Holding the Cards

Games & Cards

Go Fish Card Game Rules: How to Play Step by Step (Goldfish)

Go Fish Card Game Rules
A “book” of Aces.

Go Fish is a popular, easy card game for kids and is simple to learn. If you’ve only heard people say the name, you might have thought it was “Gold Fish”, which I think is an alternate name that should stick.

Here’s how to play the standard version of the game with a regular deck of cards. It can also be played with a deck specially designed for Go Fish.

Some variations are noted if you want to play a bit differently, including an easier and a harder version at the end. For the standard game just ignore the variations in green.

Go Fish Rules for 2 or More Players

The objective is to acquire sets or books—4 of a kind—and place them on the table in front of you. Each book is worth 1 point. Whoever finishes with the most books wins the game.


  • The objective is to acquire pairs, not 4 of a kind. The Jokers can be used in this version of the game. Everything else stays the same, except pairs are placed on the table and are worth 1 point. 

The Deal

Pick the first dealer randomly or have everyone draw a face down card. The lowest or highest card deals, whichever you decide.

The dealer gives one card at a time to each player starting on their left and ending with themselves.

  • For 2 or 3 players, deal 7 cards each
  • For 4 or more players, deal 5 cards each

The remaining cards are placed in the center.

  • They can be stacked in a pile like usual, or
  • They can be spread out messily, more like a fish pond

Go Fish Gameplay

Everyone picks up their cards and arranges them however they like. The person on the dealer’s left starts by asking another player for a certain rank of card that they are holding. For example, Jon says, “Doris, do you have any Jacks?” If Doris has any Jacks, she gives them all to Jon. If Jon now has 4 Jacks he shows them and then puts them face down in front of him. This is 1 book. If he has less than 4 he keeps them in his hand. His turn continues as long as the person he asks has the card he wants.

If Doris doesn’t have any Jacks, she says, “Go fish” or just “Fish”. Jon has to draw a card from the pile or the pond. If he gets the card he just asked for (a Jack) he shows it to everyone, puts it in his hand and his turn continues with him asking anyone for another card. If he doesn’t get the card he was asking for, his turn ends.

If a player runs out of cards during the game, they take however many were dealt at the beginning (5 or 7) from the pile.

The player to Jon’s left now asks someone for a card. Play continues around the table like this until all the cards have been taken from the pile and everyone runs out of cards. Whoever has the most books—sets of 4—at the end is the winner.


  • For a shorter game, whoever runs out of cards first is the winner. If two players run out at the same time, the tie-breaker is whoever has the most books.

The player to the first dealer’s left now deals the next hand.

Go Fish Rules Reminders

  • You can only ask for a card that you’re holding
  • You must give all of the cards that you’re asked for. (If you’re asked for Queens and you have 3 you must give all 3)
  • Your turn continues as long as you get the card you asked for, either from another player or from the pile.

How to Play Go Fish Easier Version

If you want to introduce Go Fish to very young kids, it can be simplified.

  • Deal out the entire deck. There’s no pile left over to draw from.
  • Lay down pairs instead of sets of 4.
  • Players will be holding some pairs right after the deal, allowing them to score points right away.

How to Play Go Fish Harder Version

If you’re getting bored with the standard version, it can be made harder with the following change:

  • To get a card from someone, you have to ask for the exact card. For example, instead of asking, “Do you have any kings?”, you ask, “Do you have the king of hearts?”

Adding a Second Round

Another way to make the game harder is to add a second round after everyone has run out of cards. The objective is to acquire at least one pair of every rank. Whoever gets at least a pair of all 13 ranks wins.

The player with the most books after the regular game starts by asking another player for a rank they need (You’ll have to try to remember who won which books from earlier). If the player has the book you asked for, they give you a pair. If they don’t have it, the turn passes to the left. As soon as a player gets all 13 ranks the game ends and they win.

I hope this look at Go Fish card game rules has been helpful. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, check out the Go Fish FAQ.

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