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How to Work Out Playing Card Tarot Combinations

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I'm a professional tarot reader, but when I don't have a tarot deck with me, I can use a deck of playing cards to provide a useful reading.

Reading tarot using a pack of playing cards is perfectly possible. And reading one card is a simple matter of asking a question, shuffling, and pulling a card. You can then look up the meaning from your preferred source.

However, when you begin to use ‘spreads’ (i.e., more than one card), it gets a little complicated because cards interact, or rather, the meanings overlap. It’s like one person with a viewpoint versus two people with two different views. You will agree in some areas but disagree on other things.

The Royal Mischief Transformative playing cards

The Royal Mischief Transformative playing cards

A Quick Note About This Deck

I’m using the Royal Mischief Transformation deck by Patrick Valenza, the creator of Deviant Moon Tarot, for my example readings. I agree with you; it’s weird and completely unlike the conventional playing card deck above, but it’s wonderful. However, don’t get it confused with a tarot deck.

Those illustrations and key phrases are no use to us here. The cards are even stranger in that they use both horizontal and vertical orientations. I’m just going to go with it. We’re only concerned with the card number, the suit, and the equivalent tarot meaning. And I know I could have gone with a conventional deck, but this one was calling for attention. They do that from time to time. I reckon, if you bought this, you could devise your own divination system based on its sly and amusing illustrations.

Three of Hearts & Two of Hearts

Three of Hearts & Two of Hearts

Two-Card Readings

I’m going to demystify reading card combinations. We’ll focus on two cards for now.

The single rule to hold in mind is card one is the subject, and card two is the modifier. Card one will offer you the core of the situation, and card two will overlay it with additional information. The skill is in how you weave the two together in relationship to the question. When the cards are in opposite positions, the meaning will be quite different.

Example Question: What do I need to know today?

Imagine we are reading this for a young woman who has planned to meet up with a group of friends and wants to make the best of the day.

  • Card 1: Three of Hearts (celebration, party, sharing).
  • Card 2: Two of Hearts (attraction, love, friendship).

This is a new deck, and I hope I shuffled sufficiently. I’m going to go with it anyway.

So the first card accurately reflects the situation our seeker is asking about. It’s positive; it tells her it will be a fun time. There will be laughter and celebration. The friends will mingle and share their news.

The second card modifies the first and indicates that she may well find herself standing aside from her group and spending some of the time with one particular person. It might be a favorite member of the group, or it might be someone new. It could be friendship, or it might be romance.

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Let’s Try Another Question

Example Question: Is my boyfriend trying to control me?

She’s feeling manipulated by someone who professes to love her and needs answers. Normally, this would prompt me to use a larger spread, but two cards will have to do.

  • Card 1: Ten of Hearts (emotional fulfillment, secure future, long-lasting love).
  • Card 2: Ace of Clubs (inspiration, action, beginnings of passion).

The first card indicates that her boyfriend is considering a long-term relationship with the seeker. One that will be deep, strong, and secure. There’s no sense of manipulation.

The modifying second card shows that his desire might be misplaced as the seeker is actually looking for a reason to end it because of an interest in someone else, whether they be already in their life or not. My feeling is that she’s bored and wants to start a new affair. The cards are always truthful.

Ten of Hearts & Ace of Clubs

Ten of Hearts & Ace of Clubs

What About Three Cards?

When reading more than two cards, I still recommend you read them in pairs. Start with one and three. Then one and two, and finally two and three. The second card in each pair modifies the first. Do your best to pick up a narrative thread.

Let’s try a sample reading with three cards. Bear in mind that I’m concentrating on the pair combinations, not reading them in order as I would normally do before looking at the pairs.

Example Question: My girlfriend has lost interest in our relationship. What’s going on?

  • Card 1: Nine of Spades (dread, nightmares, fear).
  • Card 2: Knave of Spades (truth-seeker, activist, questioner).
  • Card 3: Six of Diamonds (giving, charity, making fair).

Cards 1 & 3 indicate the seeker is more worried than he’s admitting. He feels he is the one making all the effort, trying to do all that she wants.

Cards 1 & 2 show that, however painful the truth will be to hear, he needs to know it.

Cards 2 & 3 tell us that he is being very reasonable about the situation. While he’s questioning the relationship, he is trying to do it in a fair and balanced way.

Can you see how it works now?

And while I don’t usually advise using clarification cards, I realise that the question hasn’t been answered fully. So I might do another spread to get to the nitty-gritty. Perhaps the question was too vague; ‘What’s going on?’ has just shown us what is happening with him and how he feels. Ask a woolly question, and you get a woolly answer.

Oh—you want to know whether she is cheating on him? You will have to draw a couple of cards to find out.

Nine of Spades, Knave of Spades, & Six of Diamonds.

Nine of Spades, Knave of Spades, & Six of Diamonds.

Where’s Your List of Playing Card Combinations?

Well, sorry to say, there isn’t one. That’s why I have tried to teach you how to read two cards together. Just remember ‘situation plus modifier’ to help you draw out a single concept from a pair.

There aren’t any definitive combination lists for tarot or playing card tarot. There are just too many possibilities. Interpretations are on a scale from negative to positive, minor to major, or trivial to important. It’s your skill and intuition that will home in on the most appropriate for your reading. For example, the Nine of Spades can indicate a single night of lost sleep, or it might point to severe anxiety and mental health issues. Context is everything.

Playing Card Combination Exercises

  • Write or type out a basic list of the card interpretations. You can find them here: List of Playing Card Tarot Meanings. You don’t have to memorize them, but it’s a good idea to get a good hold on them if you intend to be a confident reader.
  • Do one two-card reading every day for a week. The readings can be for yourself, for someone else, or for a news story. Review them after 24 hours.
  • Keep notes in your journal. Only by practicing can you become familiar with the cards and their messages. And remember, what you feel about them is invariably correct.

Have fun!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Bev G


Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 30, 2020:

You can do both, Eric. I have lots of articles about beginning tarot reading. I recommend you get yourself a good book if you are really interested.

Errah Caunca on September 29, 2020:

What if I learn tarot reading, can I read my own tarot card or it's just for other people? Does a DIY tarot card work?

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 29, 2020:

Hi Eric, all my readings are done remotely :) Go to for a free reading.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 29, 2020:

Thank you Liliane.

Errah Caunca on September 29, 2020:

Can you read tarot card for a person who is very remote from you?

Liliane Najm from Toronto, Canada on September 29, 2020:

I think that you have a gift in making difficult topics easy to understand.

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