Freecell Solitaire: A Strategy Guide For Beginners

Freecell Solitaire is a highly popular game, made famous by Microsoft. Freecell is included in Windows, and is considered a classic solitaire game by many. Because you can see ALL the cards right from the start, there is no luck involved, making Freecell one of the few solitaire games which is based totally on the player’s skill.

Freecell is quite a hard game, but despite that, all deals (except for deal number

11982) are solvable in the 32000 deals in Microsoft’s version.


The key to finishing Freecell is judicious use of the freecells. They should be used as

temporary storage- only storing cards in them for a short time to help you move

longer sequences around.

For example, suppose you had a column with the following (taken from deal 14396)

5 Hearts
Ace Spades
Ace Hearts
4 Clubs

In this situation, it is okay to move the 4 of Clubs to a freecell, because we know

that right after that, we can move the two Aces to the foundation, and then move

the 4 of Clubs back from the freecell onto the 5 of Hearts. See how the freecell was

only used temporarily?


There are certain moves you can make at any time in Freecell and know it wont

“trap” you later on in the game. You can move the Aces (and the twos when they can

be played), at any time, as no other cards depend on them. For the other cards, you

can safely move them to the foundation if the cards one less in rank, of the opposite

color, are already in the foundation. For example, you can safely move the 5 of

Diamonds, if the black 4s have already been moved to the foundation.

Better Freecell games will automatically do these safe moves for your, so you can

concentrate on the moves that matter, rather than having to manually make

inconsequential moves.


Your first goal in Freecell is to empty a column.

Why is this?

Because an empty column allows you to move longer sequences around. The size of

the sequence you can move in Freecell is based on the number of available freecells

and empty columns. The more empty freecells and columns you have, the longer the

sequence is that you can move.

The formula for how many cards you can move is:

(number of empty freecells + 1) * 2 ^ (num empty columns)

For the less mathematically inclined, here is a table showing how many cards you

can move in some different scenarios…

Empty Freecells Empty Columns Card Sequence Length
0 0 1
1 0 2
2 0 3
3 0 4
0 1 2
1 1 4
2 1 6
3 1 8
0 2 4
1 2 8
2 2 12
3 2 16

As you can see, empty columns are particularly valuable, as they allow you to move

considerably longer sequences. By the time you have two columns free (particulaly

with two or more freecells free), you can move very long sequences, and the game is

usually quite easy to complete from there.


So what is the easiest way to empty a column?

Start by emptying columns that don’t have any Kings in them. A column with a king

can’t be emptied initially, because there is nowhere for the King to go.

Don’t just make moves because you can. Have some mini plan in mind, and only

move cards if they help empty the column you are aiming for.

Another popular strategy is just to go straight for releasing the Aces, and then the

2’s, etc. This strategy is easier, and requires less thought. It will work for the easier

games, but won’t help on the hard deals (such as deal 1941)

The most important strategy of all though, is to try and keep the freecells empty. If

you can do that, and empty a couple of columns as well, then you should find it very

easy to finish the game.