Holding the Cards

Games & Cards

Old Maid Card Game: How to Play & Rules

Old Maid is a popular, easy card game for kids, for 2 or more players, and it can be played with a standard deck of cards. You can also add some interest for younger players by using a deck specially designed for Old Maid.

Players lay down their matching cards and draw cards from other players. Whoever ends up with the unmatchable card loses the game.

How to Play Old Maid

Here’s a common and easy way to play. You can use one of the variations if you want. If not, just ignore those sections.

The Deck

The deck must have an odd number of cards so that one card will be unmatchable. With a regular deck of cards, remove the Queen of Clubs. This makes the Queen of Spades the losing card.


  • Remove any other Queen instead
  • Remove 3 of the Queens
  • Keep the Queens but add a Joker, which becomes the losing card
  • Remove a random card from the deck face down and put it aside. In this variation, no one knows what the losing card is. 

The Deal

Everyone draws a card from a face down deck. The highest card deals first.

The cards are shuffled and dealt one at a time to the left until they’re all gone. The cards might not be exactly even.

Game Play

The players look at their cards and lay down all their pairs face up.


  • The pairs can be laid face down. 
  • The pair colors must match—Hearts with Diamonds/Clubs with Spades

The dealer starts by fanning out their cards face down and offering them to the player on the left. This player takes one card randomly from the dealer’s hand. If it matches anything in their hand, they put down the pair just like all the others.

The play continues like this with the player who just selected a card offering their cards to the player on their left. This person takes one, checks for a match to lay down and it continues again.

When a player runs out of cards they are safe. The last player who’s left holding the unmatchable card is the Old Maid and loses the game. The loser deals the next hand.

Is There Any Strategy in Old Maid?

Very little. There are two areas where you can try to improve your chances.

One is when you are holding the Old Maid card and want to get rid of it. Pay attention to where the player on your left takes your card from.

Most people will choose a card from somewhere in the middle of your hand, so try not to have the bad card too close to the end. Unless of course, the person to your left tends to select a card from the ends or they usually take from the left or right side. In that case, put the card around where they usually pull one.

Another is when you are choosing a card from someone else. Taking one from the ends is probably safer, unless they notice that’s what you do. Being inconsistent with where you select the card will make it harder for them to put it where you might take it.

If you have a question about Old Maid that wasn’t covered here, check out the Old Maid FAQ.

Scroll to top