Go Fish Rules!

Name: Go Fish

Number of players: Normal Go Fish rules suggest between three and six people for one deck of cards. It can be played with two people but loses some of the tension

Recommended ages: 7 and over

Average playing time: Playing through a whole deck will take around 15 minutes


Learning how to play Go Fish can be a great way to introduce children to playing card games. It also acts as a great game to teach social skills, as players need to talk to each other politely and listen to the conversations being had by other players in order to be successful. It is a card collection game, so you may need to find a way for players will smaller hands to display a large number of cards in front of them.

How to Play

The Go Fish rules are very simple, but each household will have its own variation. The traditional Go Fish card game rules are as follows:

  • Each player is dealt seven cards face down from the deck. Many players then group these cards together in numerical order to see what cards they should ask for.
  • Usual Go Fish rules dictate that the youngest player goes first. They can ask any other player to give them cards from their hand. The only stipulation is that they must hold at least one of the cards that they are requesting. For example, a player holding a queen may ask any other player to give them all of their queens. They may not ask others for queens if they do not hold one themselves.
  • If the player being asked has one or more of the requested cards, they must declare them and hand them over. The person then asks another player for cards. They continue this until someone says no. However, instead of saying no, the player being asked says, “go fish.” The player then must pick up a card from the deck. If the card drawn is not the one they were requesting, they add it to their other cards and their turn is over. Some variations of the Go Fish rules say that if player picks up what they requested, they have to declare it, saying, “Fish got my wish.”
  • When the players gather four like cards, such as four jacks or four aces, they place them facedown to the side. The game has two different endings, depending on the rules in play. Some households end the game when one person has used all of their cards. Others play until all 13 sets have been stored.

Winning the Game

Winning a game of Go Fish is very simple. You just need to have more sets of four than any other players. It is not unusual for games to end in a tie, and in this case, players will often request a rematch.


Players who listen carefully to the requests of others will quickly work out where the majority of cards are and who they should be asking when it is their turn. You should also be aware that when you ask another player for something, you are effectively revealing part of your hand, so it is best to keep asking for the same things to keep your hand a mystery.

Final Thoughts

If you are playing with younger players, the game can be made to go a little quicker by adapting the Go Fish rules. Common changes are to allow players to store cards in pairs rather than groups of four. This also removes the horrible feeling when someone takes a set of three from you that you have been carefully collecting. You can also make it so that each person can only ask once per round regardless of whether they are asked to go fish or not.

Remember to have fun!

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