GeekDad Puzzle of the Week: Old Maid

Geek Culture

Image: Flickr/ccarlstead

There are games that are fairly basic like chess, Othello and mahjong. And then there’s Old Maid. At my house, we’ve been playing some serious Maid and when I play, I play to win. Which is why I need your help. What I’m wondering is this: when if ever is it best to be dealt the Maid, and when is it best to remain blissfully unaware of her whereabouts until you’re safely out of cards and out of the game?

First a quick refresher: in Old Maid, cards are dealt and then players take turns picking blindly from other players’ hands. If a player ever has a match she lays down the matched cards. A player who lays down all her cards is safely out of the game. The player left holding the Old Maid at the end of the game loses. The massive complexity lies in the chance that the Maid will travel — potentially a couple times — before she is finally left old, alone and mumbling something about soft crackers.

Imagine the following scenarios. In each, is it best to be dealt the Old Maid or not? Each correct, well-explained answer will earn an entrance into the drawing for this week’s $50 ThinkGeek gift certificate!

1) A two-person, five-card game in which your opponent has the first draw.

2) A two-person, five-card game in which you have the first draw.

3) A two-person, seven-card game in which your opponent has the first draw.

4) A three-person, 10-card game in which you dealt and the person to your left has the first draw.

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