How to Play Go Fish! (Game Rules and FAQ)

Go Fish is a children’s classic. If you want your child to learn a few tricks of the deck, this is the perfect starting point for them. 

A specific set of 48 cards are designed for playing the game, but it can also be played with a standard deck of 52 cards. 

Check out the Go Fish rules below, to learn how to play this fun card game. 

What is the Go Fish card game?

The Go Fish card game was initially designed for children to play to polish their counting, pairing, and matching skills. 

Over the years, there have been many variations of the card game such as Canadian Fish and Happy Families. The Canadian Fish can be played with a standard 52 card deck but the Happy Families game requires a specific set of cards.

Number of Players: 2 to 6 players.

Ages: Recommended for 8+

Difficulty: Easy.

Length: 15 to 30 minutes. 

Similar To: Spoons, Rat-a-tat cat

Main Objective: Make the 4 of a kind (book) in your hand as quick as possible. The first player to make a four of a kind wins the game.

Why We Love It:It’s a great game for kids that’s easy to play and will keep them busy. This game is also fun if you’re having friends over for a night stay and want to play something to kill time as a game only lasts for up to 30 minutes. 

Playing Go Fish – What You’ll Need

Go Fish is typically played with a specific set designed for kids with 48 cards, but it also is played with a 52-card standard playing deck. For ease of understanding and playing, we will talk about the rules of the games using a 52 card deck.

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How To Set Up the Go Fish Card Game

The game consists of 2 to 6 players. To add more fun to the game and make it a little longer, you can add another deck of cards.

One of the players shuffles the cards and deals them for the first round. The Dealer can be anyone amongst the players.

Have the Dealer shuffle and deal out the cards to each player. Each player gets 5 cards. Before dealing out the cards, all the jokers in the deck have to be removed. Each player should only look at their cards. Remember, no peeking.

Spread the rest of the cards, face down, in the center. The area between the players is often referred to as “The Pond”. The cards need to be placed face down so that no one can have a look at them before they are picked up.

Pro tip: if you don’t have enough room in the pond, the cards can be stacked and the top card be picked when called.

RELATED: Looking for games to play on a camping trip? Check out our article on 36 camp games for small groups to play.

Go Fish Card Game Rules and Gameplay

The game starts with the dealer asking one player for a specific card at random. It is always better to take a good look at your hand and know what you want to collect. Ask for the cards you already have a pair of to get a good head start. 

For example, if you have 2 kings in your hand, you only need 2 more of them to make a book and win the round. You are only allowed to ask one person at a time for only a specific number or a rank. 

One more important thing, you can only ask for a number or a rank, if you have them in your hand already. For example, you can’t ask for kings if you don’t have a king in your hand. 

Pro tip: Once you ask for a specific card, the other players will know what card you are looking for. Strategize by asking for different cards in your hands, sometimes playing a couple of extra rounds can help you win the game.

Once asked for a number or a rank, the player needs to give all the rank and numbers they have to the person who asked for them. You are not allowed to hold back any of the numbers asked. 

If you are not asked directly for the cards, try to keep a straight face, it might help you save those cards to win the game.

Best part of the game is that if you keep getting lucky and finding the cards you asked for, you could possibly take several turns before going to fish in the pond of the cards. The player must take another turn if he finds the card he asked for

Now comes the fun part of the game. If you don’t have the number you are asked for, you can ask the player to go fish in the pond and the turn passes on to the next player. For example, if you are asked for fives and you don’t have them, you can ask them to “go fish”

A player needs to pick up only one card from the pond when asked to “go fish”. It is usually a good thing for you in the start and middle of the game. It helps you strategize and throw other players off their game knowing what you are collecting. If you really don’t need a card, worry not, you can always throw it in the next chance you get.

Now it’s time for the showdown. How can you win the game? When you have collected all four suits of the same card, you can place it flat on the table and you win. For example, if you were collecting two’s, and you have got two diamonds, two of spades, two of hearts, and two of clubs, you can place the cards face-up on the table and win.

There are other versions of the game where a person gets 10 points for each suit they make. The player can show their book and continue playing by collecting 5 random cards from the pond and continue till either all the cards are over or all the other players give up.

RELATED: Looking for fun games for your kids? Check out our list of the 46 Best Group Games for Preschoolers.

How to Play Go Fish Card Game – Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the number of cards a player must have on hand?

A player must have 5 cards in their hand at all times. Other versions of Go Fish have slightly different rules to play and rules can even change if the number of players is limited to 2.

Can Go Fish be played online?

Yes, Go Fish can be played online. There are many platforms on which the game can be played from mobile apps to websites. The game has been very popular amongst kindergarten teachers who use it for ice-breaking sessions in remote settings.

Is there a different Go Fish playing deck? 

Yes, there is a Go Fish playing deck designed specifically for children with pictorial glimpses containing a total of 48 cards. That said the game in itself has gained more popularity being played with the standard 52-card deck.

Alternative Games to the Go Fish Card Game

Go Fish card game is a fun game but if you’re looking for something else, there are many other games for your kids to try.

If you want your children to play a game with little figures and pictures, you can opt for Rat-a-tat cat. Spoons is another popular game that can be played in bigger groups.

If you are looking for an interesting game other than cards for your kids, check out our guide on how to play Fibber.