Go Fish

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For other uses, see Go Fish (disambiguation).
"Fish (card game)" redirects here. For the "Canadian Fish" card game also commonly called "Fish", see Literature (card game).
Go Fish
Players 2-10
Age range Any
Setup time 1 min
Playing time 5-15 minutes
Random chance Medium
Skill(s) required Hand–eye coordination

Go Fish is usually played by two to five players,[1] although it can be played with up to ten.

Basic game[edit]

Five cards are dealt from a standard 52-card deck to each player, or seven cards if there are four or fewer players.[2] The remaining cards are shared between the players, usually spread out in a disorderly pile referred to as the "ocean" or "pool".[2]

The player whose turn it is to play asks another player for his or her cards of a particular rank. For example Alice may ask, "Bob, do you have any threes?" Alice must have at least one card of the rank she requested.[3] Bob must hand over all cards of that rank if possible. If he has none, Alice is told to "go fish," and she draws a card from the pool and places it in her own hand. Then it is the next player's turn – unless it is the card being asked for, in which case it is shown to the other players, and she gets another turn. When any player at any time has all four cards of one rank, it forms a book, and the cards must be placed face up in front of that player.

Play proceeds to the left.[4] When all sets of cards have been laid down, the game ends. The player with the most piles wins.[2]


There are a number of variations of these basic rules:

  • Players give just one card when they're asked.
  • Players form and lay down pairs.
  • A player whose call is unsuccessful and draws the card being asked for gets another turn.
  • Players ask for a specific card instead of a rank. A player must still have at least one card of the named rank in order to ask, and must expose that card when asking. This is similar to Happy Families.
  • A player who runs out of cards must wait until the game is over and cannot gain any more cards or books.
  • If the other players got all their matches and one player has a card left while no more go-fish cards to draw, the player with the remaining card loses the game.
  • Books are saved by each player, face down. When the main play is finished, a further stage of play starts, with the player who has most books. They may ask another player for a rank that they remember that player has; if correct they win the whole book; if incorrect, play passes to the other player. The winner is the player who has eventually collected a book of every rank.
  • The winner is the player at the end with the most books. Even if players before them have run out of cards. If playing after the winner has already been decided the next place is given to the player who has the most books first, not the player that runs out of cards.
  • Jokers can be used to create a book by asking another player if they have any jokers in their hand. Two jokers form one book.


If, when fishing, a player draws a rank they did not have, they should ask for it on their next turn. Otherwise, they should rotate among the ranks that they already hold. In the more difficult variants, strategy often requires memorizing what cards each player possesses. Unlike many card games, Go Fish depends on the honor system; lying about the contents of one's hand is difficult to prevent.

Special card decks[edit]

Instead of using a standard 52 playing card deck, various specialty decks have been manufactured including the 169 count playing card Kids Classic Go Fish Card Game by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.. Other specialist card packs which can be used to play similar games have also been produced including the Safari Pals packs which uses animal characteristics to form the sets.

There is a similar game called Quartets.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]