What game was played at Canfield's Casino?
Several years ago I saw a movie on television, which I don't remember much about except
that it had a couple of detailed scenes about solitaire. I have a tape of a couple of
scenes but cannot find a title in my notes.
A young woman (Kelly Preston) sits alone at a table late an night shuffling cards. She counts out thirteen cards rapidly, finishing dealing, and begins to play solitaire. As she does so, a man comes into the room wrapped in a blanket.
Man: You look like a pro.
KP : Used to be one. Sorry -- did I wake you?
Man: You're fast.
KP : I don't sleep much. Maybe three, four hours a night. So I play Canfield all night. Wear out a couple of decks a week.
Man: What's Canfield?
KP : Gambler's solitaire. Pay the casino $52 a deck. Go through one card at a time, after you've dealt your hand. And then for every card you put up you get back five dollars.
Man: How often can you go through the deck?
KP : Once.
Man: Mmm -- that's tough.
KP : Ruins you for regular solitaire.
Man: You ever win?
KP : Go back to sleep.
A later scene shows her playing much more clearly. There are four cards in a row and a foundation card (a five) above it. She deals another five from the stock and places it next to the first five. Clearly the game is the one known today in the U.S. as Canfield (Demon in England). The reference to dealing one card at a time is interesting, since the stock in Canfield/Demon is usually dealt three at a time.
In 1894 Richard Canfield bought a casino in Saratoga Springs, New York. He owned it until 1911, when it was sold to the city after anti-gambling pressure increased in the first decade of the 20th century. Sometime during that period, a solitaire game was played there as a casino game. A player would buy a deck of cards for $52, play one game of solitaire, and win $5 for every card played to the foundations.
It has long been assumed that the game played there was the game known in England as Demon, which starts with a single card foundation, a storehouse of thirteen cards, and a tableau of four cards used for packing. Morehead and Mott-Smith say so explicitly on page 14 of The Complete Book of Solitaire and Patience Games. But I wonder if this is so, or whether the game played at the Canfield casino was actually Klondike (played with the familiar triangular tableau). And if was Demon, why are there so many early references to Klondike as a gambling game and none (that I have seen) for Demon? And why do most of these early books use Canfield as the name for the game now known as Klondike? The Oxford English Dictionary in its definition for Klondike has three separate references to Klondike as a gambling game.
In the 1905 second edition of Tarbart's Patience Games (more than twice the length of the 1901 first edition -- this is the most valuable book in my solitaire collection even though my copy is somewhat battered), he describes a game on page 64 called Gambler's Delight. It is the three-at-a-time version of Klondike. This appears to be the first publication of Klondike, which seems to have derived from earlier two-deck games with triangular tableaux. Peter Voke has theorized that Klondike may be a corruption of the Dutch "Klein Driehoek" (Small Triangle).
The 1908 edition of Harris Dick's Games of Patience says of Klondike (there called Canfield):
"This game has attained a certain degree of notoriety as having been employed as a game of chance, in which the "house" sells a new pack of cards for Fifty-two dollars and plays the player Five dollars for each pip visible on the ace piles when the game is ended." (Thanks to Peter Voke for access to the book online). This is essentially how the game in Canfield's casino is described by Morehead and Mott-Smith.
In George Hapgood's 1908 book, Solitaire, again describing Klondike but using the name Canfield, he gives a scoring system similar to this, though he does not mention money. Both Hapgood and Dick describe the one-at-a-time deal from the stock (with no redeal), though Hapgood mentions three-at-a-time as a variation.
The 1914 American edition of Lady Cadogan's Illustrated Games of Solitaire or Patience (thanks again to Peter Voke for the reference) includes "Canfield or Klondike" on page 119, saying "The player pays 52 counters for the pack and he is paid 5 counters for every card he gets down in the top foundations", giving references from the U.S. Playing Card Company's Official Rules of Card Games in nine editions from 1897 to 1913. Peter has the 1913 USPCC book and confirms that the name Klondike goes back to 1913 at least. Again Cadogan describes the triangular tableau and one-at-a-time deal with no redeal.
In George A. Bonaventure's 1931 Games of Solitaire, Klondike (still the one-at-a-time version) was still being called Canfield, but by 1939, Klondike was known by that name in American books (the 52nd edition of The Official Rules of Card Games by the U.S. Playing Card Company, as well as Helen L. Coops'
100 Games of Solitaire). It can still be found under the name Canfield as late as 1966, in Douglas Brown's The Key To Solitaire.
If it was indeed Klondike which was played in Canfield's casino, which version (one card at a time, as suggested in the movie, or three?) was played there?
This article is copyright © 2007 by Michael Keller. All rights reserved.