A game for brain health, a game for meditation – these are some of the ways that solitaire aficionados view and describe their beloved card game. Either way there’s no denying that this is a beautiful game that has had the world beguiled across centuries. Solitaire in itself is not a single game, but a big family of games. “Solitaire” originates from the French language, a word that roughly means “recluse” or “solitary person”. The name is due to the fact that it is the most popular category of solo card games. In fact, even simple pastimes like building card houses or card flipping are loosely classified as solitaire. However, common usage of “solitaire” refers to Klondike, a card game that’s technically only a version of solitaire. It generally involves following a set of rules to arrange cards in numerical order. Let’s see how the game came to be, and its current status in gambling.
History Of Solitaire Games In Casinos
1. History Of Solitaire Itself
There are various accounts of the origins of solitaire. One of the most interesting says that the game was invented by a French aristocrat imprisoned in the Bastille some time during the 18th century. Other accounts do not attribute it to any one person, simply bestowing the honor to unspecified prisoners held in the Royal Prisons of France during the same time period. Either way, links to France (and prison) are all too strong to ignore, especially given the French terms like “solitaire” and “tableau” used in the game. The first detailed written account of Solitaire is in a 1783 German book of games. After that, the game grew more popular in European societies, including in England where Prince Albert is considered one of the early exponents. The advent of personal computers in the 1980s made the game more enjoyable. With no more manual card shuffling, the games could be set up quicker and easier. Addiction grew, as did popularity.
2. History In Casinos
Solitaire does not have a huge history in casino gambling as it is not the most popular game in casinos. However, it would be oversight to assume that it has not been played at all in such establishments. A lot of the game’s casino history is closely linked to one man: Richard A. Canfield. As owner and operator of the Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs, New York, he set up solitaire there during the 1890s. To play, gamblers would purchase a deck of cards for $50, winning $5 for every card successfully placed into the foundations. They were therefore being eligible to win ~$500 for successfully placing all 52 cards. Legend also states that it was the only game Canfield would allow women to play. Solitaire continued sporadically at casinos into the 1970s. However, it never really became a major hit due to some of these reasons:
The game has a huge win percentage – around 80–90%. Great for the gambler, but not too profitable for casinos.
The game takes up a lot of space. To have enough room for several players in a casino would eat up lots of premium floor space.
Rate of play is very slow – so a game that takes up lots of casino space and time.
Requires a groupier or dealer per gambler, which again makes little financial sense for casinos.
In a general sense, solitaire is not a major casino offering. It has instead fitted in alongside the likes of Bingo in the category of fun and easy casino games. These casino games offer excellent distraction but are not really for making money. Notable USA casinos offering the game in the 70s included the Maxim in Paradise, Nevada, and the Circus Circus in Reno. There’s still some casino solitaire in modern times, but that’s usually only possible under special request.