Have a Game of Pyramid Solitaire

If you love playing patience card games, it’s a safe bet you’ve played pyramid solitaire. People play the world over, regardless of age, gender, or nationality. Patience games are simple, can be played alone or with friends, and most require nothing but a deck of standard playing cards. No wonder they’re so popular!

How did it all start? Well, it’s not so easy to say, because the origins of solitaire are unknown. The game first appeared in Western Europe (most likely France or Germany) at the turn of the 19th century, and it’s never looked back, with games going on in hundreds of countries at any given time of day. The game was popular in high social circles in France and England, though millions of people now play hundreds of versions of the game.

Solitaire isn’t one game; it’s shorthand for a number of games. Think of the word ‘solitaire’ as the umbrella term, housing multiple versions underneath it. One of those versions is Pyramid. It’s newer, so it’s less common, but it certainly isn’t less challenging or rewarding when you win. In fact, playing strict pyramid can make you want to tear your hair out!

So how do I play?

Interested? We thought you might be. To play Pyramid Solitaire, you’ll need a standard 52 card deck, and that’s about it. It’s a one player game, but if you fancy a bit of a challenge, grab a friend to play with their own deck across the table.

It’s called ‘Pyramid’ because that’s the shape the cards take at the beginning of the game. The objective is to destroy the pyramid completely. How? NOT by throwing the cards on the floor! Don’t worry, we’ll discuss the rules, and how to win, a little bit later.

Setting up the Pyramid

Ok, first thing’s first. Draw a single card from the deck, and place it face up on the table. Easy right? Now draw two more cards, and lay them face up beneath the first card. That should be looking something like the tip of a pyramid. Next, create a third layer of cards to cover each of the second layer of the pyramid, so that each of those cards has two on top. 5 cards deep, you should have 3 completed layers of your pyramid. Follow the same process until you’ve drawn a total of 28 cards. Leave the remaining cards in a stockpile. Your game is set up, and you’re ready to start knocking down that pyramid.

Pyramid Solitaire Gameplay

So, we want to start wrecking the pyramid of cards you’ve just painstakingly built. That’s the aim of the game after all.

The method of Pyramid Solitaire is to remove pairs of cards that add up to 13 and discard them. So, if you can see a six of hearts and a seven of clubs on the same level of the pyramid, grab them both and toss them out. Aces are valued at one, Jacks at 11, Queens at 12, and Kings at 13.

But, there’s a hitch. You can’t delve deeper into the pyramid for cards that are still covered by others. You need to clear the two cards that cover the next one before you have access to it. At the outset of the game, the only cards available are the seven cards on the seventh layer of the pyramid. Not so easy now, is it? To help you out, you can draw from the stockpile one at a time. If the stockpile card can’t be used, you still have to discard it.

pyramid solitaire

How do I win?

Well, if you’re playing strict Pyramid Solitaire, you only win when the entire pyramid has been discarded and the stockpile has been moved to the discard pile. Admittedly, that’s pretty tough, so you could play relaxed rules, where you can still win with some cards left in the stockpile. Or, if you’re playing with friends and family, you can tot up the remaining cards in your pyramid. The player with the lowest number is the winner.

That’s too difficult. How can I make it simpler?

There are a bunch of other versions, all designed to make the game easier. You could put stock cards back into the stockpile, shuffle, then re-deal them, or you could draw three cards from the stockpile simultaneously and use them in whichever order works. However you play, the objective is to remove all of the cards in the pyramid. If you achieve that, you’ve got a perfect score of zero. It’s rare to achieve, but it’s by no means unheard of. Most people take a few games to really get a handle on the strategy and skill involved.

A few versions of relaxed pyramid allow you to remove a card in a deeper layer in combination with the card covering it, but only if no other cards remain on top. For example, let’s say you have an Ace sitting atop a Queen, but the other card covering the queen has already been removed. You could remove the Ace and Queen together because they add up to 13, even though they are on different layers. But remember, that’s in the relaxed version. If you’d rather stay strict, that Ace has to be gone before you can even think about touching the Queen.

Ways to play Pyramid

Anyone can play anywhere on earth, so long as they have a complete deck of standard playing cards (that’s 52, as opposed to a Spanish deck of 48) and a flat surface to play on.

But hey, it’s the 21st century. Like most card games, Pyramid is available to play online on dozens of websites, each with their own unique visual take on the game. Playing online is easier, because they handle the layout instantly. One downside is that you can’t cheat (not that you would, eh?).

Like we said, Pyramid Solitaire can be infuriating, it can be challenging, but when you get your first perfect score, boy is it satisfying. Good luck, have fun, and don’t get too frustrated! In the UK, Solitaire is sometimes called ‘patience’. When you play Pyramid, you’ll understand exactly why.