Winning More Spider Solitaire Games
December 30, 2006 2:03 PM   Subscribe

What are you spider solitaire strategies?

I play two suit Spider Solitaire, but I only have a 32% win rate. Although I play a lot (too much, really), it doesn't seem like I'm improving.

If every game is solvable (something I question), then it's just a matter of placing and uncovering the cards in the correct order.

I've used ctrl-z to try out multiple options, but I feel like I'm missing some basic overall strategic tips that would make me better. (For example, many times in the game, you *must* move a card onto another off-suit card in order to open a free space or reveal another card. But, too many off-suit cards stacked up creates a nightmare that usually (for me) results in a loss.)

Is spider solitaire poor-man's chess? I want your tips and strategies for winning (note, I don't care what my score is, I just want to improve my win ratio).

posted by batcrazy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's not the case that every game is solvable. In fact, it's extremely easy to describe unwinnable games.

Try to burn down stacks to zero. When you have a choice of two cards to play, then absent any other choice take the one on the shortest stack. This maximizes the chance of getting empty ranks, which are gold for fixing problems.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:48 PM on December 30, 2006

Sorry, "..absent any other reason to choose one over the other..."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:49 PM on December 30, 2006

Personally, I don't start a game unless there is a good spread of cards (mix of high and low suit values) and I can move a couple of cards onto a suit card to open the game. This is probably more superstition on my part, but I find it cuts down on the percentage of unwinable games.

Always move suit matches first, then higher value cards down. I also resist automatically moving a card onto a suit card if there is another option. Often moving the off-suit card first will reveal a card that lets you move both cards.

That being said, the highest win rate I've ever been able to maintain was about 47%.

and yes i'm embarrassed by the amount of spider solitaire I have played
posted by arha at 3:13 PM on December 30, 2006

I do a few things to try to help my chances of winning. I don't know if any of them actually help, but my husband's always teasing me about how often I win, so maybe there's something to it.

First of all, I reject any deal that leaves me with more than a single pair of identical cards. I simply hit F2 again and again until I get a good set of cards to start with.

After playing out as far as possible without mixing suits, I identify my longest stack of single-suit cards, and keep that stack in mind as the target for my first complete run. (I don't even know the correct terminology for the successful completion of a whole set, when the computer takes it off the board...)

Anyway, I'll continue playing out, mixing suits as much as I need to in order to reveal as many cards from the original deal as I can without sullying my target. If I would have to sully the target, I just won't make the move, unless I spot a way to make a new, longer target with playable, visible cards.

So I guess I would say that (at least early on in the game) I aim to play all the "dealt" cards (the ones on the board, not the deck in "my hand" (the lower right-hand corner) while preserving a target.

Once I've had to deal from my hand, it's a matter of cleaning things up, with the aim of making the sullied runs long, and sullying fewer runs. The goal, still, is to uncover the cards from the original deal.

That's pretty much it. Hope that helps, and good luck!
posted by nadise at 3:24 PM on December 30, 2006

Oh, I should have noted that was 47% on a 4 suit game.
posted by arha at 5:28 PM on December 30, 2006

Once you get to the point where you have two stacks open, try to maintain that. When you have two stacks open, you can do a lot more rearranging.

As an aside, I have to say that I find it odd to keep track of statistics if you reject games based on the hand you are dealt.
posted by flarbuse at 7:04 PM on December 30, 2006

I've thought about asking this exact question many a time, so thank you! I'm only at 27% now (on the 2 suit games), which is down a bit from when I first started playing.

My question is, are the four suit games winnable at all? I've never even come close.
posted by MsMolly at 9:24 PM on December 30, 2006

I win around 65% of 2-suit games.

The worst formations have two identical cards in a row. I always break these up, even if I have to mix suits on another column.

I don't worry about mixing suits. I usually set up two columns as hopeless mixtures in order to get better runs in the other columns.

When no more moves are possible, before dealing I move the tails of runs to a column where it makes a longer run. That is, if I have a run from, say, 10 down to 5 of spades, and there's another column with a run from 9 to 4, I move the 4 over to the first column to make it 10 to 4.

Opening up a face-down card by clearing a column is worth mixing suits in another column.
posted by KRS at 7:02 AM on December 31, 2006

MsMolly, the 4 suit games are definitely winable. Another thing to remember is to prioritise clearing columns before matching suit cards into a stack, as KRS suggested.
posted by arha at 10:10 AM on December 31, 2006

Avoid putting kings on empty spaces. It seems natural, but it ties up that empty space forever.

Also, when you want to reorganize deep, mixed columns into something more uniform, but don't seem to have enough free spaces, you may be overlooking possible methods. Sometimes by using elaborate "Tower of Hanoi"-style shuffling, you get small but real improvements, which make a difference.
posted by alexei at 1:13 AM on January 11, 2007

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