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How To Play Old Maid

Updated on August 4, 2014

One of the first card games I ever played and one of the simplest games was Old Maid. (War is probably simpler, but that's another story.) You just need to know how to match cards. You can play with a store-bought deck of cards or a standard deck of playing cards. The store-bought deck has around 20 pairs of cards and one Old Maid card. Each pair of cards has matching pictures.

Old Maid Rules

One player shuffles the cards and deals them one at a time clockwise around the circle of players until all of the cards have been dealt. It doesn't matter if some players have more cards than others. Each player looks at his cards and removes any matching pairs, placing them face-up on the table.

Then the players take turns playing, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer and moving clockwise around the circle. On your turn, take a card, unseen, from the first player to your left who has cards left to play. If that card matches a card in your hand, place that pair of cards on the table. If you run out of cards, you stop taking turns. You simply observe for the rest of the game.

Keep playing until the last pair of cards has been matched. The player left holding the Old Maid loses the game.

Standard Playing Cards

You can play Old Maid with a standard deck of playing cards. The matching pairs are cards that have the same rank such as a pair of Sixes. If you match by rank alone (the Six of Clubs matches either the Six of Spades or the Six of Diamonds or the Six of Hearts), the game is shorter. If you match by rank and color (the Six of Clubs matches only the Six of Spades), the game is longer.

Remove a Queen and the unmatched Queen then takes the place of the Old Maid. Or remove a King and the unmatched King becomes the Old Bachelor. You could even remove a random card so that the players don't know which card rank has the “Old Maid”.

You could play with just the red suits, the Hearts and Diamonds, for a short, simple game.

But Old Maid is still a game of random selection. You select a card randomly from another player.

New Rules for Old Maid

So how about changing the rules? How about playing Old Maid so that on your turn you pass a card to another player?

The new rules are as follows. The cards shuffled and dealt as in Old Maid. Each player still looks at her cards and removes any matching pairs, placing them face-up on the table.

But all players holding cards take turns at the same time. On a turn, select a card from your hand, and place it face-down by the first player to your left who has cards left to play. When all of the cards have been passed, pick up and look at the card that was passed to you. If that card matches a card in your hand, place that pair of cards on the table.

The rest of the game is played just like Old Maid. The player who ends up with the Old Maid loses the game. But there is some room for strategy.

Old Maid is still a simple card game.

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