What Are the Rules for Go Fish? Setup & Game Play

Family playing a game of cards around the table

The card game Go Fish is a timeless classic that most of us have played countless times in our childhood. Many continue to share the game with their children (I sure do!).

These games can be a great bonding experience between parents and kids, and they also help bring out the competitive side in all of us. Make sure you’re well-versed on the rules of the game, so you can introduce your youngest players to the table!

What are the rules of Go Fish? Go Fish is a simple game that players of any age can enjoy. The object is to collect as many books of cards as you can. All you need is a standard 52-card deck, (2) to (7) players and your competitive spirit. 

Ready to play Go Fish? Continue reading to learn more about the object of the game, how to win, and more. 

Getting Started Playing Go Fish

While many people know the main object of the game, it is always a good idea to refresh your game knowledge. Take some time to relearn the rule of this classic game to start introducing it to your little ones.

This simple and easy game can be loads of fun during your Family Game Night. It will be sure to entertain card players, both young and old. 

To play Go Fish, all you need is your 52 deck of cards. You can play with pretty much any standard deck, but there are many decks made specifically for playing Go Fish. Like this GIANT deck specifically for smaller kids.

You will be dealing out some of these cards to the players and keeping the rest in a stockpile to draw from.

Your Objective

The object of playing Go Fish is to win the most books of cards out of all the players. A book is four of any kind of card (four queens, four tens, etc.). The cards rank from low to high, with twos being the lowest card and aces being the highest (suit will not matter in this ranking).

Dealing the Cards

Before you play the game, you must deal or divide out the cards to each player. How do you choose who will deal out the cards? Have someone deal a single card face up to each player. The person who gets the lowest card will be that game’s dealer.

  1. The chosen dealer will shuffle the cards, then slide the deck to the player on their right. 
  2. This person will cut the deck. Cutting the deck is splitting the cards in the middle and placing the bottom half on top.
    In many cases, the cutter will simply remove the top half and then allow the dealer to replace the bottom half on top. There are many other fancy methods to cut a deck of cards, but that is the easiest and most common method.
  3. The dealer will then deal out the cards one at a time, face down to each player. They will start with the player to his or her left. 
  4. If you have two to three players, each person will receive seven cards. If you have four or five players, each person will get five cards.
  5. The rest of the deck will be placed face down in the middle of the playing surface to form the draw pile. 

Now that you have dealt all the cards, you’re ready to play!

How to Play Go Fish

The rules of Go Fish are pretty simple. The person to the left of the dealer will have the first move. But this is not the only way to decide who goes first.

To select the first person who gets to play, you can also determine that by age (letting the youngest or oldest go first), or by flipping a coin or rolling a die.

The first person to move will choose any opponent and say, “Give me all your Aces (please)!” or ask, “Do you have any 4s?”. They will request a specific card that will help them create a book in their hand. They can ask for any card from aces to twos. 

Note: In order to ask for a card with a certain rank, the person who is “fishing” must have at least one card with that rank already in their hand. So, you cannot ask for a two if you do not already possess a 2-card. 

The player who is being asked must hand over the cards being requested if he or she has them. So, yes, if you already have three cards of a kind, you must hand over them all!

That rule can definitely intensify the competitive spirit of the players. 

If the player being asked has none of those cards, they’ll say, “Go fish!”. The player who made the request must draw the first card from the stockpile and put it in their hand.

If a player goes fish and gets a catch (or a card that matches one in their hand), they must reveal it to the group to verify.

If a player goes fishing without making a catch (meaning he or she does not get a card they asked for), the turn will pass to the person on that player’s left.

If the fisher gets one or more cards from the person they address, they can ask the same or another player for more cards of the same or a different rank. As long as the player continues getting cards from the other players, their turn will continue.

Collecting Books

The objective of the game is to collect as many books as you can. But what happens when you win a book?

When a player gets all four cards in a book, he or she must show all four cards to the other players, then place them on the table face up. Then, the player will continue their turn.

The best way to play and win Go Fish is to pay attention and strategize. As you play the game, watch the other players and try to figure out who has which cards.

That way, you know which cards to ask for from certain players when it’s your turn, and you need their cards to complete your own set.

How to Win a Game of Go Fish

How do you win a game of Go Fish? It’s all about lasting the longest in the game and collecting the most sets of four. 

If a player runs out of cards, he or she may draw from the stock of cards and ask for that rank when it is their turn. If the draw pile is empty, they will be out of the game.

The game is over once all 13 of the books have been won. The player who has collected the most books among the group at the end of the game WINS. Congratulations!

Plan Your Next Family Game Night

Family Game Night is an awesome opportunity for you to spend time with your loved ones. Strike up some good conversation while you battle for the winner of another exciting card game.

There are many options out there that are all accessible to players of any age. 

Pick a day out of the week to enjoy an engaging Family Game Night and see how fun it can be to step away from the screen and spend some quality time together! Start with Go Fish, and soon you’ll be moving on to Uno, Phase 10, and Rummy.

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I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!