Solitaire SolitaireGames Week
Every week a new solitaire game

  #12 - November 27, 2001 - by Thomas Warfield

La Belle Lucie

La Belle Lucie Screen shot of the game La Belle Lucie from Pretty Good Solitaire.
La Belle Lucie

La Belle Lucie is an old, classic game of solitaire. It is also known under many other names, including Fair Lucy and Midnight Oil. It is the most popular of the fan type games, where cards are dealt out in small groups of 3 cards.

At the start of La Belle Lucie, the single deck of cards is dealt out in 17 packets (or fans) of 3 cards each (except for the last fan, which will have only 1 card). These fans constitute the tableau. The top card of each fan is available and all the cards are face up so that they can be seen.

As aces become available, they are moved to the 4 foundation piles, which are built up in suit from the aces to kings. The game is won when all the cards are moved here.

Within the tableau, cards are built in descending sequence by suit. No card may be played to an empty fan. You must be very careful not to block yourself when moving cards about the fans. It is very easy to block play by moving a card onto a fan where a lower card of the same suit is already buried.

When all available moves have been played, all the cards in the fans are taken up, shuffled, and then redealt again in fans of 3 cards. There are two such shuffles allowed, resulting in 3 deals in all.

Some sources allow a grace during the last deal. This grace permits one buried card in one fan to be moved to the top of its fan. This variant is often called "Three Shuffles and a Draw" rather than La Belle Lucie. The two main 20th century solitaire book sources disagree about whether this draw is allowed in La Belle Lucie. Albert H. Morehead & Geoffrey Mott-Smith allow the draw (on the last deal only) in their 1949 book "The Complete Book of Solitaire & Patience Games". David Parlett does not allow a draw at all in his comprehensive "The Penguin Book of Patience."

This disagreement in the rules in La Belle Lucie goes way back. William B. Dick, in his 1883 solitaire book, allowed the draw. Mary Whitmore Jones did also in her solitaire book from the 1890s. But Lady Cadogan in her "Illustrated Book of Patience" from 1870 does not. So the best solution is probably to just consider the draw another (very similar) game.

Without the draw, an average player can win La Belle Lucie about 40% of the time, but there is wide latitude for skill, and actual scores can be much better (or worse) than this. Using the draw, an average player can win about 60% of the time.

La Belle Lucie (and Three Shuffles and a Draw) are among the 400 solitaire card games in Pretty Good Solitaire.

La Belle Lucie Links

Rules to La Belle Lucie
See the rules of the game

La Belle Lucie Statistics
See the La Belle Lucie statistics of Pretty Good Solitaire players.

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