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5 Fun and Challenging Single Player Card Games

Here are some alternative single player card games (aka solitaire variations) to play that will challenge your skills and your mind.

If you’re looking for some great 2-player card games, check out this post.


5 Single Player Card Games

1. Accordion

This solitaire variant is quite easy to play.

Using a single deck of cards, deal them out one at a time, left to right and continuing down into rows, space permitting.

The object of the game is to pile all the cards into one stack.

A card, or pile of cards, can be placed onto another card or pile if the top card matches by either that suit or value.

Also, cards and piles can only be matched to their immediate left, or three to the left.

Remember to continue your sequence through the rows, as well.

For example, a nine of clubs that is the very first card in the second row can be placed on the nine of hearts that is third from the right on the first row.

The rows are there to save you space on the table, the number of cards in each row does not matter.

There are two variations on how to play: one where the player deals out every card first and the other where the player starts to pile up cards as they deal.

With a little luck and skill, you should be able to sequence all of the cards together and fold them into a single pile, like a folding accordion, hence the name of the game.

2. Devil’s Grip

Premium Prism Playing Cards

This solitaire variant is a unique single player card stacking game requiring two decks of cards with the aces removed from play (total of 96 cards).

Shuffle them together and deal out three rows of eight, face-up, and consolidate the rest for a stock pile which is set aside.

The aim of the game is to stack the cards according to suit and into piles of specific values:

  • the top row will be eight piles consisting of 2, 5, 8, and Jack,
  • the middle row will be piles of 3, 6, 9, and Queen,
  • and the bottom row will be piles of 4, 7, 10, and King.

These look arbitrary upon reading the rules, but they make sense visually on a grid: twos in the top row, threes in the middle, fours on the bottom row, then they’re topped by fives on the top, sixes in the middle, and so on.

The Layout in Devil's Grip
A game of Devil’s Grip

For those you who like or need a visual aid, here’s a very helpful tutorial.

Once you’ve dealt the cards out into the rows it’ll look like a mess in front of you, but now you can start stacking by suit from anywhere.

When you place a card onto another pile, pull the top face down card from the stockpile into the empty space and continue. 

Once you’ve exhausted all of the moves available to you from the set up, now you can start with the cards in the stockpile, pulling them three at a time, like in traditional solitaire

Place these onto their appropriate pile, and again immediately replace any empty spaces you create with the top face-down card from the stockpile.

Repeat as necessary, cycling through the stockpile in threes until you’ve either run out of moves, or you’ve sorted all of the cards into their piles and won the game!

If you like to keep score on incomplete games, count the number of cards left in the stockpile once you’ve run out of moves, and the lower the number of cards left, the better.

3. Pyramid

Pyramid is a matching game played with a single deck of cards where the object of the game is to clear the pyramid of cards away by collecting pairs of cards that add up to a value of 13.


To set up your game, you will shuffle the deck and deal out 28 cards face-up into a pyramid pattern.

For ease, start at the top with a single card, then lay two cards down on the next row, staggering them slightly and covering up the bottom half of the single card at the top. 

Repeat through seven rows to attain a pyramid structure, then set the rest of the deck aside as the stock pile.

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To play, you may match two cards that total thirteen from the pyramid that are fully exposed (that means that there are no other cards covering them from lower rows), or a card from the stock to a card in the pyramid.

Face cards have specific values:

  • Kings alone count as 13 (these are free, they get set aside by themselves)
  • Queens are 12
  • Jacks are 11
  • Aces count as 1’s.

For a brief example, in the picture above, the 8 & 5 in the bottom row can be placed aside, and the 9 & 4 in the bottom row can be placed aside, but the King on the right side of the second row cannot be placed until the 7 below it is matched with a 6.

You may go through the stock pile one card at a time to find more matches, and go through them again as many times as you want until you are either out of moves or clear away the pyramid!

Watch this video to learn more:

4. Monte Carlo Solitaire

Monarch Playing Cards

This version of solitaire, sometimes called Weddings or Good Neighbors, is a quick matching game for all ages and levels of complexity.

To start play, shuffle up a full deck and deal out 25 face-up cards in a 5 x 5 grid, then hold the rest to the side in a stock pile.

The game is then played rather quickly, matching two cards of the same value (two 4’s, two Aces, etc.) that are adjacent to each other (this can be to the left, right, top, bottom, diagonal – all count) and discarding them.

Once you’ve matched and discarded as many pairs as you can, the rest of the grid is consolidated by moving all cards to the left and up.

This means that any cards that are on the left-most side of the grid go up to the next row by entering on the right-hand side.

Then fill in the rest of the 5 x 5 grid at the bottom right with the cards in the stock pile, and resume play.

After playing a few games, you may find that there are times when you hold back from matching a pair because you can see how the board will re-shape after a consolidation that creates a new advantage or reaches a card you could not match before hand.

That’s a fine strategy and encouraged once you understand the nuances of the game.

Monte Carlo Solitaire is quick and easy to play, but can also be a little more challenging than it appears at first glance – like in regular Solitaire, you may find yourself resetting the game far more often than winning it.

5. Bowling Solitaire

Artisan Playing Cards

For the bowling enthusiasts out there, here’s a solo card game variant for when you can’t get to the lanes.

This game requires some scrap paper, a pen or pencil, and only the ace through ten of two suits from a deck of cards.

Hold all of the face cards and other two suits of the deck to the side and then shuffle your twenty cards together.

Now on your scrap paper create a bowling score card: draw a horizontal grid with ten boxes and include two smaller boxes in the top right corner of each frame.

The smaller boxes represents the number of pins knocked down in each frame, while the larger box will be the total score up to that frame.

To play, you will attempt to remove/knock down the pin cards using the face-up ball cards.

Pins can be knocked down in three ways:

(1) the pin card and the ball card have the same value;

(2) two or more pin cards equal the value of the ball card; and

(3) the last digit of pin cards equal the value of the ball card (for example, the ball card is a 6, and there are two pin cards equaling 16, such as two 8s).

Certain pins cannot be knocked down if other pins are still standing – namely the middle card of row three and the middle two cards of row four – unless other pins adjacent to them are either knocked down first or are knocked down at the same time.

Remove pins using the ball cards and place them to the side, then flip up the next ball card from the pile.  

Continue to do this until you either remove all of the pins or cannot remove any more with the ball cards you have in front of you.

This counts as your first ball of the frame.

Re-shuffle the ball cards and re-rack them into the three piles and flip the top card of each pile face-up. This is now your second ball of the frame and you may continue to remove pin cards as you did before.

To keep score, if the ball cards knock down five pins, score five points in the upper square on your sheet, then roll the second “ball” for that frame.

If the second ball knocks down two pins, score an additional two points, for a total of seven for that frame.

Should you score a strike and remove all of the pins with your first ball, mark your score sheet with an “X,” and if you remove all of the pins with the second ball mark your score sheet with an “/” to indicate a spare.

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    Strikes and spares are scored the same as in traditional lane bowling – when a strike is bowled, award 10 points (for knocking down all ten pins), plus then add the total of the next two rolls to that frame. 

    For a spare, the bowler gets 10, plus the total number of pins knocked down on the next roll only.

    If in the event you cannot use your ball cards to remove the pin cards, score a zero on the score card, and move to the next ball or frame.

    Once you’ve completed the first frame, re-shuffle your pin cards and re-set.

    Play through ten frames, and keep in mind that you may throw three balls in the final frame should you score a strike or spare, again just as in normal lane bowling.

    Add up your score at the end, there is a maximum score of 300 points per game.

    Can you get bowl a perfect game all by yourself?

    There you have it.

    Some great single player card games to play while relaxing with a cocktail at the bar or hanging solo at home.

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