The term Old Maid has been around for hundreds of years, it implies a woman who is not yet married by a certain age, also referred to as a spinster. The English version of a card game, known as Le Pouilleux in France, is based on the term Old Maid. It's very easy to learn, so it can be fun for those of all ages, and is often used for educational purposes for children.


Ages: 4 and older

Number of players: 3 to 6

Time of game: 20 to 30 minutes

Cards: A standard deck, or specially made Old Maid cards.

Objective: To run out of cards before being the last player holding a card, the Old Maid.

Rules of the game:

Standard deck of cards - remove 3 queens from the deck, the remaining queen (usually the queen of spades) is known as the Old Maid. Shuffle the cards, deal the cards face down around to each player. One or more players may end up with an extra card. Once all the cards are delt, any pairs a player currently has is thrown in out. The player to the left of the dealer, draws a card from the player to his left. If the card drawn matches one in the players hand those cards are discarded, if not the card remains in the hand. The game continues until one player is left holding the Old Maid, this player is the loser of the game.

Other decks: There have been many decks of Old Maid cards made through the years, in the picture version of the game it is played as above except pictures are matched instead of the numbers.

Other Variations:

Jack of Spades - the jack of clubs is removed from the deck, and play is as above - accept matches must also be of the same color suit. (5 of diamonds, 5 of hearts for example). Since the Jack of clubs does not have a matching black Jack to match it, the player with the Jack of Spades in the end loses the game.

To make this game more fun for adults, there's the strip Old Maid version, where the loser has to remove an article of clothing.

Another suggestion - the loser has to dress up as the Old Maid, until they win a following game.


The origin of Old Maid is unknown, but versions of this game were played in the 17th century in bar halls, the loser of a game would have to buy the rest of the players a round of drinks.

There are many decks of Old Maid cards, some earlier editions are highly collectable today. There is an African-American version, different versions based on famous cartoon characters, as well as jumbo size cards that measure 3" x 4.5" and the Old Bachelor 'the 90s version' of Old Maid.

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