How to play clock patience

July 31, 2019

One standard deck is used.

The deck is dealt face down into 13 piles of four cards each. The cards may be dealt singly or in fours. The piles are arranged to represent a clock dial, one pile corresponding to each hour. The thirteenth pile is placed in the centre.

By rearranging the cards, you end up with thirteen piles of like-numbered cards in their correct ‘time’ position: the four aces at one o’clock, the four 2s at two o’clock, and so on around the dial.
The jacks represent 11 o’clock and the queens 12 o’clock. The four kings make up the thirteenth, central pile.

Take the card at the top of the central pile and place it face up at the bottom of the pile of the same number or ‘time’. For example, if the card is a 7, it is put face up underneath the seven o’clock pile. Then take the top card of the seven o’clock pile and puts it under its matching pile.

In this way you can work from pile to pile, always removing the top card of the pile under which you have just puts its matching card. If you turn up a card that happens to be on its correct pile (eg: a 3 is turned up from the three o’clock pile), it is still placed at the bottom of the pile in the usual way, and the next face-down card is taken from the top of the pile.
The outcome depends on the order in which the kings are turned up. If the fourth king is turned up before all the other cards are face up, then the game is blocked.

This means you can only win the game if the last card to be turned up is the fourth king. As the chance of this happening is very small, the king can be exchanged for any one face-down card in the layout. Only one exchange is allowed, and if the fourth king is again turned up before the other cards are in the correct piles, then the game is lost.