Go Fish

A time honored classic popular with kids.

Number of Players



A standard deck of 52 playing cards, jokers removed.


Each player is dealt 5 cards to start (some variations begin with 7 cards, which is also typical for a 2 player game). Remaining cards become a stockpile.


Play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. On a player’s turn, they may ask any other player if they hold a card of a specific rank (for example, “Guru, do you have any 10s?”). The active player must already hold at least one card of the rank they ask for. The player they ask for a card must hand over any and all cards of the rank that was asked for. When a player successfully gets cards from another player this way, they may immediately take another turn. If the player being asked for a card does not have any cards of the specific rank, they tell the active player to “go fish.” The active player must then draw a single card from the top of the stockpile. If the card they draw is a card of the rank they asked for, they may immediately reveal that card to the other players and take another turn. Otherwise, play passes to the player who said “go fish” (in some variations, play simply passes to the left and proceeds clockwise).


Players are attempting to make “books.” A book is made whenever a player manages to collect all 4 cards of a specific rank. Whenever a player makes a book, they place it on the table in front of them. The game ends either when a player empties their hand of cards, or the stockpile runs out. The player who made the most books is declared the winner.


For longer games, players may decide to play for points (ending the game when someone reaches a certain score). In this case, players earn 1 point for every book made.


Most variations involve the size of the books. The game can be played by making pairs of cards (instead of sets of 4), or it can be played by making sets of 3. When playing with 3-card books, players may then play single cards onto the table if a book of the same rank already exists (in front of any player).

Sometimes the variations are in the scoring. Players may earn points for making books, but then must deduct points for each card remaining in their hand.

Other variations include:

Players continue playing once the stockpile has run out. The game can only then end when a player has no more cards in hand.

Asking for a specific card instead of just the rank (example, “do you have the 10 of hearts?”).

Active player asks all players for a card instead of just one (example, if a player asks for 10s, all players holding one or more 10s would have to hand them over).

A player who empties their hand must draw a whole new hand from the stockpile (in another variation, a player who empties their hand is done playing, while the other players keep going until the stockpile runs out).

Fishing from a person’s hand instead of the stockpile (the player who gets a card stolen draws a card from the stockpile to replace it). Players must ask for a specific number of cards of a specific rank. In this version, the active player asks another player for cards of a certain rank as usual, but if the player they asked has one or more cards of that rank, they may respond by saying “how many?” The active player must then choose a number from 1-3. If the number they ask for is equal to or less than the number of cards (of that rank) the other player actually holds, the asked player must surrender all cards of the appropriate rank. If the number is greater than the number of cards of the rank that was asked for, the active player is told to go fish. An example hand of this variation would be: Player 1 asks Player 2 if they have any 10s. Player 2 holds 2 of them, and responds “how many?” Player 1 chooses “1,” therefore Player 2 must hand over one of the two 10s. If Player 1 had chosen 3, they would have been told to go fish. In this example, Player 2 (after handing over one of the two 10s) could then ask Player 1 for 10s on their turn and get the card right back.

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