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How to Read Tarot with Playing Cards

Updated on April 16, 2016
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The author is a professional tarot reader with 17 years experience. She runs a successful website and tarot reading business.

Could love be on the cards? CC.BY.02
Could love be on the cards? CC.BY.02 | Source

Playing card tarot

You don't need a deck of tarot cards to read the tarot. A deck of ordinary playing cards will suffice. Before you begin, it is important to remember that some people can be upset by a disturbing reading so always keep your readings upbeat and emphasize that it's just for fun. Should you want an in-depth reading, it is best to consult a professional tarot reader with a good reputation.

A regular tarot deck has an extra set of cards called the Major Arcana that give extra depth and power to the meaning of the spread (layout) of the cards. These qualities will obviously be missing when reading with playing cards.

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Numbers and suits

Apart from the Court (Royal figures) cards, there are no images to guide you on your deck of cards, therefore the two most important elements of the cards are the numbers and the suits. We will get to the number properties in the next section.

The suits in a deck of playing cards correspond with the suits in tarot as shown in the following table:

Playing Cards
Emotions, feelings, relationships
Thinking, communication
Practicalities, material world
Creativity, action

Hearts represent the realms of emotions and feelings. The cards in this suit cover the whole range of human emotion from despair and powerlessness to contentment and joy. Hearts are very often also connected to relationships because relationships engender so much emotion in human beings.

Spades are connected to all aspects of thinking and communication. 'Head-stuff', if you like. So lying would come under the rule of Spades, as would writing, studying and decision making.

Diamonds can give information about the practicalities of life including home, work, projects, money – all the things we can touch, and yes, again, relationships from a practical viewpoint. Diamonds may also indicate health issues.

Clubs are very active cards and represent creativity, business, action, adventure, risk and competition.

"Eight", used under a Creative Commons license
"Eight", used under a Creative Commons license | Source

The Properties of Numbers in Tarot

Knowing the properties of numbers will give you a solid framework on which to base all card readings, whether they be playing cards or tarot. Remember that each attribute has a positive and negative aspect. For example, fours mean stability but they can also mean feeling stuck.

  • Ace - Beginnings
  • Two - Balance
  • Three - Connection
  • Four - Stability
  • Five - Disturbance
  • Six - Harmony
  • Seven - Mystery
  • Eight - Movement
  • Nine - Growth
  • Ten - Completion

Applying the Suits to the Numbers

We now have two points of reference for each number card: the suit and the number. The following table will help you interpret each card. However, the effectiveness of a reader depends upon the skills of seeing a story in the cards, linking them together and judging how one might influence another. Those skills will only come with practice.

Also keep in mind that these meanings are necessarily brief and you can extend them to encompass related concepts, for example, the Three of Hearts can indicate a party, the Four of Clubs might mean a wedding or a change of residence (each event is the culmination of a period of hard work). Be creative.

New friendship, romance
New insights, realizations
New project, job, home, win
New idea, business, action
Deepening attraction
Failure to communicate
Juggling resources, waiting on results
Planning and preparation
Joy in company, friendship, celebration
Miscommunication, misunderstanding
Teamwork, improving skills
Leadership, exploration
Turning inwards, apathy
Recuperation, recovery, contemplation
Miserliness, possessiveness
A goal achieved, rest from action
Loss, despair
Discord, dishonor, hollow victory
Loss of possessions or job or money
Competition, disagreement, irritation
Childhood, nostalgia, good memories, an old friendship resumes
Moving on, travel, mentally getting to a better place
Giving or receiving money, a pay-rise, obtaining resources
Victory, achievement, passing exams
Daydreaming, wishful thinking, choices
Lying, deceitfulness, theft, irresponsibility
Reassessment, turning point, mild dissatisfaction
Defence, conviction, strong belief
Emotional detachment, leaving love behind, making a hard choice
Illusion of being trapped, powerlessness
Paying attention to detail, focus, practice
Organization, moving quickly, pregnancy
Satisfaction, sensual pleasure, spiritual growth
Nightmares, problems, worry, guilt
Independence, self-reliance, increasing wealth
Continuing a battle, endurance, physical strength
Contentment, fulfilment, joy, family
Giving up, victim, martyrdom
Great wealth, family property, inheritance
Carrying burdens, responsibility, debt

The Court Cards

The Court cards, Jacks/Knaves, Queens and Kings can be read in two ways – they can either represent personality traits or they can point towards real people. You have to work out which in the context of the reading.

Falls in love easily, romantic, chatterbox
Rebel, fights for a cause, intellectual, political
Reliable, hard-working, quiet, hidden depths
Unreliable, hotheaded, risk taker, athletic
Emotional, dependent, empathic
Sharp, intelligent, ruthless, insightful, organized
Practical, warm, dependable, motherhood
Energetic, career-minded, untidy, disorganized
Wise, tolerant, diplomatic, feeling, patient
Introspective, ethical, communicator, stern
Self-made, business owner encouraging, enjoys the fruits of his labors, jolly
Creative, forceful, entrepreneurial charismatic, hot-tempered
Black & White Rider Waite - copyright-free
Black & White Rider Waite - copyright-free

The Joker

The Joker is the equivalent to the Fool in the tarot and, as such, it means unlimited potential, taking a big risk but having trust that all will be well. It would be a good idea to mark this card to indicate a 'right way up' or a 'wrong way up', so that it can show the reverse meanings of folly and foolishness.

Learning to Read Cards

Begin with one, two and three card readings. Draw cards for situations you read about in the press or on TV. Pick a random card each day and see how you can connect it to your daily trials and tribulations; triumphs and joys. Read for friends by all means but emphasize that it is for fun and practice. Don't try serious readings until you feel competent. Learn how to lay out a spread – the position of a card in the spread will modify its meaning. Above all, enjoy the learning experience and do go and buy yourself a real tarot deck!

It's on the cards, I predict you will leave a comment!

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    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Clever you!

      What a great thing to do. Almost more fun than the I Ching (which is my way of finding out what's going on when I need to read the bottom of my tea cup)

      Great hub. I'm printing this (when my printer stops messing me about...what's that to do with 7 of hearts?)

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      LOL! Thank you. I've never studied the I Ching - it's something I should look at.

    • litsabd profile image

      litsabd 4 years ago

      I love I Ching sticks. It's sad I can't find a way to have a faster way to track down your hubs, instead of searching for you and read them. Intreresting hub once again :)

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      I just wish I had the time to spend studying the I Ching! There's probably a lesson in there for me :D Now we are following each other, you should be able to see all my hubs on my profile page.

    • kaybear012 profile image

      Kayla Hancock 4 years ago from Chicago

      My cousin and I tried doing some readings the other day for the first time. I don't have any tarot cards, but this is something I think I can definitely do! And without buying anything. Sweet! =]

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Thanks. Glad to help, kaybear012. Have fun!

    • profile image

      Z-M-Shepherd 4 years ago

      I love your hub! I've always wondered how readers decode regular playing cards. You have broken it down nicely and made it easy to follow. Thanks for the info!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Many thanks Z-M-Shepherd. It would help a lot to take this, necessarily brief, overview and expand on it by using the meanings of corresponding tarot cards. Happy reading!

    • Vivian-tmt-hnp profile image

      Vivian-tmt-hnp 3 years ago from USA.

      3:24pm Thursday 25 July 2013

      So wonderful is your article.

      Yours are delightful.


    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Many thanks, Vivian.

    • MITNG profile image

      Jeffrey Lamar 3 years ago from Chandler, Arizona

      I wonder if you could do the same with Psychic Test Cards. I've been wanting to invest in a set. I use the term "set" lightly considering there are only five (I believe) in a set.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      I don't know anything about Psychic Test Cards, I'm afraid. I don't think that five cards would be very useful for readings. Playing cards work because they correspond with the minor arcana of the tarot, less 4 cards (56/52).

    • profile image

      Christina 3 years ago

      I found this hub extremely helpful, and I was wondering if you could make one for when they come up upside down.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Hi Christina, do you mean tarot reversals in general, or how they might apply to playing cards? I certainly could do one or both.

    • profile image

      Joe 3 years ago from Minnesota

      Very interesting and well written article. I've been a critic of Tarot most of my life. Reticently I had an online Tarot reading and was pretty much freaked out by how accurate it was in so many area's of my life. After letting it all sink in, I decided to visit a different reader and try it again. After the reading I was a mixture of scared and amazed. I'm not quite a full believer yet but I am starting to lean that way pretty hard. It's definitely worth looking into. I believe I'm going to grab a deck and practice. Thanks for the great read.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 3 years ago from Wales

      Oh, you will soon be hooked on this fascinating subject, TheOneCloned. Once tarot grabs you, it doesn't let go. I am constantly amazed at how much there is still to learn. Thank you for visiting.

    • profile image

      Lybrah 2 years ago

      This was pretty interesting. I can't do tarot readings, because they are against my religion, but I enjoyed this hub.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, Lybrah.

    • profile image

      Kathryn 2 years ago

      Hi there. Please give me some advice. The seven of hearts has literally appeard in my path while walking, two days in a row. Yesterday while leaving a grocery store there was one card (no others in sight) face up in the parking lot right in my path. It was the 7 of hearts. Today at work I walked into a classroom to speak to a student and in the doorway there was only one card face down in my path. When I turned it over it also was the 7 of hearts. I get the feeling someone is trying to tell me something. But what? My grandmother had a deck of handmade tarot cards from the late 1800's and I know many of her predictions came true. Please help shed some light on my situation.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Hi Kathryn, that's really interesting. The Seven of Hearts (or Cups) in tarot means that you have more options than you think you do. You could be so immersed in feelings that you can't see the bigger picture. While following your feelings is not a bad thing at all, right now, you need to put your logical head on and make your choice. It might be difficult and you might 'feel' that it's not the right path, but you can make it work.

      Does that help at all?

      Good luck!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      This was real interesting to know. I wish I kept my deck of playing cards. Do you do tarot card readings?

    • Niko Linni profile image

      Niko Linni 2 years ago from Long Beach, California

      I've never heard of reading tarot with playing cards. Interesting.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thanks, Niko. Hope you give it a go.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, Kristen. Yes, I do readings, mostly for a client base that I built up over a few years. I can do you a free one-card reading at

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Sure. I'll be happy to do one someday, since I never had one done before. Shall I be nervous?

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      :-D No.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 2 years ago from Texas

      Excellent and thorough treatment of the subject! Voted up, useful and interesting! :)

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Thank you, Suzanne!

    • profile image

      Sue 22 months ago

      Hi, I have 3 Tarot decks that I am learning to read..Yesterday, a work mate of mine just had her cards read and said the reader also used an ordinary playing deck as well for the reading. This prompted me to learn about the interperations for a playing deck, which brought me to your web-page. This is awesome! Thank you! I am now going to love working with an ordinary deck along with my tarot decks..:)

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 22 months ago from Wales

      Hi Sue,

      Glad to hear it inspired you! Yes, just having a basic working knowledge of reading playing cards adds another string to your tarot bow, so to speak. I have many more tarot articles at

      Good luck on your tarot journey - it'll be a lot of fun and very exciting!

    • profile image

      Nazanin 11 months ago

      Hi, I have started doeing this recently. Today I asked about pregnancy, and suddenly 8 of clubs jumped out. What does that mean?! am pregnant?!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 11 months ago from Wales

      Maybe. Get a pregnancy test. It could be pointing to a future event though.

    • Spike Peregrine profile image

      Spike Peregrine 11 months ago

      Thank you for this, I've been wanting to try my hand at reading playing cards for so long but always got overwhelmed at how many different systems there seem to be (how many??? I counted 7?¿!), it never occurred to me that I could use my knowledge of the Tarot with playing cards (duh).

      Great article, again I thank you.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 11 months ago from Wales

      Hi Spike, troi here :) Yes, I reckon tarot skills are very transferable. Glad you liked it and thanks so much. xx

    • profile image

      Mylene 8 months ago

      I am going to try this, it is very interesting, but how many cards do you lay out or does the person pick them? Just curious if there is a set number to do. I have had my tarot reading, but never paid attention at how many I needed, I was more nervous about the outcome.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 8 months ago from Wales

      Hi Mylene, as many as you need. If it's a quick answer you need, then one card is fine. If a question about a relationship, then two to represent each partners pov. I have a page about tarot spreads, it's the same for playing cards. Either you or the person being read for can pick... you simply have to focus on the question.

    • profile image

      Brigette 7 months ago

      Does it matter which joker is used, only one, both? Do they both mean the same thing?

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 7 months ago from Wales

      No it doesn't matter which one, Brigette. They both represent the same thing, so just put the unused one aside.

    • profile image

      random 6 months ago

      is there any meaning with the colors of the playing card? black and red? like black 10 space. or red king heart.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 6 months ago from Wales

      Hi there random,

      If you are drawn to the colours in a tarot reading, then they can add an extra layer of meaning. However, with playing cards, because you are limited to two colours, it's best to ignore them. For example, red is an active, outgoing colour, but hearts/cups is an inactive, passive suit. So there is a contradiction.

    • profile image

      Karon 4 months ago

      Hi, does the meaning change depending on where/whom the head of the court card is facing when laid out?

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 months ago from Wales

      Hi Karon, if you want to use orientation to add extra depth, then yes. It's not so much that the interpretation would change, but that you could make an extra observation... such as "The Queen of Clubs is facing the Knave of Hearts which shows she is willing to listen to a younger person express their feelings on the situation." If you feel it, then say it :)

    • Candace Garcia profile image

      Candace Garcia 6 weeks ago

      Thank you,I have just started reading cards and you simplified it so well for me. I would like to know about some of the other spreads.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 6 weeks ago from Wales

      Thank you for your kind words, Candace. I'll definitely give some thought to creating some playing card tarot spreads.

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