Overview of Go Fish

The objective of this game is to make a set of four cards of same rank known as Books. Player with maximum book wins the game. Books are made by asking card of same rank from other players.

Go Fish first appeared in the mid 1850’s. Back then; this game was played with special set of cards. Player has to make set of 4 cards known as Happy Family in U.K.

It is a Card Game and also known as Fish. In this game, maximum 10 players can participate but usually 2-5 players participate in it.


It is played with a standard single deck of 52 cards. 5 cards are dealt to each player if there are at least five players. 7 cards would be distributed to each player if there are less than four players. The remaining cards from the deck are kept facedown forming a pile of cards known as POOL.

Go Fish

The game proceeds from the left. The current player who has its turn would ask another player who has the next turn for a specific rank. For example in a group of 5 players, “Britney” has turn and she asks “Ashley” if she has any “threes”. Britney must have at least one card of the rank she asked for. Ashley must have one card of the rank Britney asked for. If Ashley does not have at least one card of rank Britney asks for, then Britney would be told to Go Fish. In this case she would take a card from the POOL and place it in her hand. Then the next turn would be of another player.

If Ashley has cards of the rank Britney asked for then Ashley have to give all of her cards of that rank to Britney. Britney then would be given another chance and this time also she can ask for any rank from any player. If the other player has that rank, then he or she have to give all the cards of that rank otherwise Britney would Go Fish and the next player turn continues.

Winner is declared who has the most books. A book is a set of four cards of same rank. The game ends if there is no card left in the POOL or any player has no cards left.

Variations in Go Fish

There are many variations which are as follows:

1. People like to play for a specific card rather than asking for complete rank. Player asking for that specific card must have at least one card of that rank. For example, Bruce asks for number 3 of hearts. If the player he has asked has the 3 of hearts would give him and get one more turn, otherwise Bruce would go fishing. There are very rare chances that Bruce would get 3 of hearts by fishing.

2. Play would go on until all the cards have been made into books. After the pool runs empty, there would not be an option to Go Fish. If players ask for rank does not get, the current player turn would terminate right there without Go Fish and pass on to the next player.

3. If a player has no cards left, he will draw 5 cards if there are five or more than five players playing and 7 cards if there are less than 5 players. If cards are less than 5 or 7 than the player can take the entire Pool.

4. If the player fish goes in vain, the next turn will be the player sitting to the left and not of the player who proclaims Go Fish.

5. There are different ways of scoring. Some count a point for every book they made, and the winner would be the one who have made some preset points. For example, winner would be the player who makes fastest three points.

6. Some make face value of each card. Like numbers would have their face values and jack, king , queen and Ace can have values like 11, 12, 13 or 14.

7. If the pool goes empty, then the player with maximum card wins.

8. If other players have made books, while a player has left with only one card and there are no cards in pool to Go Fish then the player with one card lose the game.

Australian Go Fish

There is special variant of Go Fish played in Australia in which players have to make pairs instead of books. It is also played with a single deck and the each player is dealt with seven cards. The game commences by the player which have the maximum number of pairs. Player1 asks to another player if he or she has a card that Player1 already has. Whenever a pair is made, they have to be kept down. Players cannot hold pairs in hand. If a player has no cards left, then he can draw seven cards from the Pool. The game proceeds until everyone run out if cards.

This game is always deal with standard single deck but jokers are also allowed a make 54 cards. Two jokers make a pair.

The other variant of this game is played in U.S. Making a pair will give 1 point to player while making a pair of joker will give 2 points as it is difficult than the others. While in some places scoring a pair gives 3 points rather than 2.

The most uncommon variant in Australia is the Backstab Fish in which the game is played with 2 decks. The two decks will make 108 cards including four jokers. Seven cards are dealt to every player to make a book of four cards. Each player on its turn can ask another player for a specific rank. For example, if you hold a four, you can ask another player to have two cards of number four. The player must have the exact number of cards you have asked for. If the player has only one four, then you can take a card from the Pool and the next turn would be of the player from whom you have asked for cards.


The Japanese version of Go Fish is known as MINUMAN and its Indonesian Version is known as OBMEN. They both are known as DRINK.


Instead of four to seven players like Go Fish, this game is played with 2 players. If you ask for certain rank, the other player must give all the cards of that rank. If there are no cards of the asked rank, than the player has to take a DRINK and draw a card from the Pool. There is no Another Turn rule in whether the card is found on not, turn would be of the other player.

The player who made a book, keep these four cards aside as the player who get rid of all the cards first wins the game.
If the Pool goes empty then the player with minimum number of cards is the winner.

The Authors Game

This variant of Go Fish is played without the Pool. A single deck is distributed equally among all the players. There is no rule of 4 cards. The game is played until all the cards are formed into books. You can ask for any rank whether you hold that card or not (Unlike Go Fish). Winner is proclaimed who has maximum number of books.

The Authors Game in Go Fish

It is known as Authors as traditionally it is played with the card having pictures of Authors, Inventors, Composers and Famous Women.


This is Thai Game variant which is almost similar to the Go Fish. The set of four cards which is known as Books in Go Fish is known as Hong. The deck is spread equally among the players. The game terminates when all the HONG have been made by all the players and the player with the maximum number of HONG wins.

Pai Hong

Happy Families

This game is played with 44 cards. Family includes father, Mother, Son and Daughter. There are 11 families in total. Cards are dealt equally and the cards left are kept in the POOL. Player asks another player for the specific rank in the family, if the asked player has that card he hand it over to the player and its turn continues and this time he can ask any other player or the same player for the same or any other rank. If the asked player does not have that card, he would say “NOT AT HOME”. As soon a player scores a family, it is kept facedown.

The second round of the game proceeds and this time players ask for the entire families. The winner of first round commences the game and winner is declared who has all the entire families.
In the French Version there are two more people which are grandparents making a family of six members.


Player should ask for the rank that is closest in making a Book. You have to memorize as much as the rank of cards of other players. In its other variants it requires memorization and completing a book as soon as possible.

About The Author

SEO specialist, Blogger, Content Writer