wikiHow to Play Go Fish

Four Methods:Understanding the RulesShuffling and DealingPlaying the GameUsing a Variation

If you're new to playing games with cards, Go Fish is a great place to start. This classic children's card game may be played with 2 to 6 players, and all you need is a standard 52-card deck. Learn the rules of the game and a few variations.

Method 1
Understanding the Rules

  1. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 1
    Know the objective. The goal in Go Fish is to collect as many "books," or sets of four cards of the same rank, as possible. The person with the most books at the end of the game is the winner.
    • An example of a book would be having all four queens in a deck: the queen of hearts, the queen of spades, the queen of clubs, and the queen of diamonds.
    • A book doesn't have to be composed of face cards. You could have a book of nines: the nine of hearts, the nine of spades, the nine of clubs, and the nine of diamonds.
  2. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 2
    Know how to build a book. Players collect complete books by taking turns asking each other for a card they need to make a set of cards complete. For example, if a player is dealt a two of clubs and a two of hearts, she will ask another player if he has a two. In this way she adds cards to the book until it is complete.
  3. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 3
    Know what it means to "fish." If a player is asked for a card she has in her hand, she is obligated to hand over all cards of that rank. If she does not have the card, she replies, "Go fish." The player who requested the card then "fishes" a card from the pile of extra cards called the "draw pile." This gives her an extra chance to obtain a card for one of the books she is building.
    • If a player receives the card she asked for or draws it from the pile, she gets another turn.
    • If a player doesn't end up with the card she asked for, her turn is over.
  4. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 4
    Understand how the game ends. Players continue to go around the circle, asking for cards, drawing cards and creating books, until either someone has no cards left in his or her hands or the draw pile runs out. The person with the most books is the winner.

Method 2
Shuffling and Dealing

  1. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 5
    Nominate a dealer. In Go Fish, one person starts out as the dealer, the person who distributes the first hand of cards and gets the game started. The person who had the idea to play the game usually plays the role of the dealer. The other players arrange themselves in a circle extending from both sides of the dealer.
    • Some people like to follow certain rules to figure out who the dealer should be. For example, the dealer could be the youngest or oldest person present, or the person whose birthday is coming up the soonest.
    • If you end up playing more than one game of Go Fish, the dealer of the second game is usually the person who won the first game.
  2. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 6
    Shuffle the deck. Any time you're about to start a card game, shuffle the deck to redistribute the cards from the last game. This ensures the cards aren't organized in a predictable pattern and shows the other players that no cheating is involved.
  3. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 7
    Deal 5 cards to each player. Start with the deck of cards face down, so they cannot be seen by any of the players. Give the topmost card to the first player on the left, the next card to the next player in the circle, and so on. Continue dealing cards one at a time around the table until everyone has five cards.
    • If you are playing with just two players, deal 7 cards to each player instead of 5.
  4. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 8
    Make a draw pile, or "pool." Place the remaining cards face down in the center of the circle or table so that they are within everyone's reach. They don't have to be orderly, but they should all be face down. This is the pool from which everyone "fishes."

Method 3
Playing the Game

  1. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 9
    Examine your cards. Hold the cards in a fan so that the other players can't see them, and take a look at what you were dealt. If you have two or more cards of the same rank, you may want to plan to pursue more cards of that suit to build a book. If you don't have any cards of the same rank, you may choose to pursue any of the cards in your hand.
  2. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 10
    Start gameplay with the player to the left of the dealer. This player chooses someone else, it doesn't matter who, to ask whether he or she has a card of a specific rank. For example, the player might say, "Moirin, do you have any threes?"
    • If Moirin has threes, she is obligated to hand them over, and the player gets another turn.
    • If Moirin has no threes, she says "Go fish." The player then draws a card from the draw pile. If it's the card he or she asked for, another turn is granted. If not, game play moves to the next person on the left.
  3. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 11
    Make complete books. As play moves around the circle, players start collecting enough cards to make complete books. When a book is complete, the player shows the other players the book, then lays the cards in the book face down.
    • As players ask each other for cards, try to remember which cards they asked for. When it's your turn, you'll have the advantage of knowing what's in their hand. For example, if you hear a player ask someone else for an eight, and you're hoping to collect a book of eights yourself, remember to ask that player for an eight next time it's your turn.
  4. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 12
    Finish the game. Eventually the draw pile will dwindle and the cards will run out. When this happens, each player counts his or her books. The person with the most books is the winner.

Method 4
Using a Variation

  1. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 13
    Ask for specific cards. Rather than asking for a card in the same rank, ask for a specific card. For example, if you have a jack of hearts, ask another player for a jack of diamonds, rather than just asking for a jack. This variation makes the game more difficult, and it tends to last longer this way.
  2. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 14
    Play with pairs instead of books. When you form a pair of two cards of the same rank and color, show the other players and lay the pair down. An easier variation would be to form pairs of two cards of the same rank, even if they aren't the same color.
  3. Image titled Play Go Fish Step 15
    Disqualify players who run out of cards. In a typical game of Go Fish, the game is over when a player runs out of cards. Play a variation in which the game continues among the players who still have cards.


  • Do not use the jokers.

Things You'll Need

  • Deck of playing cards
  • 2-6 players

Article Info

Categories: Card Games