Spider Solitaire is a fun, and very well-known solitaire game, that requires patience and careful planning. It is a difficult solitaire game, with games often taking more than half an hour of continual thought.
The aim of spider solitaire is to build ascending suit sequences in the foundation zone. But this is easier said than done! Particularly when playing 4 suit spider solitaire, it can sometimes seem nearly impossible to finish the game.
There are certain strategies you can use though, to dramatically increase your chances of winning. These strategies are quite easy to understand, and can make a big difference to your winning percentage.
But before I go into that, a quick note. In this article, I assume you are playing a solitaire game that allows multi-undo (Like Dogmelon Solitaire), and that you don’t mind using it. Some people don’t have a solitaire program that supports multi-level undo, or feel that using undo is somehow ‘cheating’. These people will still get something out of this article, but not everything they read may apply.
Make Empty Columns
So what is the secret to winning Spider Solitaire?
The first thing you must always aim for in Spider Solitaire is an empty column. Empty columns can be used to temporarily store cards, allowing you to move more cards around the playing area. After that, you should try and get another vacant column. When you have 2 vacant columns, the chances of winning are much higher, but if you can, try and form yet another empty column.
Once you get to 3 or 4 empty columns, you have a very strong chance of success, unless you get an extremely unlucky run of cards.
Emptying that first column…
The first move you should make in Spider Solitaire is whatever the highest rank card that can play is. When you have a choice, try to play from the stacks on the right-hand side, as the six right-hand stacks are shorter to begin with.
From then on, you should generally play cards in this order or priority:
- If a stack is closer than the other stacks to being emptied, play that card (if you can)
- If you can’t play from the stack which is closest to being emptied, than play the card with the highest rank.
- If two or more cards have the same high rank, and one of them can be played into a same suit sequence, then play that card. Where possible, it’s better to make your sequences the same suit. Later in the game, you can move longer stacks, and get deeper into the columns, if you’ve paid attention to keeping same-suit sequences.
You should keep playing like this until either a column is emptied, or you run out of moves
Once you have emptied a column, the focus of spider solitaire changes a little.
There are now three main objectives, ‘cleanup’, ‘re-arrange’, and ‘expose’.
Cleaning Up in Spider Solitaire
The first objective for the second phase of the spider solitaire is ‘cleanup’. This is my term for re-arranging columns so that they become same-suit sequences.
For example, suppose you are at the following stage:
Notice the Jack of Hearts on the Queen of Clubs, and the Jack, 10, and 9 of Clubs on the Queen of Hearts. This is a perfect position to re-arrange the cards to form better same suit sequences, by temporarily using the empty column…
Move the Jack of Clubs to the empty column…
Move the Jack of Hearts across…
And move the Jack of Clubs back again, to form 2 same suite sequences.
The important thing to note here, is that after we have finished cleaning up this sequence, the empty column is still vacant. This is a critical point. Whenever you can, you always want to keep as many columns empty as you can.
Re-arranging in Spider Solitaire
After you have cleaned up any card sequences you can find, the next thing to do in spider solitaire is to re-arrange any columns that you can. This is simply moving any sequences you can, to form longer sequences.
If moving the sequence will expose a new card (or a card that is not part of the sequence), then you should always move it. The rest of the time it’s a judgement call, based on whether the new sequence will be the same suit, as well as what other cards are holding up the game at the moment.
Again, an overriding principal at this time is to try and preserve the empty columns. Vacant columns give you a lot more choices in the game, and whenever possible, you only want to fill your empty columns temporarily.
Exposing cards in Spider Solitaire
The last thing you should do in spider solitaire is to try and expose new cards, whilst trying to maintain any empty columns.
You do this by using multi-level undo:
- Move a card/sequence into the empty column, which exposes a new card.
- If the new card allows us to move the original sequence back do so.
If the new exposed card does not allow us to move it back, then undo, and try moving a different card/sequence instead. If you can’t expose any new cards whilst keeping the vacant column, then try dealing some cards from the talon. Of course, after dealing cards from the talon, none of your columns will be empty, so the first thing to do is get them empty again if possible.
Eventually, you will form a full same-suit sequence from King to Ace in the playing area. This sequence is ready to move up to a Foundation Stack. Over the years, I have formed a little rule I call two-and-two.
If I can get two sequences (out of eight) to the Foundation, while keeping two empty columns, I believe I am guaranteed to win the game. At least, I do not believe I have ever lost a game from this position.
Just remember, the most important thing in spider solitaire is to create empty columns, and try and keep them empty unless you have a very good reason not to.