How to Play Children's Go Fish

By Sherry Honeycutt Hatfield
Four jacks
Cards. Gambling. Game. Four Jacks/knaves. Four suites image by L. Shat from

Go Fish is a children's card game for two to five players that has been a favorite for many years. You can play it with a standard 52-card deck or a specialty card deck that has 40 cards. Often these specialty cards have colorful pictures of fish or other animals that youngsters enjoy matching into pairs. Older children and even adults may want to use a regular deck of cards. With these cards, instead of matching into pairs, you will be matching all four of the same number or rank. Suits are not used in Go Fish.

Instructions for a Specialty Deck

Deal every player five cards face down.

Place the remaining cards face down to make a "draw pile."

Place any matching pair face-up on the table in front of your opponents (players that have been dealt any).

The first player to the left of the dealer asks any of the other players if they have a certain card, matching one in their hand. If the person asked has that card they must give it to the player who asked for it. If they do not have it, they respond, "Go fish."

Draw one card from the draw pile when told to "Go fish." If that card matches, then lay your pair in front of you and continue to play until you don't draw a match. If the first card drawn does not match, hold it in your hand and the person to your left takes her turn.

Continue playing until one player is out of cards. The player with the most pairs displayed at that time is the winner.

Variations for a Standard 52-Card Deck

Deal seven cards to each player, unless there are more than three players and then each person receives five cards. A player does not lay down a pair; rather, they wait to get four of a certain number or rank.

Surrender each of any card in your hand that is asked for during play--for instance, every suit of jack or 10. If the player is told to "go fish," and the first card drawn is the one the player had asked for, they show everyone that card and draw again. If that makes the fourth of that kind, the player then plays those cards face up and continues their turn until they are unable to play.

Finish playing when a player runs out of cards or there are no cards left in the draw pile. The player with the most sets of four cards displayed is the winner.

About the Author

Residing in Bloomfield, Ind., Sherry Honeycutt Hatfield has been writing since 1998. Her articles have appeared in "Wee Ones," "Angels on Earth" and "Woman’s World" magazines, as well as in the "Chicken Soup" series. She belongs to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature. Hatfield received a Literary Achievement Award in 2006.