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How to play Old Maid

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Old Maid is a card game that is perfect for beginners because it’s simple to learn and fun at the same time. The objective of any player in Old Maid is to avoid being left with the Old Maid card at the end of the game.

Before playing the game, it’s good to understand the complete rules. Once you have a grasp of the game basics, it’s possible to tweak the rules to make the game more exciting.

What is the object of Old Maid?

Players aim to match cards and form pairs to discard from your hand. The reason to form pairs is to avoid being caught up with the Old Maid when the game ends.

When all players except for one have run out of cards, then the game ends. Since the Old Maid has no pairing, the player left with the Old Maid at the end of the game loses. 

Game setup

Game can be played with two to eight players using a single deck of cards, or special Old Maid cards. If the group size is large, then two identical decks are recommended. 

When using a deck of playing cards, one can create an Old Maid card by adding one Joker or removing three cards of a certain card, let’s say, Queen, so that the remaining one card can act as Old Maid. If using the standard Old Maid Deck, one can skip the step. 

The dealer shuffles the cards and the cards are dealt facedown evenly to each player until the whole deck is handed out. All cards are dealt and none are leftover. 

How many cards do you deal in Old Maid?

There are no specific number of cards dealt between players in Old Maid. The number of cards in your hand will depend on the number of players in the game. 

Depending on the number of players, the final round may not be complete in the process. As a result, there will be a case whereby some players have one more card than the others, but it’s acceptable because the size of the hand does not disadvantage any player over the other. 


Each player should assess all the card pairings they have in their hand, remove the pairs from your hand and place them face up. If they have three cards of the kind, keep one in your hand and remove the pair. 

When using the regular cards, a pair is made with cards of the same rank. For instance, if a player has two 7s, that forms a pair regardless of the suit. 

However, if players want to make it more complicated, they can decide on a pair to be formed by the same number and same color. For instance, the two 7s should be red to form a pair. 

The dealer holds their card facedown for the player on the left side to pick one card from the dealer’s hand. Without showing the others, the player should keep the card in their hand.

If the new card makes a pair with any cards in their hand, they must discard the pair and place in front of them face up. The process continues in the clockwise direction to the next player to the left side, who draws a card from the player on the right of them. 

Always rotate gameplay to the player on the left, but draw cards from the player on the right side. You don’t just randomly pick from anyone in Old Maid.

The game goes around the circle until players form all the pairs. One player will be left holding a card that has no pair (Old Maid), thus becoming the loser, and everybody else wins.

What are the instructions for Old Maid?

  • A player can only discard in pairs, which means if someone has three identical cards, they should discard two and keep one card in their hand.
  • The discarded pair should be placed face up in front of the player.
  • The player on the dealer’s left side should start the game, and the game follows a clockwise direction. The player who’s turn it is always draws from the person to their right side.
  • The dealer should distribute the cards equally around in a circle giving each player a card, and all the cards should place face down. There is no specific number of cards each player should get because it will depend on the number of players playing the game.
  • When the Old Maid is played using regular playing cards, either use a Joker or remove three Queens so that the single remaining Queen become the Old Maid deck.
  • The game should proceed until all the players involved in the game forms pairs.
  • The player left with Old Maid when the game ends is the loser, and all other players win. Reverse rules allow the winner to be the remaining player with the Old Maid, so the game can be played either way.
How to play Old Maid

Playing Old Maid: Conclusion 

Old Maid can be played by both regular deck or a specially designed Old Maid deck. However, when regular cards are used, players should make some compromises. Decide whether to remove three Jacks or Queens, or add a Joker to create an improvised Old Maid.

The strategy in Old Maid is to get rid of the Old Maid card as soon as possible. When you have the card, try as hard as possible to trick the opponent into picking the card from your hand. 

A player can play with the psychology of the next opponent by pretending that the card is valuable by trying to hide it. Sometimes being obvious is the way to get the opponent to draw the card from your hand.

No matter what happened to the Old Maid, never disclose the odd card to the opponent because they will try to avoid picking the card. You don’t want to be the one that ends up holding the card when everyone else runs out of cards, then you lose.

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