Rules You Need to Know to Play the Go Fish Card Game

Go fish card game
Whether you are a beginner wanting to know the basics of the game or a veteran looking for suggestions to guarantee you a sure-shot win, Buzzle is here to give you all the information you want about how to play the Go Fish card game.
Did You Know?
John Jacques II, in 1851, is credited with the invention of a traditional card game played in the U.K., known as Happy Families. It was played with a special set of 44 picture cards. An adapted version of this game that can be played with ordinary playing cards is known as Go Fish, and it is one of the first card games taught to children in the U.S.
Go Fish is one of the most popular card games, played widely in both the U.S. and other parts of the world. Playing Go Fish with family or friends can provide hours of constructive entertainment. It is taught to kids as well, because it is a fun way for children to develop their strategy and memory faculties.

It has, over the years, developed all sorts of variations, and has been adapted and tweaked to further enhance the difficulty level of playing this classic card game. Here, we have presented the rules of playing the classic game, we have also provided rules for the newer adaptations of the classic version. Furthermore, the rules to play Go Fish using UNO cards have also been mentioned. So, let's get started.
Classic Game
Number of players: Minimum two, no maximum; however, five or six players would be the optimal number for an enjoyable game.

Requirements: A standard pack of 52 playing cards
Rules:
  1. Five cards are dealt out to each player if there are four or more players. If there are less than four players, then seven cards are dealt out to each player. The remaining pile is placed, face-down, on the table, and this pile is called the 'pool'.
  2. The objective of the game is for players to be in possession of complete sets of ranks, called a book (for example, one book would be the cards with the rank '5' of all four suits).
  3. The current player asks any one other player if he or she has any cards of the rank he or she requires. For example, Jack asks Rachel if she has any 'threes'.
  4. A player can only ask for a particular card rank if he or she already possesses at least one card of that rank.
  5. The player who was asked is supposed to give all the cards in his or her possession which belong to the rank that was asked for, to the current player. If he or she does not have any cards of that rank, she tells the player to 'Go Fish'. To continue the above example, if Rachel has any cards of rank 3, she will give them to Jack. If she does not, she will tell him to 'Go Fish'.
  6. If the current player is told to 'Go Fish', he or she is supposed to pick up one card from the pile.
  7. The game then proceeds such that the player to the left of the current player becomes the new current player.
  8. Suppose the current player was not asked to 'Go Fish' and instead, received the card from the player who was asked, then his or her turn continues; he gets another chance to ask any player for cards.
  9. The game ends either when all books are complete, or when the pool 'runs dry' (gets exhausted of cards). The player with most complete books wins.
Tips and Tricks to Win:

✏ Obviously, if someone asks you for a card, it means one or more, of the four cards belonging to that rank, are in his or her possession. If you happen to pick up another card of the same rank when you are 'fishing', then you know which player to ask for cards when it is your turn next, to enable you to complete the book.

✏ Also, try to keep track of who DOESN'T have a card from which rank. It helps to eliminate options, and figure out exactly who may have that last card you need to complete the book.

✏ Ask for ranks that you have just one card rather than two or three. The reason being, other players could also be trying to keep track of who has cards of which rank. If they ask you for cards of the rank that you just asked for, then you may end up parting with the chance to complete that book.

✏ Welcome a chance to 'go fishing', it is a way to get a chance to end up with more books.

✏ Do not let your expression betray you. If you just picked up a card from the pool such that now you have 3 out of 4 cards of that rank, if you let it show on your face, anyone keeping track of who has which card, and who may have guessed that you previously had 2 cards of that suit, can now easily figure out that asking you for cards of that rank could help them score a book.
Optional Variations:
  1. The player who is asked for cards of a rank has to surrender only one card to the current player and not every card of that rank in his possession.
  2. A technique used to make the game slightly more difficult is allow the current player to ask for a specific card rather than asking for all cards of a specific rank in general. For example, Jack asks Rachel if she has the Ace of Spades, rather than whether she has any Aces. However, the rule of needing to have at least one card of the same rank still holds.
  3. If you wish for the game to move quickly, the request for cards could be made to all players at once, and everyone has to give up the cards that the current player wants.
  4. An optional rule that can be followed is that, while 'fishing' if a card of the desired rank is picked up, the current player's turn continues.
  5. A completely different method can be used for scoring and finding the winner, where completing books of a certain rank would fetch a certain number of points. The face value of the card could be used to assign the points the book of that rank would yield, picture cards could yield 10 points, and aces could yield 11 points.
Local Twists to the Original Version
Australian Go Fish
♠ It is also played with a single deck of cards, and each player is dealt seven cards.

♠ The main difference between this and the classic version is regarding the main the objective, which is to make pairs of the same rank rather than the whole book.

♠ Once a player is in possession of a pair, he or she can no longer hold it. He has to keep the pair face-down, and those cards are out of the game.

♠ When a player is completely out of cards, he can pick up seven cards from the pool.

♠ The game ends when all the players run out of cards, or when all the pairs have been made.

♠ Two jokers can also be included in the deck, and the game can be played with 54 cards. A pair of jokers is also a valid pair.
Literature, Canadian Fish, or Russian Fish
♠ Unlike Go Fish, these variations are played with either six or eight players. The players form two teams of equal numbers (three or four, respectively).

♠ The game is played by dealing 48 cards equally amongst players. In one variation, all the 8's are removed from the pack of 52 cards to make 48, whereas in the other variation, the 2's are removed.

♠ The cards are considered to be in half-suits; first they are divided according to their suits, and then, they are considered to be either 'low-half' or 'high-half'. In the variant of the game where 2's are removed, the lower half-suit consists of cards that are numbered from 3-8, while the higher half-suit consists of cards numbered from 9 to Ace. In the other variant (without 8's), the lower half-suit consists of cards between 2-7, and higher half-suit consists of cards between 9 to Ace.

♠ The current player from one team can ask any player of the other team whether he or she has a specific card. The current player himself (or herself) must possess any other card from that same half-suit if he or she is asking for it.

♠ If the player being asked does not possess the card asked for, then the turn gets transferred to him or her. But if he or she does have the card, the card needs to be handed to the current player and the player's turn continues; he or she can ask someone else from the opposing team for cards.

♠ The objective of the game is for the team to possess maximum number of half-suits.

♠ Players can 'claim' half-suits for their teams by declaring that the particular half-suit is possessed by his or her team. He or she should also be able to correctly guess which players from his or her team possess which cards of the half-suit, if he does not possess the entire half-suit himself (or herself). If the player guesses incorrectly, the entire half-suit is forfeited and is not considered in the final count.

♠ Claiming of half-suits can happen any time, and does not affect turn structure.

♠ The game ends when all half-suits are accounted for.
Quartets, Game of Authors, Pai Hong
♠ All these games are variations of Go Fish, where the cards are dealt equally among all players, and there is no 'pool'.

♠ The major difference between these games and Go Fish is the number and type of cards used. Generally, depending on the game being played, different packs of cards, which have special pictures or symbols printed on them and not the standard pack of 52 playing cards, are used.

♠ The game proceeds as the current player asks one of the other players for cards in the same group of four as he possesses at least one card from the suit.

♠ The objective of the game is to make complete sets, similar to Go Fish, and the person with most sets wins.
How to Play Go Fish Using UNO Cards
  • The basic game structure remains the same except that a pack of 108 UNO cards are used in place of the standard deck of 52 playing cards.
  • All players are dealt 7 cards each, and the remaining cards are placed face-down, as the 'pool'.
  • While the objective of making sets of cards having the same numerical value is retained, the special cards in the pack are played to achieve a different outcome. If these cards are used, they should be placed face-up in a separate 'discarded' pile immediately. Some cards can be used by a player during his or her turn, while others can be used by the player who is being asked for cards, and not by the current player.
  • The different available special cards are; Draw 2, Wild, Wild Draw 4, Special Wild, Reverse and Skip. Playing any of these cards can introduce interesting twists to the classic game.
  • The use of the Wild card during a player's turn permits him to ask another player for all the cards he or she is in possession of, which are of any single color (out of the four) that he or she chooses. The possession of the Draw 2 card by the current player enables him or her to draw two cards from the pool and then play his turn. The Wild Draw 4 card enables the current player not only to draw four cards, but also to ask another player to give him all the cards in his or her possession, in whichever color he chooses (like it is possible to do with a Wild card). If the pack contains a Special Wild card, all players can be asked by the current player for cards that they are holding, which belong to the chosen color.
  • Reverse and Skip can be used by the player who has been asked for cards. With the use of the Reverse card, the player being questioned can ask the current player to hand over whatever type of card he was asking for. The Reverse card can even be used against a Wild, a Wild Draw 4, or a Draw 2 card. Skip can be used to stop the turn of the current player, and absolve the player from handing over cards. It can also be used to stop the action of a special card.
  • Once the game ends, the winner is decided by a points system based on number of sets collected and their face value. Players holding sets of cards of any face value except 0 can be awarded 1 point, while the owner of the '0' set gets 3 points. Special cards, if remaining in any player's hand at the end of the game, can earn him 5 points.
Go Fish is an extremely entertaining game, and one can spend many enjoyable hours playing it. It can also be played by couples, or as a drinking game (where the current player must drink a shot if he is told to 'Go Fish'). Apart from the classic game, the optional and local variations, and even our suggestions, one can always use his or her imagination, and tweak the game even more, to make the whole playing experience even more delightful.
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