How to Play FreeCell Solitaire: Rules & Set-Up [8 Steps + Video]

FreeCell is played with a standard playing deck containing 52 cards. If you're playing with a real deck of cards, start by making sure that there are no jokers or instructional cards and then shuffle the deck thoroughly. If you're planning to play FreeCell online, that will be taken care by you. The game is played with all the cards facing up, which adds to the strategic streak the game has.

You're now ready to learn how to play!

How To Play FreeCell Solitaire

Step 1: The game consists of eight rows, also known as tableaus, four foundations, and four free cells (hence the name). Start by laying out the cards on the tableau to prepare the game. The first four tableaus each consists of seven cards, and the remaining four tableaus each have six cards on them. All cards should face up.

Illustration of how to play FreeCell Solitaire

Step 2: Make sure that you leave room above the tableaus for the foundations and the free cells. You'll need this space while playing the game. The cells allow you to temporarily store cards while playing the game, but more on that later.

Illustration of foundation and cells

Step 3: The strategy and goal of the game are very similar to many other Patience games. The goal is to move all cards to the foundations in ascending order, starting from ace and ending with the king. To start off a foundation, you need to move an ace to it.

Illustration of ace moving to foundation

Step 4: Generally, it's a good idea to move cards to the foundation whenever possible, with the only caveat being that if you need that card somewhere else in the tableau, it might be best to wait with moving it.

Illustration of foundation move

Step 5: If the opportunity arises, then you can move a card from one tableau to another. The benefit of doing this is that you free up cards below the card you just moved. The card being moved must be one lower and a different color than the card it's being moved to.

Illustration of moving cards between tableaus in Free Cell Solitaire game

Step 6: Once there are no more available moves on the tableau, you can move a card to a free cell. Each cell can hold any card but can only hold one at a time. You can move a card back to the tableau or the foundation at any given time.

The only caveat to using the cells is that it limits how many cards you can move at one time. If you have four empty cells, you can move five cards at a time. If you have three empty cells, you can move four cards simultaneously and so on. It needs to be mentioned that an empty tableau is also counted as an empty cell in this calculation.

Illustration of move to cell

Step 7: If you have an empty tableau, you can move any card or sequence of cards to it.

Illustration of empty tableau move

Step 8: All there's left to do now is to apply all the moves above until you hopefully end up with all the cards on the foundation piles, which means you've won!

Illustration of winning card game

Have fun playing and be sure to check out our tips and tricks on how to win FreeCell. We're rooting for you!