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September 16th, 2011 Games

When you're by yourself looking to pass the time, you've probably played the classic version of solitaire on your computer. You may even have experience playing with a deck of cards.

The game dates back to the mid-18th century and goes by many names - the British call it "patience" and the French call it "reussite," which means success. It may be hard to imagine solitaire as anything other than a solo player enterprise, but the Germans first wrote about the now common pastime in a book in 1783, where it was described as a multi-player game in which players would take turns or use their own set of cards. Some think people began to play alone to prepare for matches with others.

Solitaire became popular in France and England in the mid-19th century and was even played by royals like Prince Albert, certifying its status as "in vogue". Modern versions of solitaire began to appear in the late 20th century and became a sensation through the use of personal computers. Play goes much faster with a virtual deck since you don't have to waste time shuffling the cards yourself. You can start a new game in seconds, which makes it easy to wile the hours away, as many people find themselves addicted to getting to that exciting end screen with the cascade of cards.

Today, there are more than 100 different versions of solitaire, a number that grows even larger if you count minor variations. Here's how to play a few of the most popular alternatives:

Spider solitaire
This computer-based game can be played with multiple decks and can use one, two, three or four suits. The player's main goal is to put all of the cards in the top row in descending order. You want each column to be separated by suit. Once one column is completed and the cards are all there from King to Ace, the cards are removed. Once all eight columns are removed, the game is beaten. The computer keeps track of how many turns you took and records your best score, so you can strive to beat yourself in the future.

Freecell solitaire
All cards are face up at the start of freecell solitaire. You must put the cards in ascending order by suit just like in regular solitaire, dragging them to the foundations at the top. You can't move cards once you transfer them, and there's no deck to get your cards from. It's possible to beat every single game, unlike in regular solitaire where you have to depend on the luck of the draw. It's a challenging puzzle to figure out, but if you can master it the winning experience is very rewarding.

Aces up solitaire
In this game, you start out with four cards and can move a top card into an empty column or to the foundation if there's another card of the same suit with a higher value on it. You can click to get four more cards at any time and the goal is to put every card into the waste pile or the foundation pile except for the four aces.

No matter which version you play, solitaire is a historically entertaining game bound to captivate you for hours if you let it. Just don't let your boss see it up on your computer screen during the workday!