Old Maid Rules

Old Maid is an old card game that’s based completely on luck. It can be played with 2-8 players and a standard deck of 52 cards is used. The object of the game is to not get stuck with the odd card out, also known as the “Old Maid.”

Deal and Game Play

At the beginning of the game, one of the Queens is removed from the deck. The dealer then deals the remaining cards one at a time to each player until all the cards are gone. If there is an uneven number of cards, that’s fine. It doesn’t affect the game if one or two players have an extra card.

After the cards have been dealt, the players look through their hands and remove any pairs they have. Those pairs are placed face down in front of the players. If a player has a three of a kind, that player only removes two of the cards and leaves the third one in his hand.

The players then take turns spreading their cards face down and offering them to the player to the left. The player to the left then picks one of those face down cards and adds it to his hand. If that card forms a pair with any of his other cards, those cards may be discarded. The game continues in this manner clockwise around the table.

Eventually, all the cards will be discarded except for one Queen. The player who is stuck with the Queen at the end of the game is the loser and everyone else is the winner. That player must then either deal with being called the “Old Maid” or must buy a round of drinks or pay some sort of penalty.

Old Maid Violation

If a player breaks some rule such as discarding cards incorrectly, that player automatically becomes the Old Maid. This can happen if a player discards three cards or mismatches a pair of cards and discards them. Incorrect discards can go undetected for a while but if there is more than one odd card remaining at the end of the game, the players must all show their discarded cards. At that point, the offending player can be identified and ridiculed mercilessly.

Old Maid Variations

Countless variations of Old Maid have been developed over the years. We can’t list them all here but a few of the most popular ones are listed below. Because Old Maid is a home game, players can change the rules however they want as long as everyone else agrees to the modified rules.

  • Jackass – Same as Old Maid except one of the Jacks are removed. The player who ends up stuck with the odd Jack can now be referred to as the Jackass rather than the Old Maid.
  • Joker Variation – Instead of removing a Queen, the players may instead agree to add a Joker to the game. In that case, the player stuck with the joker as the end of the game is considered the loser.

Short Form – Instead of waiting until every card is gone but one, the game can come to an end as soon as one player discards all his cards. At that point, the game is stopped and the player in possession of the Old Maid loses. This only works if the players identify a specific card as the Old Maid.