Rules for Pyramid

Family: Pyramid
Categories: Popular, Thinker's, Rewarding, Pretty, Unusual
Also Known As: Pile of Twenty-Eight

Pyramid is one of the classic solitaires. It is simple to learn, makes pretty patterns on the table, and has surprising depths in its strategy. Its unusual scoring system rewards early wins.


Shuffle the deck and lay out 28 cards, face up, in a pyramid pattern: one card at the top, two in a row below it and overlapping it, three in the next row, and so on to the bottom row of seven cards. Each card except those in the bottom row should be overlapped by exactly two cards in the row below. Place the remaining cards in the stock, face down. Two other piles, the talon and the discard pile, begin the game empty.


Cards may be turned up from the stock, one at a time, and placed face up on the talon. Both the top card of the stock and the top card of the talon are available for play, as are all cards in the pyramid which are not overlapped by other cards. Pairs of available cards whose ranks add to 13 (for example Ace + Queen, or 5 + 8) may be picked up and discarded. Kings may be discarded singly.

Solitaire Till Dawn will automatically discard matched pairs when you drop one card onto another. The exception is when you drop a card from the stock onto the talon. Even if the dropped card matches the top card of the talon, the pair will not be discarded. This is because it is often wise to leave such matched pairs in play until later in the game. To discard a matched pair from the top of the talon, click the Discard Pair button.


When the stock has been emptied, you may redeal by picking up the talon and turning it over to refill the stock. You may redeal twice, for a total of three passes through the stock. (In Solitaire Till Dawn, the deck will be revealed under the empty stock. Click the deck to redeal.)


The goal is to discard all cards.


Because it is hard to win a game of Pyramid, there is a scoring system that allows you to play for “par.” Play the game to the end; if you manage to discard all cards in the pyramid, note whether you did it during the first, second, or third pass through the stock. When the game is over (no more moves are possible, and you have used both your redeals), count the cards that were not discarded. Calculate your score by subtracting that number from: If you can play six games and finish with a total score of zero or more, you have made par and won the match. Solitaire Till Dawn counts a win only when all cards are discarded, but also calculates your score for each game and keeps a running total.

A skilled player may win as many as one game in four, or achieve an average of five points per game over time.


Pyramid’s odd scoring system means that you can choose either to play for wins, or for high scores; it’s not always the same thing. Often you can get quite a high score while still falling a few cards short of a complete win, while playing for the win may cost you a higher score. Playing for high scores is easier and more often successful than playing for a complete win, and often leads to a win anyway.

High scores are gotten by clearing the pyramid, and the sooner the better. To play for high scores, never discard from the stock or talon if you can discard from the pyramid instead. (Never? Well, hardly ever! Read on for an exception.)

It’s worth taking a moment before beginning play to study the pyramid. You may find (for example) that there are three Jacks in the pyramid that cannot be uncovered until a 2, lower down, is discarded. This means that to clear the pyramid, you must match that 2 with the only remaining Jack. If you match the remaining Jack with a different 2 instead, you’ve doomed yourself. This is the exception to the always-match-in-the-pyramid rule. Although it’s usually smart to make matches in the pyramid as soon as possible, sometimes you must delay until you can make a different match to remove a blocker. (And yes, sometimes a 2 will block all four Jacks, and then you have no hope of clearing the pyramid. But that doesn’t happen often.)

It’s nearly always wise to delay discarding matchable pairs in the talon. You should wait until late in the game when you can be sure you won’t need to split the pair to unblock the pyramid. But sometimes you can safely discard such a pair early on, to burrow down to a recently-covered card in the talon. Don’t do it until you’re sure you won’t need the pair later on.

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