Go Fish Card Game Rules
Go Fish uses a standard 52-card deck. Between two and five players can play, though at least three players are recommended. The ultimate goal of the game is for players to build “books” of four cards with the same value. The winner at the end is the player who has the most “books.”
The Go Fish card game rules are fairly simple:
In a 2-3 player game, each player receives 7 cards to begin with. In a 4-5 player game, each player receives 5 cards.
The remainder of the deck (the “ocean”) is placed at the center of the play area. It can either be in a neat stack, or spread around in a pile, allowing players to pick cards at random.
First player can be determined in any way.
The first player chooses one of the other players and asks for cards that match one of the cards in his or her hand. Players cannot ask for cards that they do not already have at least one of. For example, if the first player has a six, she can ask another player, “Do you have any sixes?” Asking for cards goes by number (two through ace). Suit is ignored.
The player who has been asked for cards must hand over any and all matching cards they have.
If the player doesn’t have any matching cards, he or she says, “Go fish.”
The first player takes a card from the ocean.
The only complicated part of Go Fish card game rules is what happens at the end of a player’s turn. In the game that I grew up with:
- If the first player gets the cards that he wanted, either by taking them from another player or being lucky enough to pick them up from the ocean, he gets another turn.
If the first player doesn’t receive the card he wanted, play passes to the left.
Repeat steps 4-10 until the ocean runs dry.
If a player runs out of cards, he or she may draw a new hand of five cards from the ocean.
A common variation on this is that play passes to the left regardless of if the first player receives the cards she asked for.
Another is that if the first player receives cards, play passes immediately to the player who gave her the cards. Otherwise play passes to the left.
Other Popular Variations
Go Fish is a game with a lot of variants. To begin with, there are many non-standard decks that can be purchased for play. This can sometimes help young children with the game, if still shaky with numbers but can easily conceptualize collecting all of the fish of one color.
A more difficult variation of Go Fish requires that, rather than asking for all cards of a certain number, a specific card (eg: the three of hearts) must be requested. This makes the game much more challenging, but also slows down play a great deal.
The make up of the “books” and scoring can be varied as well. Some variations allow books to be only pairs of cards, or three cards. The three card book rule allows other players to add a fourth card to the book for a lesser amount of points.
Lastly, there is variation possible in how the game ends. Players can agree that once one person runs out of cards the game ends. Another variation might be that the game doesn’t end until every card has been played - even if the ocean is dry. (In this case, “Go fish!” can no longer be used and play simply passes if the player doesn’t have the requested card.)
As always, pick and choose the rules that the group feels are both most far, and most fun. Happy fishing!