Go Fish Rules – Learn How To Play This Simple Card Game

Go Fish Rules

8 minutes

Last Updated: March 19, 2024

Not all card games are as complicated as Cribbage or hard to learn. Some of them were invented to have fun without thinking too hard, and Go Fish is such a game.

You can learn how to play Go Fish in a matter of minutes, and it can provide you with countless hours of entertainment.

Go Fish is usually described as a children’s game, but it can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

Rules of Go Fish are quite flexible, so you can easily develop some new elements to spice up the game if the basic variation isn’t doing it for you.

Go Fish Card Game Preparation

go fish card game

If you want to learn how to play Go Fish, all you’ll need is a standard deck of playing cards and at least one more person willing to play.

That’s it! You don’t need any special scoring cards or even pen and paper. You just need cards.

The number of players who can play go fish isn’t limited because no one will ever have to sit out, creating a perfect environment for fun.

If you have a really big group of people wanting to play, like seven, eight, or more, you can always introduce another deck.

Go Fish Glossary

  • The pool (or The ocean) – the deck of cards that players draw cards from when they have to “go fish.”
  • Go Fish – the name of the game and the expression used to tell the player you don’t have any of the cards they’re asking for, so they have to draw a card from the pool.
  • Books – sets of four cards of the same rank set on the table when completed. The player with the most completed “books” at the end of the round wins the round

Go Fish Rules

go fish rules

Go Fish rules are very simple and easy to learn, which is why this game is so popular with the kids.

Most other card games such as Rummy require players to do some math and remember a long list of rules, but you can learn all you need to know in under two minutes with Go Fish.

Go Fish Objective

The main goal of the Go Fish card game is to discard as many sets of four cards as possible.

Every time you collect four cards of the same rank (like J J J J or 9 9 9 9), you will make what’s known as the book. You’ll take the book out of your hand and place it on the table in front of you.

When you make the book, you’ll show it to other players and then put it on the table face down.

There are a few different ways to determine the end of the round. The game can be completed when:

  • One player has no more cards in their hand.
  • The pool runs out of cards.
  • All 13 possible books have been completed.

It’s up to the players to agree on what rule they want to use. In any case, the player with the biggest number of books in front of them when the agreed end of the round is reached is the winner.

Go Fish Game Dealing

At the start of a round, one player is selected to be the dealer, either through an agreement or by dealing one card face up to each player. The player receiving the lowest card will be the first to deal.

He or she will deal the cards face down and one at a time, starting with the first player to the left of them and moving clockwise.

go fish game dealing cards

In the Go Fish game with two or three players, each player receives seven cards to start with. Otherwise, all players will get five cards.

The rest of the deck is placed in the middle of the table to be used as the pool. Every time you have to “go fish,” you’ll have to take one card from the pool.

Go Fish Scoring

Go Fish rules use a very simple scoring system.

You get one point for every book you make.

So, the player with the biggest number of tabled books wins the round.

In some variations, players can receive negative points for whatever cards they have left in their hands when the round is completed.

For example, if you have three books in front of you but also have two cards in your hand when another player runs out of cards, you’ll only receive one point.

How to Play Go Fish

how to play go fish

Now that you know the basic rules of Go Fish, it’s time to learn how the game is actually played.

Once all players have received their cards, the action will start with the first player to the left of the dealer.

They’ll look at their hand first and then ask any other player at the table for all of the particular rank cards.

It’s important to keep in mind that you can only ask for the cards you already have in your hand, i.e., you can’t ask for Aces if you aren’t holding at least one Ace.

So, for example, you start with a hand like K K 5 9 7.

You turn to any player at the table and ask them for one of the cards you need, saying something like:

  • John, give me all of your Kings.

If the player in question has any Kings in their hand, they’ll give it to you, and you get to go again.

You can ask the same player or a different player for the cards you need. You can keep fishing for Kings, or you can ask about any other card in your hand, for example.

  • Mary, give me all of your 9s.

When the player doesn’t have any cards you’re asking for, instead of giving you cards, they’ll tell you:

  • Go fish!

This means you’ll have to go for the pool (the deck) and draw one card.

rules of go fish

If you get lucky and draw the card you were asking for (one of the 9s if Mary didn’t have any, for example), you’ll win the right to pick another player and ask him for cards.

If you draw any other card, the action will move to your left's next player, and the same process repeats.

As you’re fishing for cards, every time you make four of the kind of any rank, you’ll have completed the book.

You’ll show the book to the rest of the players and then place it in front of you, face down.

As explained earlier, there are a few different ways to determine when the round is completed. Once the end is reached, all books will be counted, and the player with the most completed books wins that particular round.

Go Fish Rules Variations

If you feel like the game is too simple or rounds are completed too quickly, you can introduce certain tweaks to the Go Fish rules.

These will make it somewhat more entertaining, especially when played by older players.

  • You can create books with two instead of four cards.
  • The player only gives one instead of all cards of the rank they’re being asked about.
  • You must ask for a specific card (rank + suit) instead of just a rank.
  • The game can be played with two decks and more cards to start with

If you happen to come up with how to play Go Fish with other rules that sound like they could be fun, feel free to give them a try.

You can’t spoil this game because it’s not as much about winning or losing as it is about having a blast playing it. As long as all players understand the rules beforehand, anything goes.

Go Fish Drinking Game

The adult version of Go Fish card game often involves drinking (what a surprise, right?).

All the basic rules of Go Fish are still in play with the additional stipulation that the player who has to “go fish” must drink a shot or take a sip from their drink before drawing a card.

When the round is completed, everyone except for the winner must finish their drinks.

Go Fish Game Strategy & Tips

go fish game

Go Fish isn’t a particularly demanding game, and you don’t need to learn any complicated strategies like in poker to play well.

In fact, who wins and who losses doesn’t matter that much as long as you’re having fun. That said, if you’re a very competitive individual and love winning at everything, here are a few useful tips.

  • Pay attention to what cards other players are asking for, as that will help you figure out what cards they’re holding.
  • Going fishing early on is often a good thing as it will give you more chances to make more books.
  • When you draw a card that you didn’t have already, it is often a good idea to try and fish for that rank on your next go.
  • Try to reveal as little information as you can about your own hand by focusing on completing one book at a time.

In the end, the Go Fish card game isn’t exactly what you’d call a skill game, so don’t sweat it too much. If you’re looking for a really competitive card game, there are much better choices.

Summary: Enjoying Go Fish

For a simple game, Go Fish is certainly loads of fun to play. Moreover, unlike Strip Poker, it fits all age groups and requires only a deck of cards that pretty much everyone has kicking around the house somewhere.

So, Go Fish is a perfect game to play with friends and family.

Even if you’re a hardcore fan of card games and this one sounds too simple or too silly, give it a try. With the right crowd and some “special” rules (“official” or unofficial), it can be a real blast.

Go Fish gives you a lot of room for creativity, so if you think the game is missing something, go ahead and throw it in. Have fun with it – you can’t really go wrong!

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