Freecell Unique Deals and Winning Odds

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Written by Anna on May 24, 2024

For the enthusiasts of numbers and games, Freecell stands out in the solitaire card games family due to its high probability of winning and the vast number of potential deals. Theoretically, a deck of 52 cards can be arranged in 52 factorial (52!) ways, leading to approximately 8×10^67 potential deals which is 80 followed by 67 zeros. After we adjust for suit and column arrangements, which make many setups basically the same, the number of unique Freecell games is around 1.75×10^64 which is 17.5 followed by 63 zeros. Yes, you read that right.

The high win rate of the game comes from its open layout, where all cards are dealt face-up at the start, letting you plan your moves without guessing or relying on luck, unlike other games like Spider Solitaire. Freecell also uses alternate-color stacking in its tableau, a successful feature also seen in Klondike and other solitaire variations.

Background and Win Rates

Front and back cover of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2 box, released in 1991

In 1990, Microsoft introduced the Entertainment Packs to promote the recreational use of Windows beyond just business applications. It was a collection of 16-bit casual games with names like Minesweeper, Taipei, and Tetris. This pack didn’t include Freecell yet; the original version of the game first appeared in 1991 in the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2 for Windows. Freecell remained relatively under the radar since this pack, like the first one, was not included in any specific version of Windows but was available for separate purchase. This changed when Freecell was released as part of Windows 95. This version is renowned for its 32,000 specific deals, of which only one (deal number 11982) is unsolvable, resulting in a win rate of approximately 99.997%.

In 1994, Don Woods conducted the first extensive computerized statistical analysis of 1 million Freecell deals, determining that all but 14 of these games were winnable, which translates to a win rate of 99.9996%. This analysis highlighted the game's design, which significantly favors strategic planning over luck.

When Microsoft expanded Freecell to include one million deals with the release of Windows XP in 2001, it was discovered that eight of these deals are unsolvable. The unsolvable deals in the expanded set are: 11982, 146692, 186216, 455889, 495505, 512118, 517776, 781948

These deals have been studied like the original 32,000 and confirmed as unsolvable because the game setup prevents finding any sequence of moves that leads to a win.

Freecell on

On our website we offer 10 million deals, it is estimated that approximately 80 of these deals cannot be solved. Thus, the chance of getting a winning deal on is approximately 99.9992%. (Win Rate = (10,000,000 - 80) / 10,000,000 = 0.999992%)

Cult Following and Community Challenges

Die-hard fans and algorithmic solvers often challenge themselves to crack other tough deals, creating a niche community of solvers who share tips and strategies online. This community delves deep into the mechanics of the game, sometimes developing their own software tools to analyze and potentially solve challenging deals.

Screenshot of the unsolvable Freecell deal #11982 on a Windows 95 interface

Deal number 11982 has achieved somewhat of a cult status among Freecell enthusiasts. It’s common to see players posting their attempts online to solve this notorious setup, often using unconventional strategies or claiming a fluke that led them to solve it. However, it has been extensively analyzed and confirmed by human players, computer programs, and AI that there is no sequence of moves that leads to a solution for this particular deal. Such claims are typically tongue-in-cheek, as the deal is considered unsolvable using standard Freecell rules.

Overall Design and Player Strategy

Overall, the design of our game allows for a high degree of player control and strategic planning. Despite some unsolvable games, the vast majority can be completed with the right strategy, sustaining its popularity among solitaire games. Some FreeCell deals are quick to solve, while others take more time. You can replay the same shuffle in different ways to figure out tough deals faster. To get better at the game, practice often. Use the undo button to test different moves, and write down the deal number so you can return to it anytime.

Did you find any unsolvable numbers in the 10 million deals we offer in our game? Mail the deal number to us; we love a challenge. ;)