Original Patience Games by David Parlett
penguin logo
Cards 52   Type Open packer   Success 90%
Hi David Parlett,
I'd like to say I think Penguin is possibly the best patience game I've ever played (perhaps better even than the venerable Free Cell). The proportion of unwinnable deals is very small (apparently less than 1 in 1500), but still it often takes quite a lot of planning to achieve success. The only other patience game I've enjoyed as much is Mrs. Mop (although Mrs. Mop requires two decks can be very intense, sometimes requiring hours to plot the correct path to success on the harder deals.) Thanks for creating such a great game!
Best regards, Alexandre Mah (Australia)

Penguin (so called because I invented it when writing the Penguin Book of Patience) is a one-pack solitaire with all 52 cards dealt face up before play begins. It is therefore a game of "perfect information" and one of maximum skill. If you'd like to play it on-line, you can get the software from Thomas Warfield's Goodsol ("Pretty Good Solitaire"). Warfield writes: "Penguin is a popular game in the Freecell group. It is related to Eight Off [and] is the 14th most played game in the most played games list. Like many games of the FreeCell type, it can be won nearly every time. However, impossible positions are much more common in Penguin than in Freecell." (True, but not inherently impossible, I think. Ultimate failure is nearly always due to player error, and it is fatally easy to go wrong early on.) You can also play it online at the BVS Solitaire Collection and at Tomas Mertens' Solitaire Paradise.

The deal

Shuffle a 52-card pack and deal the first card face up to the top left of the board. This card is called the Beak. (heart10 in the diagram).

The "beak", at top left, (heart10) was the first card dealt. The other three Tens are placed at right as the deal proceeds, followed by the beak when it is freed, and your aim is to build all four bases up into sequences running

As and when the other three cards of the same rank turn up in the deal (in this case Tens), take them out and set them apart as foundations.

Deal six more cards in a row to the right of the beak. Then deal seven more across the first row, overlapping slightly so that all are visible, and continue dealing further rows until you have a 49-card layout consisting of seven rows and seven columns, with an eighth column consisting of three base cards of the same rank as the beak, and a space for the beak below.

The flipper

There is a potential reserve of seven cards called the flipper. This is empty to start with, but each of its seven spaces can be filled with one card at a time in temporary transit between the layout and the foundation piles.


To release the beak and set it aside as the fourth foundation, and to build all four up in suit-sequence until each contains 13 cards, turning the corner from King to Ace as necessary. (For, in the illustrated game the beak is a Ten, so all four piles will (if you succeed) eventually run 10-J-Q-K-A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9.)


The bottom card of each column is available for play, and its removal releases the next card up in the column. The possible plays are:


From the start position it is always possible to release the beak by transferring its six covering cards to six spaces of the flipper, but in many deals it is often self-defeating to release the beak immediately if it means completely filling the flipper.

The illustrated deal, however, happens to be rich in opening possibilities. For example, you could start by playing heart5, club4, diamond7 to the flipper, build diamondJ on diamond10, move heart3 to the flipper, build diamondQ on diamondJ, and play heart10 to its position as a foundation card (bottom right).

You might then play heartJ, heartQ to the heart10, and clubJ to its Ten.

The space made by emptying column 1 can now be filled with the released heart9 or club9. This leaves you well under way and you still have three spaces left in the flipper.