How to Play Go Fish: Card Game Rules and Tips to Win

blog pic fish card game
February 13, 2021

Go fish is an exciting and ideal fish card game for filling up your leisure time and bonding time with family and friends. A minimum of 2 and a maximum number of six people are required to play the game. So, if you consider including a pack of go fish cards in your next travel pack, you are definitely on the right track, and do not worry if you don’t know how to play go fish card game. 

The rules for go fish are easy to learn, and this guide will answer questions like how do you play go fish? It also provides you with all you need to know to get started and play your first game without much hassle.

go fish

Your primary goal in a go fish game is to create as many 4-of -a-kind matches as you can, using go fish cards while playing by the rules of go fish; because at the end of the go fish game, The first player to exhaust his cards after having created 4-of-a-kind matches with them becomes the winner. 

A four-of-a-kind match is also called a book.

In this guide, you will learn:

  • How to play go fish card game
  • Go fish instructions 
  • Go fish rules
  • How to play go fish online
  • Strategies to help you win every game

The Pack of Go Fish game

First things first, know your cards. The total number of cards in the standard deck of go fish cards is 54, including 2 jokers. Usually, five cards are dealt to each player; however, if there are fewer players, then seven cards will be dealt. The rest of the cards are spread out at the center of the table to form the pool. 

The go fish cards rank in descending order from ace to two. Once the cards are dealt, the game begins. The player on the left side of the dealer plays first. All the players have the same goal; to create books from all their go fish cards. Having studied the cards thoroughly, the next question on your mind is probably “how do you play go fish?”

card game board

Go Fish: how to play card game

The go fish card game can be played by 2 to 6 players. The first step is to pick the dealer among the players to shuffle and deal the cards. The dealer can be selected at random or picked based on a pre-agreed factor like the last winner or the player whose birthday is coming up next.

Ensure that all players take turns being the dealer, so no one person gets stuck with the role. The dealer deals one card faced up to the players, then the dealer shuffles the cards, and the player to the right cuts them.

Always keep your hand hidden at all times, so other players don’t know all your cards. 

The dealer completes the cut and deals the cards face down in a clockwise manner, starting with the player to the left. 

The rest of the cards are placed face down on the table to form the “pool” or “ocean.” Have the dealer remove all the jokers from the deck before shuffling and dealing the cards and ensure that each player gets an equal number of cards as all the others. The more players involved in the game, the lesser the number of cards that will be dealt to each player. 

go fish cards

How to play go fish in more details

For example, 2 to 3 players should get up to 7 cards while 4 to 6 players get 5 cards. You can choose to spice things up a little bit by using two decks instead of one; this way, players are dealt double the number of cards and prolong the game.

The player to the left of the dealer looks directly at any opponent and could say, for instance, “Give me your kings.” When asking, the player should address the opponent by name and also specify the rank they want.

The player who is “fishing “must have at least one card of the rank he is asking for at hand, and the opponent must surrender all the cards requested. If the opponent doesn’t have any of the cards, they say, “Go fish!” The player then draws the top card in the pool.

There are thirteen books in all. Once all thirteen books have been won, the game comes to an end, and the player with the most books wins. During gameplay, if a player is left without cards, they would wait their turn and draw s card from the pool and then ask for cards of that rank. If the cards in the pool are finished, then they are out of the game.

Once a player has formed a book, he should place it face-up on the table for everyone to see. Then he automatically gets to play another turn, and the game proceeds left, except he makes another book. The game ends when all the cards are exhausted, and the player with the most books wins.

To play go fish online is easy. All you have to do is follow the go fish card game rules, and you should get the hang of it quickly.

Both online and offline versions of the go fish game are played similarly; thus, a player who is well versed in the card game should have no problem with the online version of the game as well.

how to play go fish

Go Fish Card Game Rules 

  1. Once the cards have been dealt, the dealer spreads the rest of the cards face-down in the middle of the table to create a “fishing pond.” 
  2. Ensure that all cards stay face-down, so no one sneaks a peek. If you don’t have the luxury of space, you can just stack all the cards in the middle; this way, whenever any player needs to “go fish,” they would just pick up the top card from the deck. 
  3. The person sitting left to the dealer gets to play first; this is a critical advantage of taking turns at being the dealer; everyone gets to play first at some point.
  4. Each player has to wait their turn to play. Thus, if you intend to win, you must maximize every given opportunity.

Go Fish Card Game Instructions and Strategies 

  • Ensure that you follow the rules for go fish to avoid disqualification at any point in the game. The remarkable thing is that go fish card game rules are easy to learn.
  • Increase your chance of making a four-of-a-kind match at every turn; start your turn by asking anyone player if they have a particular rank of card. 
  • Ensure that you have multiples of the card that you asked for, so you can complete your matches faster.
  • For example, if you already have two Jacks, you only need two more Jack’s to make a match so that you can ask for a jack. However, it is essential to bear in mind that you can only ask one person, and you can only ask about one rank of card at a given time. Note that the “rank of the card” refers to the number and not the suit, so if you ask for a Jack, irrespective of what kind of jack the person has, they must give it to you.
  • Since players only ask for cards that they already have, you can try to keep track of your opponent’s card this way and gain some advantage even without seeing their cards.
  • If a player asks for a rank of card, you must give all your cards of that rank to the player. For instance, if a player asks if you have any queens and you do, then you have to give all your queens to that person, and you can’t lie. If another player is asked about a card that you have, try to keep a straight face, so you don’t give up the fact that you have that card in your hand.
  • If you get the cards you asked for, then you automatically get another turn. Otherwise, you go fish. You could get lucky and have multiple turns in a row if you keep getting the cards you asked for. At a different turn, you could ask the same person about another card or insist on the same card. It is solely up to you.
  • One of the sweetest moments in the game is when you have to tell another player to “go fish” swoosh! Some people like to say it with a bit of attitude. 
  • For example, if someone asked for all your Jokers and you don’t have any, you tell them to “go fish,” the most exciting part is that eventually, everyone gets to “go fish” at some point in the game, so you can wait patiently to take sweet revenge on your friend. But as the saying goes, “all is fair in love and war” make sure you do everything with a friendly attitude because it is just a game after all.
  • When a player is asked to go fish, the player picks up one card from the fishing pond, i.e., the stacked cards in the center. It’s not always so bad at the beginning of the game, as it could help you make matches faster. However, it may not be so favorable at the peak of the game, but going by the rules of go fish you must keep whatever card you pick even if it’s not the one you want. You are not permitted to return and exchange any card you have already pulled from the fishing pond.
  • If, when fishing, a player draws a rank they did not have, they should ask for it on their next turn. Otherwise, they can shuffle among the ranks that they already hold. While playing more complex variants, it is not unusual for players to strategize by memorizing each player’s cards. The downside to the game is that it is almost impossible to prevent players from lying about the contents of their hands.
  • It is often beneficial for players to conceal the cards in their hands to prevent other players from knowing which cards they can ask for. This can be done by asking different players for the same rank of card consistently.
  • If a player exhausts all their cards, probably because another player asked for their last cards, such player can draw new cards from the pool. However, the number of cards drawn must be the same number of cards dealt at the beginning of the game.
  • If there are more than two players and there are no more cards to draw, i.e., the pool is empty, then the player with no cards left is automatically out of the game and will have to wait for the other players to finish the game.

Playing to Win

The first step to becoming a pro at go fish is to learn how to play go fish to win, and this requires playing the go fish rules. The game ends when one of the players is rid of all his cards after having made matches of them. So, the trick is to make 4-of-a-kind-matches from all your cards as quick as possible.

As soon as you make your matches, don’t hold on to it. Lay it down in front of you so everyone can see it.

You are entitled to another turn after laying down your match; this gives you an additional advantage over other players to start working on your next game before someone else comes to take your cards away.

In some game variations, the objective is to make 2-of-a-kind matches instead of the usual four.


Go fish is one of the most accessible card games to learn. How do you play go fish?; this is one of the most common questions enthusiastic beginners ask. However, the moment you get acquainted with the rules for go fish, every other thing comes easily. 

Winning consistently requires strategic gameplay and adherence to go fish rules at every point in time. Once you play your first game, you’ll find it easier to play go fish online as well as playing other variations of the game.

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