One of the first card games I ever played, and one of the simplest games, was Old Maid. (War is probably simpler, but that’s another story.)
For those who have never played Old Maid, here are the rules using a store-bought deck of Old Maid cards. This deck consists of multiple pairs of matching cards and one Old Maid card.
One player shuffles the cards and deals them one at a time around the circle of players until all of the cards have been dealt. It doesn’t matter if some players have more cards than others. Each player looks at his cards and removes any matching pairs of cards, placing them face-up on the table.
Then the players take turns playing, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer and moving clockwise around the circle. On your turn, take a card, unseen, from the first player to your right who has cards left to play. If that card matches a card in your hand, place that pair of cards on the pile of matches. If you run out of cards, you stop taking turns. You simply observe for the rest of the game.
Keep playing until the last pair of cards has been matched. The player left holding the Old Maid loses the game.
You can play Old Maid with a standard deck of playing cards. Just add a Joker, which takes the place of the Old Maid.
You can shorten the game if you remove cards from the deck. A store-bought Old Maid deck is usually smaller than a deck of playing cards. So you could remove the 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s.
You can also control the length of the game based on how you match cards. If you match by rank and color (the Six of Clubs matches only the Six of Spades), the game is longer. If you match by rank alone (the Six of Clubs matches either the Six of Spades or the Six of Diamonds or the Six of Hearts), the game is shorter. And if you match by rank and opposite-color (the Six of Clubs matches either the Six of Diamonds or the Six of Hearts), the game is an in-between length.
You can also play without the Joker. You can remove a Queen from the deck so that the unmatched Queen becomes the Old Maid, or you can remove a King so that the unmatched King becomes the Old Bachelor. Or you can remove some other card. You can even remove a card so that the players don’t see which card has been removed.
You can remove specific multiple cards. You can remove a King, a Queen, and a Jack.
Or you can remove multiple cards without the players seeing them. For instance, remove five random cards. If there are no pairs in these cards, there are five Old Maids. If there is one pair, there are three Old Maids. If there are two pairs, there is just one Old Maid. Nobody knows which cards are Old Maids or how many Old Maids there are.
However you play, Old Maid is still a game of random selection. You select a card randomly from another player. There is some skill involved in matching cards, but not as much skill as is used in most other card games.
So how about a change in the rules? How about playing Old Maid so that on your turn you pass a card to another player?
The new rules are as follows. The cards are dealt as in Old Maid. Each player still looks at her cards and removes any matching pairs of cards, placing them face-up on the table. And the players take turns playing, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer and moving clockwise around the circle. But before regular turns begin, the dealer picks a card from his hand and places it face-down on the table near the player to his left.
On your turn, look at the card that was passed to you. If that card matches a card in your hand, place that pair of cards face-up on the pile of matches. Otherwise, place the passed card back face-down on the table. Pick a card from your hand and lay it face-down by the first player to your left who has cards left to play. Then pick up the card that was passed to you and put it in your hand.
The rest of the game is played just like Old Maid. The player who ends up with the Old Maid loses the game. But there is more room for strategy. You can keep track of the cards that you passed and the cards that were matched. You can use that knowledge to help you choose which card to pass.
And Old Maid is still a simple card game.
Copyright (c) 2010 – Paul Hoemke. All Rights Reserved.