How To Play Go Fish (Step-By-Step Guide)

Ever played Snap or Crazy Eights and thought, “Is there a card game out there that’s just as simple, yet slightly more strategic?”

Enter Go Fish! A classic card game that’s been a favourite at family gatherings and sleepovers for generations.

Whether you’re introducing it to young children or reconnecting with it as an adult, this guide will take you step-by-step through the rules, ensuring you’ll be a Go Fish pro in no time. Let’s dive in!

Objective of the Game

The main goal of Go Fish is straightforward: collect as many “books” (sets of four cards of the same rank) as possible.

The player with the most books by the end of the game wins. Simple, yet utterly addictive!

What Do I Need To Play Go Fish?

All you need to embark on your Go Fish adventure is a standard 52-card deck. No fancy props, no additional pieces – just the deck.

If you’re playing with a younger crowd, there are also themed Go Fish decks available with colourful pictures to add an extra splash of fun!

How To Play Go Fish: Step-By-Step

Step 1: Choose the Dealer and distribute the cards

Decide who will be the dealer. This can be done through a simple game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, by drawing the highest card, or any method you prefer.

The dealer must shuffle the cards thoroughly and distribute the cards to each player:

  • For 2 to 3 players: Deal 7 cards to each player.
  • For 4 or more players: Deal 5 cards to each player.

After dealing, place the remaining deck face down in the centre, forming the draw pile. Ideally these are scattered in a pile, creating a “sea of cards” to support the fishing element.

Scattered draw pile of cards on the table in a game of Go Fish

You’re all set to start! Ensure all players hold their cards so that others can’t see them.

Step 2: ask an opponent for cards

The player to the dealer’s left takes the first turn, and play will continue clockwise.

The player chooses any other player and ask them for cards of a chosen rank. For instance: “Do you have any threes?”.

You must already have at least one card of the rank you’re asking for.

Step 3: Opponent responds

If the asked player has cards of the requested rank, they must hand all of them over to you.

If they don’t, they’ll tell you to “Go Fish!”

Step 4: (If successful) Have another go

If it’s the card you asked for, you get another turn. If not, the next player takes their turn.

If you gather four cards of the same rank, then lay them face-up in front of you. This is known as a book, and all players will know that this card ranks has been completed and is out of the game.

A player holding all of the 8's in a deck of cards
A player has collected all the 8’s (a book), and can now place them face up on the table

Step 5: (If unsuccessful) Pick up a card from the draw pile

If you’re told to “Go Fish”, take a card from the draw pile.

In the unlikely event that you draw the card you asked for from the draw pile after being told to “Go Fish”, then congratulations, you get to continue your turn!

Otherwise, your turn ends and play moves to the next player.

Step 6: Continue play until all books have been completed

Repeat Steps 2-5 until all books have been placed down on the table, and there are no more cards in play.

The game ends at this point, and players count how many books they have placed down.

The player with the most books is declared the winner! If there’s a tie, the players with the highest number of books share the victory.

How To Win Go Fish (4 Tips)

1. Observe and remember

Memory is a crucial component in Go Fish. Pay close attention to the cards players are asking for.

2. Balance your asks

Don’t repeatedly ask the same player for cards. Likewise, avoid asking players for the same card on every turn.

Opponents will be more likely to memorise your cards if you do so. It’s recommended to mix up your asks to keep opponents on their toes.

3. Be unpredictable

Don’t always ask for cards that are pivotal for you.

If you have nearly completed a book (e.g. you have three 8’s), don’t keep asking opponents for the last card needed to complete the book.

There’s less chance you will be successful on your turn, and a higher chance that the opponent who has the last card in the book will target you successfully instead.

4. Prioritise cards picked up from the draw pile

If you’ve just drawn a card from the draw pile and recall an opponent asking for it recently, it’s a good idea to ask for that rank on your next turn.

There’s a good chance you’ll collect more of the same rank.

Similar Card Games To Go Fish

If you’ve enjoyed Go Fish, you might also want to try other classic card games like Crazy Eights or Rummy.

If you’re playing with children who have taken a shine to Go Fish, there are other card games that can keep them entertained while also sharpening their cognitive skills, such as Old Maid.

Try them out and let us know which games you prefer in the comments section below!

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