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Solitaire, also known as 'patience' in some parts of the world, is a hugely popular one-player card game that sets the tasks of organizing an entire deck of cards into columns defined by their suits. The cards must run in number order, and more often than not the game will not end in the completion of the task.

Solitaire has its origins in the mid-18th century but really came to prominence in 19th century France. The game spread quickly from there and remains an extremely popular pastime to this day. The number of online versions out there has raised solitaire's profile considerably. Being a one-player game, solitaire is ideally suited to mobile and tablet gaming, and it's the rare office worker who hasn't filled a dead hour or two by accessing it on their Mac or PC.

What equipment is required to play solitaire?

You'll need a regulation pack of 52 playing cards to play solitaire. The jokers are removed and you play with everything else - four full suits of 12 cards each, from ace to 10, with jacks, queens and kings all thrown in too.

If you're playing a physical game of solitaire, you'll need table space to spread out the columns. To play electronically you'll need a desktop or mobile device, along with either a solitaire program uploaded to your device or the ability to access the Internet and visit an online solitaire site.

What is the aim of solitaire?

There are many different versions of solitaire but the most commonly played sets the task of building four complete columns. The aim is to have fully-stocked columns of spades, clubs, diamond and hearts - each running from King all the way down to ace.

What are the rules of solitaire?

If that sounds too easy, it's time to introduce the rules. It's the way you draw the cards, and where you can place them, that makes solitaire so difficult to complete and such an appealing challenge.

Here is a basic outline of the rules for classic solitaire, and again it's worth stressing there are varieties that will differentiate in subtle ways here:

How to master solitaire

Even if you stick to the rules and play the perfect game, solitaire is not always winnable. There are deals that make completing the game impossible and situations you can't move on. Strong players may win more often than weak ones, as they see every opportunity to place a card and make key decisions that influence the flow of cards.

How to get started with solitaire

Playing online solitaire is a great way to get acquainted with the game and develop a strong understanding of the format. Many online solitaire games are free to play, and you can also play for cash prizes at some sites. Best practice is to check out an online solitaire portal and read up on the best sites to play at.

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