Holding the Cards

Games & Cards

Old Maid FAQ: Discards, How Many Cards, Pairs & Who Wins

Here are some questions that arise around the card game Old Maid. If you’re not sure about something, it should be covered here.

What Cards Are Discarded? Is There a Discard Pile?

When you have a pair they are discarded—placed on the table either face up or down, depending on what you decided on beforehand. Any 2-card combination of the 4 cards can be a pair, as long as you’re not playing a variation where the colors must match as well (Hearts & Diamonds or Clubs & Spades). You never lay down a single card or 3 of a kind. If you have 3 of a kind, lay down 2 and keep 1.

There’s no common discard pile in the center for everyone. Just place the pairs on the table in front of you.

How Many Cards Do You Get?

This varies depending on how many players there are. If 4 players use a standard deck with the Queen of Clubs removed, 3 players will get 13 cards and 1 player will get 12. If there are only 2 players, you can remove some of the cards so the game won’t take as long.

What Happens When You Run Out of Cards?

A player who runs out of cards is safe. They don’t lose the game. Players who run out of cards wait for the end of the game, until 1 player is left holding the Old Maid card, whichever one is unmatchable.

Are There Extra Cards?

With a standard deck of cards, there’s at least one extra card—the one that is taken out before dealing starts, usually the Queen of Clubs. More cards can be taken out if there are only 2 players or if you want to speed up the game.

All the cards you use are dealt out, so there’s no extra in that sense.

How Many Pairs Are There?

With the Queen of Clubs removed, there are 25 pairs of cards in the deck. If you’re using a special deck designed for Old Maid, there could be a different amount of pairs.

Who Wins in Old Maid?

There’s only a single winner in a two player game. Whoever runs out of cards first wins.

With more players, there isn’t a single winner. Players who run out of cards are safe and won’t lose. The last person with a card loses.

For a walkthrough on how to play, see Old Maid.

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