Guide Covers the Vegas-Style Version of Klondike Solitaire

Vegas Solitaire Strategy      In our Klondike Solitaire Strategy Guide we explored the standard version of solitaire in which one card is turned over from the deck at a time. We provided a list of nine rules to help shape play into the proper channels and give the player an excellent shot of solving the board. However, it's now time to tackle the more advanced version of Klondike where a player must turn over three cards at a time and face a devious scoring system, usually called "Vegas-Style" scoring. This combination adds much more difficulty to the standard game, and more fun!

      This strategy guide will assume you are playing along with the free version of Klondike solitaire, created by Wes Cherry and bundled into most Windows-based computers, but you can use any another program as long as it turns its cards over from the deck in the exact same manner as Mr. Cherry's program. The reason will be explained below. Also, if you're manually playing Klondike (do people actually still do that?) make sure that you get the flipping-over mechanism down so that your correctly introducing the new cards into play.

Vegas-Style Scoring and Buried Cards

      In the Vegas-Style version of three-card Klondike, a player invests $52, or $1 per card, just to play the game. For each card played into its Ace stack, including the Aces, the player wins back $5. So all a player must do to get their money back is play just 12 cards ($60) into the Ace stacks to start making a profit. Sounds like a pretty good investment, huh? Actually, the game can afford to offer such a good payback ratio since the new rules will make it much more difficult to score. One of the reasons is that cards can, and often will, become buried and out of play.

      After the initial board is dealt out, the player has 24 cards left in the deck. To begin the game, they turn over the first set of three cards. These three-card sets are known as "Tiers". There are eight tiers total at the start, but as you play through the deck tiers will slowly disappear as more and more cards come onto the board. So instead of only getting to see one card, we get to see three. If you're thinking that this fact is an advantage, think again.

      In standard one-card-draw Klondike, all of the deck cards are available at all times to the player. You only have to go back through the deck, accept your penalty and get the card you need the next time around. In Three-Card Klondike, we are not that fortunate. Let's look at the first tier as an example, which are the first three cards turned over from the deck to start the game. In the graphic to the left, we see the 2, 4 and the A. Yes! You'll quickly want to play the Ace of Clubs to the appropriate Ace stack, which will score you $5. Let's say you don't have anywhere to play the Four of Hearts, which has now been uncovered. Uh-oh, how are we going to get to that Two? We need to play it to our Ace of Clubs. It appears that the Two is buried under the Four. This factor, having the cards you require buried under cards that you cannot play, is what makes this version so much more difficult. But perhaps there is a way to use this new dimension to our advantage.

General Strategy and Tier Positions

      We begin a game of Vegas-Style Solitaire with a slightly different outlook as far as strategy is concerned, since the new rules highlight the need to score as opposed to simply solving the game. We have a new mission: Get our Aces, Deuces and Treys into their stacks and get our money back! If we can get these three cards into each Ace stack, we'll already be making a profit. Considering this new outlook, some of the rules we used for standard Klondike would hinder us quite a bit here.

      Our new goals will be better served by attempting to attack the board in a more broad manner. Firstly, we must dig into the covered board cards, hidden under their face-up protectors, by either playing the face-ups to their Ace stacks or other board columns, allowing us to get to the next buried board card. Secondly, we must no longer worry as much about playing smooth (keeping the alternating cards in the same suit, making it easier to move them up to their respective stacks later). When you can, continue to play smooth, but if you have to make a play that goes against the previous restrictions by all means do so.



      With simplified board guidelines, we can now focus on the more subtle strategy involved with manipulating the deck cards. As stated above, we we'll often be able to see the cards we want remaining buried in the middle of or on the left of our tier. The obvious solution to uncover them would be to play the cards at the front of the tier (the right of the tier) until you can select your desired card. Sounds easy, but what if you can't find anywhere to play them to? You can coax the deck cards into revealing the necessary cards by playing cards in prior tiers in a fashion that will move the targeted card into play the next time through the deck.

      In the graphic to the left, we see three random tiers taken from a game of Vegas-Style Klondike. To better explain the technique we'll be using, we'll first name each of the positions found in a tier. The first (rightmost) card in any given tier is known as the Door Card. The Door Card is always in play since it is the card furthest to the right. In our graphic, the 9, K and 8 are all door cards. The second position, the middle card of any tier, is known as the Center Card. Here the Center Cards would be the 5, K and the 2. Finally, the last position is called the End Card. It is the furthest card to the left of any tier. The 3, A and 7 are all End Cards. Understanding the terminology above will be necessary to utilize the strategies below, so don't hesitate to reread the classifications until they are understood.

Manipulating the Deck Cards Into Play

      Playing any card from a deck Tier affects the placement of the remaining Tier cards that come after (below) it, the next time through the deck. Playing cards does not affect the deck on the current run through. Playing cards out into the board will alter the deck on the next time through, but will not change the current run-through. But to effectively move the cards we desire into Door Positions (available for play), we must first understand how the remaining cards will move based on how many cards were played in previous tiers.

      As stated before, there are 8 three-card Tiers to start off a new game, made up of the 24 original deck cards. And after cards are played to the deck, tiers begin to disappear as cards are played to the board. If you think of the original 8 tiers as one big column of tiers (as we did with the three tiers above), it will be much easier to visualize the movements below. The Door Card is the first card in play for any given tier. Playing it allows the Center card immediately into play. Playing both the Door and Center cards of a tier, of course, allows the End card immediately into play. And playing all the cards in a tier immediately takes you back to the Door card from the previous tier, since you completely eliminated the tier you were in. But here's how playing different combinations of cards affects the remaining tiers below them the next time through the deck.

The ChessandPoker.com Vegas-Style Klondike Guidelines

1. You've Played One Card In Previous Tiers
Doors become Centers, Centers become Ends, and Ends become Doors
Quick Tip: All cards move one position to the left or up into the next tier

2. You've Played Two Cards in Previous Tiers
Doors become Ends, Centers become Doors, and Ends become Centers
Quick Tip: All cards move two positions to the left or up into the next tier

3. You've played Three Cards in Previous Tiers
The Remaining Tiers are unchanged. They will stay in the exact same positions.

      The graphic to the left illustrates how the cards move to the left and up into the preceding tiers the next time through the deck. The first tier turned over from the deck would be the top tier, and all remaining tiers align themselves sequentially underneath it. Here the top tier would be 3 5 9, with the Nine of Hearts being in play as a Door card. As you play cards from any tier, the tiers "below" them will be affected. The cards in the lower tiers will move to the left based on the guidelines above, and when they can't go any further to the left they will move up into the next highest tier.

      For example, let's say you have played the 9 from the first tier, and couldn't make any more plays in the next two tiers. After consulting the chart above for "You've Played One Card in Previous Tiers", we see that all cards in any tiers below the first tier will move one position to the left the next time through the deck. The K and 8 will move one position to the left into Center positions. Both the K and 2 will move one position to the left into End positions. The A and 7 must also move one position to the left, but since there are only three cards per tier, they both must now move UP into the next tier and become Door cards there. Practice with your own Solitaire program by playing one card from any tier. Make a note of all the cards in the next couple of tiers below the tier you played from, but skip through the rest of the deck (even if you could make further plays) until you reach the end and have to go back through it. The next time through, notice that after the tier you played your card from, the Door cards have become Centers, the Centers have become Ends and the Ends have moved up into the next highest tier and become Door cards.

      Let's now look at an example of playing two cards in preceding tiers. Using the same graphic above, consider that the player has played both the 9 and 5, two cards from the first tier. Consulting the chart for "You've Played Two Cards in Previous Tiers", we see that all cards in the tiers below it will move two spaces to the left or up into the next highest tier. This means that the K and 8 would move two positions to the left into End positions. The K and 2 would move two positions to the left, but after moving one position we see that they'll have to move one more position UP into the next highest tier into Door positions. The A and 7 must also move two positions UP and to the left (they can't move to the left any more in their current tier), moving into Center Positions there.

      Finally, keep in mind that once three cards have been played in preceding tiers the remaining tiers will hold their positions. Using the same graphic above, if you were to play the K, followed by the K and then the A, the next time through the deck the tier following it would stay 7 2 8. You would have simply eliminated a tier, leaving the tiers following it unchanged.

Cumulative Cards Played Between Multiple Tiers



      The guidelines we've discussed always hold true, but we must learn how spreading out the cards played affects the layout. We know that if one card is played from a tier, all the cards in the tiers after it will move one position to the left or up into the next highest tier. But what about when you play one card from a tier, and in the following tier you play another?

      Cards played from any tier change the positions of the tiers following it, but the cards played can, and often will, have a cumulative effect on several different tiers. For example, say we play the 9 from the first tier, and then the K from the second tier. No cards are played from the third tier. Since there was one card played from the first tier, the cards in the second tier will of course move one position to the left the next time through the deck. However, remember that another card was played from the second tier, making two cards played above the third tier TOTAL. Therefore, the cards in the third tier will move TWO positions to the left, instead of just one, based on the guidelines above.

      This section should be reread until it's understood. The cards played above any tier affect that tier in a cumulative manner. This means that no matter where you played the cards, the total cards you've played above it, not just the cards you've played in the tier directly above it, determine how the deck cards will move. So if you play two cards from the first tier, and one more in the second tier, how will this affect the third tier? Not at all! That's three cards total played above the third tier, and based on the guidelines, once three cards have been played above a tier the positions in the remaining tiers won't change (unless further plays are made).

      As a further example, let's say you have six tiers left in your deck. You play one card from the first tier. You can't play anything from the second or third tiers, but can finally play one card from the fourth tier. Then you play one card from the fifth tier, but none from the sixth. Not to sound like a math quiz, but how do the tier positions change?

      Cards in the second, third and fourth tiers (the two cards remaining in the fourth tier) all will move one position to the left. This is because only one card total has been played in the tiers above them. And since you played a card from the fourth tier in the previous run-through, the fifth tier has had two cards played above it. This means that the two cards left in the fifth tier (you played one of them) must move two positions to the left. And finally, the sixth tier. It has had a total of three cards played in tiers above it. So how do the positions of the cards in the sixth tier change? Put simply, they don't!

Advanced Three-Card Solitaire Strategy

      It's time to restate our goals: Get our Aces, Deuces and Treys into their stacks and get our money back. We'll also need to dig into the face down board cards which are currently hidden under face-up cards to accomplish our goals. To do so, we can now use our knowledge of how to coax the deck cards we need into playable positions and out into the board to our advantage.

      Let's say you're going through the deck on your first pass. You play a card from the first tier but can't making any other plays until after the fourth tier. You notice that because of the one card you played in the first tier, there will be an A repositioned into an End position in the third tier. On the second time through, we play a card from the first tier, and can immediately play another card from it as well. Here you'll have to weigh your options very thoroughly. You know that since you've played one card at the moment, you can hold off on any further plays in the first and second tier which will move the Ace up into the Door position in the second tier the next time through the deck.

      This type of thinking ahead is an advanced way of playing the game, and can be experimented with and sharpened by practicing in the Three-card draw version with the Vegas scoring option turned off. This will allow you the opportunity to play around with the cards until you're comfortable enough to tackle the more stringent rules that the Vegas-style scoring variation puts us through. You can also experiment with moving cards other than Aces, Deuces or Treys around if necessary to allow different board plays, such as moving the face-up card off from the sixth or seventh columns.

      The sixth and seventh columns are usually prime targets for uncovering downcards since they initially hide quite a lot of potential scoring cards in their face-down piles. Utilizing your knowledge of how the deck moves to your advantage, you can bring cards into play from the deck and at the same time prepare to reposition cards in the following tiers so that they will be in play on the next time through. You have the technology. Use it!

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