How to Play Old Maid

By Peggy Epstein

Probably the first step in teaching a young person how to play Old Maid is to explain just what an old maid is! Once that explanation is made, it’s clear why a card left without a mate could be called an “old maid.” Kids enjoy the game, and it’s a great way to reinforce number recognition. Any number can play, but three or four works best.

How to Play the Card Game “Old Maid”

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals out all the cards to the players. It doesn’t matter if they don’t come out evenly.

Each player picks up his cards and holds them so that other players cannot see them. Players may want to organize their cards so that like numbers and face cards are together.

Next, players take out of their hands any pairs they have. For example, if a player has two nines, the player takes that pair out. All the pairs from all the players’ hands go into a pile, face down, in the center of the table. However, if a player has, for example, three nines, he can only put down the pair.

The player to the left of the dealer (Joel) spreads out his hand, face down, on the table. The player to his left (Amy) picks up one of those cards. If she can make a pair by using that card, she removes the pair and puts it in the pile at the center of the table. Otherwise, Amy just keeps that card.

Now, Amy spreads her cards on the table, face down, so that the player to her left can pick up one card out of her hand.

Play continues in this way. Eventually, one player will be left with one queen. That player loses; he or she is the Old Maid.