them.

Cards can only be removed when they are completely exposed, with no other cards overlapping them.

The combinations of cards you can remove are:

  • King
  • 6 and 7
  • 5 and 8
  • 4 and 9
  • 3 and 10
  • 2 and Jack
  • Ace and Queen

The rules for pyramid solitaire are quite easy to understand, but the game itself offers some interesting complexities. In particular, it really pays to analyze the initial tableau to see which cards may create an impasse later in the game…

When you start a new game of pyramid solitaire, look at the top 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.

For example, suppose part of the deal was like this (taken from Dogmelon Solitaire deal 20064)

Pyramid Solitaire 1

In particular, look at the bottom left corner of the pyramid:

 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 Dogmelon Solitaire deal 3841)

Pyramid Solitaire 2

If you look carefully, you will notice that 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). Also check for times when three of the combination cards appear below… as these will need special attention, to make sure the fourth card isn’t waste.

Counting Paired Cards

There are three different ways to eliminate a pair of cards:

  • two cards from the tableau
  • one card from tableau, one from the talon
  • both cards from the talon

I want you to notice something. Refer again to the following layout:

Pyramid Solitaire 2

Consider the 10-3 combination. If you survey the tableau, you will see that there is only a single “3”, and a single “10”. This must mean that there are three “3” and three “10” in the talon.

At best, you’ll have to find or create two adjacent “10”, “3” combinations within the talon, which is difficult. And if you eliminate the tableau’s “3” and “10” against each other, then you’ll have to find three pairs in the talon — even harder.

In contrast, there are four “8” and two “5” on the tableau, for a total of 6. That means there are only two in the talon. If this game were to be finished, then at minimum you would have to eliminate two “8”“5” pairs on the tableau.

I’m not saying you have to count every pairing before play – that would be hard work, and possibly take the fun out of things. But I am saying it’s worth being conscious of whether you should be trying to find pairs in the talon, in the tableau, or one each from the talon and the tableau.

General Pyramid Solitaire Play…

You should 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 remember with Pyramid Solitaire is that 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.