I don't remember when I first learned to play solitaire. I know that my mother taught me, and over time I have become quite good. I'm one of those guys who likes to stand over your shoulder while you play - mumbling things like "Uh-unh, red five on black six," or "Better move that king." I am always looking for an ace to move up. I believe this game perfectly suits my personality.
The time I spent at our cabin in the mountains honed my skills. Without a television, we played a lot of card games. I played cribbage, gin rummy, crazy eights, even a little bridge - but I would always come back to solitaire. I sat at the dining room table staring at the combinations for hours at a time, listening to AM radio.
I spent a good chunk of one summer hanging out in my parents' basement, waiting for my girlfriend to finish up her job, playing solitaire. I always used the same well-worn deck of United Airlines cards, working fast, knowing the odds for playing out game is about one in seven - so if things start to slowed down, pick 'em up, shuffle and lay out a new game. I can still see the cards on the background of brown velour, almost calling out to me "One more game; you were so close that time."
Friends have tried to teach me variations on the standard Klondike version: spider, clock, accordion, golf. I keep going back to the one that feels like home. A friend of mine once returned home from a trip to Vegas and told me that you can buy into a game out there for fifty-two dollars, and they pay five bucks a card played "upstairs" on the aces. Eleven cards upstairs is a winning game. I never tried it, but it sure helped fuel my fantasy solitaire tournaments.
Then I entered the computer age. No more dealing, just point and click and watch the cards fly around the screen. I'm especially fond of the way some versions will bounce the deck across the screen if you play all the way out. It's not exactly Doom, but it fills my obsessive compulsive void. These days I find myself playing more Free Cell than Klondike, and I play mostly in the virtual world. Still, when there's time to be filled, there's nothing more satisfying than laying out the piles, making the rows, and moving those kings. Last week I made $4,000 - in my mind.