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Old-school procrastination

As there is no wireless internet access on Amtrak trains, I have taken to procrastinating the old-fashioned way: playing solitaire, which I initially took up again as an alternative to pacing around the house while on the phone.

I notice that my win percentage is alarmingly low, and I suspect that it is not entirely my fault — if you play the 3-card draw version, some deals are simply unwinnable. In fact, I’m starting to suspect that the overwhelming majority of them are unwinnable.

Has anyone done the math on this? Assuming optimal play, I’d like to know what percentage of deals are unwinnable, and as a sub-question, what percentage of deals are winnable provided that you guess correctly at a certain juncture (as when you can have to choose which of two hidden cards to reveal).

Tentatively, I’m going to guess that the answers are 65% and 10%, respectively.

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March 2, 2010 - Posted by | boredom

9 Comments

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klondike_solitaire

    Comment by xtan | March 2, 2010

  2. It is my experience that, if you play real cards & not the laptop version, your chances of winning are exactly 100% – provided you are appropriately creative on the rules.

    Is there a non-3 card version that does not fall under the above ‘appropriately creative’ interpretation?

    Comment by JoB | March 3, 2010

  3. I always preferred Freecell to Solitaire, precisely because Solitaire gave you a significant amount of unwinnable fuckage. Nevertheless, Solitaire’s what I’ve got on my iPod, so I’ve been wasting a lot of time with it lately.

    Comment by stras | March 3, 2010

  4. Stras, I actually posted this with you in mind — I remembered you thought the “boredom” tag was overused, so I wanted to take the opportunity to post something where it was unambiguously the right tag.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | March 3, 2010

  5. Solitaire’s what I’ve got on my iPod

    This possibility hadn’t occurred to me, although of course Adam is playing solitaire on a computer or some other device. When I read the post I had had an utterly charming vision of Adam using the empty seat next to him on the train to carefully deal out a solitaire game, sigh, give up, reshuffle, and deal again.

    Comment by jms | March 3, 2010

  6. Man, that really would be charming, wouldn’t it?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | March 3, 2010

  7. You did say it was the “old-fashioned way.”

    Comment by jms | March 3, 2010

  8. From the link in one:

    However, the theoretical odds of winning a standard game of non-Thoughtful Klondike are currently unknown. It has been said that the inability for theoreticians to calculate these odds is “one of the embarrassments of applied mathematics”.

    Comment by K-sky | March 3, 2010

  9. Adam, my first thought actually was, “finally, an appropriate use of the boredom tag!”

    Comment by stras | March 3, 2010


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