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Glossary of Solitaire Terminology

Solitaire Terminology



The main playing area of the game.
This is a vague term since it applies to most every solitaire game. This is where gameplay happens.

Regardless of what kind of solitaire game you have and how it plays, it will probably have a tableau. Unlike other terms which are used to describe how the cards interact, the tableau is generally used to identify the main playing area of the game. This is where the action is.
Box Kite
Klondike - Tableau

Box Kite - Tableau

Tri Peaks - Tableau


The "target" destination for all cards in a game.

  • In Klondike, 4 foundations start with an Ace and build up in suit to a King.

  • In Canfield, 4 foundations start with the same random rank and build up in suit until they each have a complete suite of 13 cards.

  • Some foundations build DOWN from King to Ace.

  • Some foundations do NOT build in suit.

  • Some foundations build by 2s (Great Wheel) or by 3s (Picture Gallery) or in even stranger ways, like the game Calculation.

  • Some games have only a single foundation that builds up or down regardless of suit, such as Vortex, Black Hole and Binary Galaxy.

The defining point of a Foundation is that it must be BUILT according to some rule or condition. It can NOT include cards that are turned up from the deck, which is what dissociates a single foundation from a discard pile in Golf and TriPeaks.
Box Kite
Great Wheel
Klondike Foundation

Box Kite Foundation

Great Wheel Foundation

Calculation Foundation

Vortex Foundation


A group of cards held aside "in reserve" at the beginning of the game.

  • Some games allow reserve cards to play onto the tableau or the foundations, such as Canfield.

  • Others only allow reserves to play to the foundations, as in Terrace.

  • The defining point of a Reserve pile is that it does not allow building.

In the industry, the term "Reserve" is often given to any group of cards that is not a part of the Tableau. In our games, playing a Reserve card earns a 20 point bonus*, so we had to be more specific with the use of the term.
*The reserve pile in Canfield was also called the "demon pile". Accessing reserve cards is often a crucial part of winning the game, which is why our games reward 20 points when one is used.
Reserve - Canfield

Reserve - Terrace


A space in a solitaire game that can hold any one card, regardless of rank or suit.

  • In FreeCell, there are 4 cells that are empty at the beginning of the game.

  • In Eight Off, there are 8 cells but 4 already have cards in them.

A cell, by definition, can only hold one card at a time, and that card can be any card, regardless of suit or rank.
A cell may also be called a Depot or Freecell.
Eight Off
Cell - FreeCell

Cell - Eight Off

Deck or Stock

The portion of the deck that remains after the tableau and other elements are dealt out.

  • In Klondike, cards in the deck are turned up 3 at a time. In other games, cards are turned up 1 at a time.

  • Some games allow unlimited passes through the deck, where others allow only 3, 2 or 1 pass.

  • In Spider, the deck cards are dealt out in groups, one to each tableau pile.

  • In Scorpion and Chinese, there are only 3 cards in the stock, and they are dealt onto the tableau when play comes to a standstill.

The defining point of the deck is that it is always face-down, so you are looking at the card back.
This pile is also sometimes called the"Talon".
Stock - Klondike

Stock - Spider

Dealt Pile

When cards are "turned up" from the deck or stock, they are turned face-up and placed on the top of the "dealt pile". Only the top card of the dealt pile can be accessed.
Once the deck has been used up, if the game allows multiple passes, the dealt pile will be flipped over, face down, and will thus become the "deck" or "stock" again.
In some cases, the dealt pile will only hold 1 card, and that card will need to be moved to the tableau or waste pile
before another card can be turned up.
Dealt Pile - Klondike

Dealt Pile - Pyramid

Waste Pile

If the dealt pile
only holds 1 card, cards turned up from the deck will need to be moved to a waste pile. Waste piles usually build without regard to rank or suit. Only the top card of a waste pile can be accessed.

  • Pyramid has only 1 waste pile, so cards are moved there automatically when you deal a new card from the deck.

  • Calculation has 5 waste piles. The game is won or lost in the way you organize them.

  • The defining points of a waste pile are that it builds in random order, and that it builds directly from the dealt pile.

However, in rare cases (Crazy Quilt, Alhambra), the player is allowed to play cards from the tableau onto the waste pile building up or down in suit.
It may seem counter-intuitive to classify something as a "waste pile" when it displays an exception to the defining points. The world of solitaire is filled with variations and new twists on old rules. That is the nature of the game.
* A waste pile is not a final destination.
Crazy Quilt
Waste Pile - Pyramid

Waste Pile - Calculation

Waste Pile - Crazy Quilt

Discard Pile

A discard pile is a final destination for cards in games without foundations. Usually, it is a place for cards that have been removed from play.

  • In Pyramid, when you select 2 cards that add up to 13, those cards are removed to the discard pile. Such is the case with most adding and pairing games.

  • In Aces Up, cards are removed to a discard pile. In Perpetual Motion, each rank gets its own discard pile so you can see your progress during the game. Similarly, suites in Spider are removed to a discard pile, but in Tarantula there is a separate discard pile for each suite.

  • In Golf, cards that are removed from the tableau or turned up from the deck go to the discard pile. In this case, the discard pile builds up or down in rank regardless of suit.

The defining point of the discard pile is that it is the final goal destination.
Discard Pile - Pyramid

Discard Pile - Golf


Misc Terminology



In games where cards are turned up from the deck or stock, a pass through the deck is when you have gone through the entire stack of cards. You may not see each card. For instance, if cards are turned up 3 at a time, you might only see 1/3 of the cards. However, when the deck has been emptied and all of the cards have been turned face-up, this is considered a single pass through the deck.


Some games allow "redeals", wherein some or all cards from the tableau are picked up and redealt into fresh tableau piles. Sometimes cards will be shuffled before they are redealt.
For example, Trefoil has 16 tableau piles of 3 cards each at the beginning of the game. After you play for a while, some of those tableau piles will be still have 3 cards, some will have more and some will have less. During the redeal, the tableau stacks are all picked up, shuffled, and dealt so that each tableau stack has 3 cards each. There will probably be less than 16 piles, and the last pile may have less than 3 cards.


A mixing of the deck (or part of the deck) to randomize the order of the cards.


A completed set of 13 cards in sequence.

  • Generally the suite will share the same suit and usually they will rank from Ace to King. The goal of Spider and Scorpion is to create suites like this.

  • Sometimes, the suite does not need to be suited, such as in Tarantula and Black Widow.

  • Sometimes, the suite will be not start at Ace and end at King, but rather start at 5, wrap from King to Ace and end at 4. This would still be considered a "suite" since all 13 ranks are included.


An obsolete term that was originally used to describe the stock, but is often mistakenly used to describe the waste pile.


Card Stacking Terminology



When a card stack is fanned, all cards in the stack are visible (whether face-up or face-down).
Cards are usually fanned downwards, as in Klondike or Trefoil, into a column.

"Fan Games" are so named because they generally have many small fans of cards in the tableau. When these games were played with real cards, they were usually spread out like a hand fan.


When a card stack is squared, the cards are directly on top of one another, making it impossible to see the cards on the bottom of the stack. Box Kite and Cruel have squared tableau stacks.


Staggered stacks are seen in Pyramid, TriPeaks and 11s Up. Each single card is covered by two cards, one on each bottom corner.


A group of cards, or the empty space that remains when all of those cards have been removed.


A vertical stack of cards, or the empty space that remains when all of those cards have been removed.


A group of cards, or the empty space that remains when all of those cards have been removed.

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