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How to Play Go Fish Card Game? Go Fish Rules

Please, let me take you to the not so distant future. After reading this blog, you slide up to the bar at your local and hear a rowdy card game being played at a nearby table. You hear one of the players say, “Give me all of your twos.”

“Go Fish.” Comes the quick reply. Turning, you see that they are indeed playing, Go Fish. 

Well now, you’ve just read, How to Play Go Fish and you know the Go Fish rules. Rubbing your hands in excited anticipation, you ask if you can join the next card game.

They smile like hyenas and clear a spot for you to sit down with them.

Go Fish. This fantastic game isn’t just for kids. Legend has it that an eight-year-old kid from Buffalo, New York, invented the game as recently as 1984. 

However, it is thought that a variation to the game has been played and in China hundreds of years before. 

Now you know it’s sordid history, perhaps we should refresh your memory about how to play Go Fish and what the rules of Go Fish are. 

How to play Go Fish

how to play go fish

What you need

One of the most appealing and beautiful things about Go Fish is its simplicity.  

All you need is a standard 52 card deck of playing cards and between two and ten players willing to have a heck of a lot of fun. 

If you would prefer to use an official Go Fish card game or you don’t have a standard deck, perhaps this deck will suit you.

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If you choose to “make the game a little more interesting,” it is up to you; however, please be aware of betting and gambling laws where you live. 

We prefer the child-friendly version but there are many variations out there, so shuffle that deck and get ready to deal. 

The Set-Up

how to play go fish

Depending on how many players you have determines how many cards each player will be given.  

If you are playing a two-player game, then each player is dealt seven cards. 

Three or more player games award five cards to each player. 

The remaining card leftovers in the deck are placed face down on the table. This is sometimes referred to as the “pool”. Additional cards are drawn from the pool as needed. 

Each player should now sort their cards, matching as many as they are able. 

Matching is simple. Group any like for like cards. For example, grouping all your threes together or grouping all your Kings. Each of these matches is called a “book”. 

Do you want to learn new card games? Check out our How to Play Shanghai Rummy Guide!

The Rules

how to play go fish

Once the cards have been dealt and everyone is ready, you must now choose who goes first. 

Use any method you’d like to determine this, be it flipping a coin, rolling a dice, or simply youngest to oldest. 

The play would normally move clockwise, but there is no set rule for this. 

At each player’s turn, they then ask another player for the specific cards they need in order to match or book their cards. 

The player asking for a card must have at least one of that card in their hand to ask for others. 

For example, Player One is holding two eights, so says to Player Two, “Give me all of your eights.” Player Two then has to hand over all of their eights if they have any. Player One then gets to go again. 

If they do not have any eights, they say, “Go fish.” 

Player One then has to take a card from the top of the pool. If it is an eight, they get another turn. If it’s any other card, the next player gets to take their turn and Player One keeps the card they have drawn.

In this example, if Player One obtained an eight and it completed their book of eights, they would then set that book down for all to see and continue playing with their remaining cards. 

Each time a player is successful in collecting all four cards of the same number or suit, such as Kings, Queens, etc., they down. 


how to play go fish

But how do you win Go Fish? 

It’s easy. When a player has been able to put down all their cards or if there are no cards left in the pool, the game is over. 

But who wins? 

The player with the most matches or books wins the game and gets all the glory … until the next game which almost always undoubtedly begins as fast as the cards can be gathered, shuffled and dealt again. 


Strategies are always good to have when playing any card game and Go Fish is no exception. 

One strategy you can use is to try to remember what cards the other players are asking for and whether or not they put down a book when they receive a card they ask for. 

If you need a three and Player One is asking Player Four for a three and Player Four hands over a three, you now know that Player One has at least two threes. 

On your next turn, if you have a three, you can simply ask Player One for their threes. If you have a book when they hand you their threes, say hallelujah and plonk your book down. 

Another method to winning might be to get Go Fish as often as you can early in the game so that you can collect a larger number of cards.

This gives you the chance to get the most books, if you can get matches to them all.

A third strategy is simply, don’t let them see you sweat. Give them all the blank hard stare, your poker face and reveal nothing. 

Back to the Future

how to play go fish

Once again, we are back at the Go Fish table at your local and the game is getting pretty heated. 

People are making matches right and left and you have to say Go Fish far too often. Things are looking pretty bleak for a moment and you can feel that awful sting of losing. 

But then, you remember your strategies. You begin asking the other players for one after another of the cards you need and are now obtaining. 

Your books, or matches are piling up. You might just win this game. 

What is at stake? You look at the winnings at the center of the table and see a handful of change, two chess pawns, three marbles and a Backgammon piece. 

All around you the players are sweating and you are the cool cucumber at the table. No one can hear your heart hammering in your chest. 

You lay down your last book and the game is over. Count up those matches and see who has won. 

Now you know how to play Go Fish and you know the rules of Go Fish. 

Have fun.

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