OBJECTIVE OF OLD MAID: Make pairs of cards, and don’t become the Old Maid!

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 to 5 players

MATERIALS: Standard 52-card deck minus 3 queens (49 cards total); or an Old Maid deck

TYPE OF GAME: Card game

AUDIENCE: All ages


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Continuum Games Old Maid Classic Card Game -...
  • FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: Get everyone together for a game that is a fun, strategic...
  • OBJECTIVE: A matching game involving pattern recognition and selecting cards...
  • EDUCATIONAL: This game is fast action, teaches quick addition skills, extremely...

Old Maid is a children’s card game popular in the United States and around the world, and it’s easy to see why it’s considered a classic! The perfect family game, Old Maid is generally played with colorful decks to enhance playability for young children, but you can easily play with your average playing cards. Regardless of what type of cards you use, don’t worry! The rules for Old Maid remain the same.

You don’t need a big group to play this game; just get one friend or family member to play with you, and let’s get going! Old Maid is a relatively simple card game you can easily pick up. And due to its simplicity, you can just as easily tweak the rules to keep the game exciting and fresh!


Remove all but one queen from the deck if you’re using a standard deck of cards. Since the Old Maid card is the card that doesn’t have a pair, the final queen that remains in the deck is the Old Maid. Alternatively, you can add a joker to the deck and use the joker card as the Old Maid card. Of course, if you have a deck specifically made for Old Maid, you don’t need to do this and can skip straight to dealing the cards.

You can play Old Maid with as few as two players! To deal the cards, as always, shuffle the cards first. Then, deal all the cards face down until you have handed out all the cards. Note that even if some players have more than others, there’s no need to worry; it won’t affect how the game is played. Just make sure you deal all the cards!


Old Maid is an easy game to simply pick up and play. While you may have already played this game, here are the full rules for how to play Old Maid.


old maid card game

To begin the game, all players must remove all pairs of cards from their hand and place them face-up on the table in front of them. Since it’s pairs only, if you have three of a kind, make sure to only set down two of those cards.

If you are playing with a standard deck, match the cards by rank, that is, by number. For example, if you have two jacks in your hand, you would put two jacks down on the table while the third jack remains in your hand, waiting for the next pair to show up as the game progresses to make another pair.

Top tip: If playing with a standard deck, pair cards by rank and color. So, for example, you could pair and lay down a seven of hearts and a seven of diamonds, but if you only have a seven of hearts and a seven of clubs, you’ll need to keep both in your hand.

If a player has all four matching cards (two pairs), they may put all four cards face up on the table.


After each player has finished making their pairs, the dealer begins the next phase of play. In this phase, the dealer fans out all their cards to the player on their left, allowing them to choose any random card from their hand. Make sure to spread and fan the cards face down so the other players can’t see what you have. That player on the left can now make any more pairs with their new card (if they can, of course).

Then, after they have sorted their cards, they offer their own cards to the player on their left in the same manner.


Continue playing around the table, with all players making pairs, until only one card remains – the Old Maid card. The player holding the last card loses the game and is the Old Maid. And everyone else wins the game!

The one exception to who loses the game is if you discover a player who discarded two cards that are not a pair, which causes the game to become all messed up! In this case, the player who made the mistake is the loser.


old maid card game

Is There a Strategy for Old Maid?

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, but one way to play Old Maid is to play the player, not the game. What does that mean? Well, since the person with the last remaining card is the Old Maid and loses, if you have it in your hand, you should make it more enticing for the player on your left to take it. For example, you could hold the Old Maid card slightly higher or lower than the rest of your deck. Or you could pretend to hide it behind another card.

Is Old Maid Easy to Play?

Old Maid is definitely an easy game to play and is perfect for beginners and players of all ages! As long as the player can identify patterns, this game is super simple to understand.

How Many Cards Do You Need for Old Maid?

You can play Old Maid with as many cards as you want, but traditionally, you would play Old Maid with 49 cards – with 3 cards removed from a standard deck.


In France (and other countries), where the game’s name is male (Old Boy instead of Old Maid), a jack is the odd card out instead of the queen. That is, the loser of the game holds the jack after all other cards have paired up!

If you really want to shake things up with Old Maid, play in reverse! So, instead of the player holding the Old Maid being the loser, they become the winner of the game.

If you want to put a creative spin on the game, change the game name to something more silly, such as Hot Potato, Stinky Sock, or Dirty Dishes – whatever it is you may not want to hold in your hand!

If you want to play another card game like Old Maid, check out the rules for Go Fish, Snap, and Crazy Eights.

Mia Kim

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