Poker vs Solitaire: Key Differences and Similarities

Poker vs Solitaire

At first glance, it seems like solitaire and poker have very little in common, aside from both being card games. But solitaire was also played as a gambling game in card rooms and casinos. Both are games of skill that can involve the wagering of real money.

This article explores the similarities and differences between solitaire and poker. 

Similarity: Both can be played for real money

The modern version of solitaire is usually played without money or even a points system. The player either wins or reaches a point where they can’t make a move. 

Poker is very much a betting game that is often played for money. In the case of cash games, each pot is played for real money. When it comes to poker tournaments for real money, players buy-in for a set amount and can win huge prizes for making the top places. Hence, you could definitely say that poker is a game more associated with betting. However, there is a type of solitaire that is also played for real money, known as known as Las Vegas solitaire. 

Las Vegas solitaire follows the same rules as Klondike, aka Canfield, two names for the same popular version of solitaire. The only difference is that the player buys the deck. 

The player pays an amount for the full deck of cards, which is their total wager. They are then paid an agreed amount back for every card that they get back to the Foundation. For example, if a player buys the deck for $52, they will receive $5 back per card returned. 

This means that it takes 11 cards returned to the Foundation in order to make a profit in Las Vegas solitaire (11 x $5 = $55).

Difference: Poker is played against others, solitaire is played against the house

Although it’s true that both games can be played for real money, there are major differences in how the betting takes place.

In poker, players compete against each other and the house takes a rake. Any bets made by players are a way to encourage opponents to make mistakes, either by making a call with the worst hand or, in the case of a bluff, folding a better hand.

Solitaire is a solo game. There is no competition against others, not even the dealer. Instead, the player buys the deck and is playing the cards. Although that doesn’t make solitaire a game of pure chance. 

Similarity: Both are games of part skill and part chance

Solitaire and poker are both games that involve both skill and chance. The skill element in poker is immediately obvious. If you’re not as good as the other players, they will win more often and you will quickly lose chips. 

It’s possible for new and inexperienced players to win poker hands or even tournaments. But there’s a lot of strategy that can help you to gain an edge over the competition. 

Solitaire may seem like a game of pure luck, but this is not the case. There are optimal moves when it comes to playing the cards. Making the correct move results in being able to continue, whereas bad moves set you up to get stuck later on.

The actual chances of solving a solitaire problem are not yet known, but one estimate has it at an average of one in 30 games. Another experiment found that a very skilled player could win 43 percent of games. 

Interestingly, if all the locations of the cards are known, that percentage jumps to 82 percent. This shows a huge gap between what a skill player can do and what is theoretically achievable, although of course it’s impossible for a player to know the card locations. 

In any case, the fact that there are clear differences between the win rates of an average player, a skilled player, and a theoretically perfect player, shows that there’s a lot of skill in solitaire. 

Similarities: The Las Vegas connection

Poker and solitaire were first known to be played at around the same time, Texas Hold ‘em in Robston in the early 1900s and solitaire in the gambling houses during the Nome Gold Rush of the same era. 

Texas Hold’em’s early history is blurry, but by 1967 it had arrived in Las Vegas at the Golden Nugget casino. At that time, poker was a game for the high rollers and remained a niche until the 1970s when the WSOP brought the game to fame and into the public eye. 

Poker and Las Vegas have long had a strong connection and still do to this day. You’ll find poker cash games and tournaments running every day on the Strip.

When it comes to solitaire, the connection is less well established. Tex Richard, a boxing promoter who also had a gambling house, is cited to have offered solitaire in his gambling house in the town of Goldfield, around 150 short miles from Las Vegas. 

Solitaire was also featured at Richard Albert Canfield’s casino in Saratoga Springs. The game even took the name “Canfield Solitaire”, though is doubtful he invented it. 

It’s unclear whether Solitaire ever made it to the casinos of Vegas. Some sources suggest it was never played, while others say that Klondike games were running at the Sahara or Riviera. In any case, the 1:1 dealer to player ratio required by solitaire doesn’t suit casino’s financial aspirations. 

In any case, both poker and Las Vegas solitaire can be played online at gaming sites, so are now widely accessible to players all around the world.