How to Play Go Fish

By Carol Finch
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Played with a regular deck of cards and two to six players, the aim of Go Fish is to collect the most books, or sets of four cards of the same rank. Its sneaky rules allow you to steal cards from other players and to gloat when you don't have any cards they can steal from you, making it particularly popular with kids.

Setting Up the Game

The number of cards you deal depends on the number of players. Typically, if you have two players, you deal seven cards to each; deal five if you have more than two players. Put the rest of the deck facedown in the middle of the table -- this is your fish pond, where players go fishing when they need to pick up a card.

Go Fish tests the honesty of your players -- it's easy to cheat -- so set some ground rules before you play. Tell players that they have to follow the rules when they steal cards or have them stolen. If they don't, they'll miss a turn or will automatically lose.

Basic Game Rules

Pick a player to start the game by age or by drawing cards to see who gets the highest number. Ask any player in the game if he has cards you need -- you must have at least one card in your hand before you ask for others of the same rank. For example, if you already have a King, ask a player if he has any Kings. If he does, he must give them all to you. If you steal cards, your turn continues and you can ask any player for cards again.

If a player doesn't have the cards you need, he tells you to "Go Fish." You then take a card from the fish pond deck. If you get lucky and pick up the rank you asked for, you carry on asking for cards; if not, play passes to the player on your left. Alternatively, have the player who said "Go Fish" take the next turn.

Winning the Game

Whenever you collect four cards of the same rank, show this book to other players and set it down on the table. The winner of the game is the player with the most books at the end. There are a few ways to end the game.

For example, you may stop as soon as the first player runs out of cards or the fish pond deck is used up, at which point you would add up the books. Alternatively, you can have the other players continue the game until everyone has no cards. You can also keep players in the game by allowing them to draw another five cards from the fish pond when they have no cards left.

Go Fish Tactics

To improve your chances of building books, try to remember who holds particular ranks. This makes it easier to steal cards as the game progresses. For example, if you have one four and know that another player has three fours -- they stole two to add to the one they already had -- then your best move is to ask that player for fours so you can make a book. Also, try to remember which ranks players say "Go Fish" to, so you can avoid asking them for cards they don't have.

Go Fish Alternatives

You can buy Go Fish card games for younger children or make your own versions with flash cards. These games typically have pictures of fish, animals or characters on them instead of numbers and suits. The rules of these games are essentially the same as the regular card game, however they use fewer cards and players typically find pairs rather than fours.

About the Author

Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.