Tarot vs Playing Cards for Reading Tarot | A Complete Guide

  • By: Reece
  • Date: 20 February 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.

There are many similarities between a deck of playing cards and a Tarot deck, making it possible to do a reading with both.

In this article, we will:

  • Compare the similarities and differences between playing cards and Tarot
  • Divulge the best ways to read playing cards (AKA Cartomancy)
  • Discuss how to use playing card suits to read Tarot
  • Discuss how to use playing card numbers to read Tarot
  • Show how to interpret the Royal Court
  • Use playing cards to predict the future, along with understand the past and present

Can I Use Playing Cards for Reading Tarot?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a Tarot deck to perform divination. In fact, just a simple deck of ordinary playing cards would work just as well.

The main difference between a Tarot deck and playing cards is that in Tarot there is an extra set of cards called Major Arcana. This helps to give further depth and meaning to the spread, which is not possible with playing cards. However, you can still use playing cards to gain some insight.

It is also more difficult to use playing cards to read Tarot as there are no illustrations to guide you. However, this just places more importance on the numbers and suits.

What is Cartomancy?

Cartomancy is similar to Tarot in the way that it can offer insights into yourself and your destiny. It uses a standard deck of cards, rather than an extended 78-piece deck of cards, to interpret an array of cards.

Some argue that Cartomancy is more accurate than Tarot as there is less room for interpretation, but this goes down to personal preference. If you are looking for a more specific answer to a question, you may consider Cartomancy.

Alternatively Tarot readings are great for finding patterns in your life and helping to make future-based predictions. 

How to Use Playing Card Suits to Read Tarot

Using playing cards to read Tarot can offer a deeper insight to your life, which can bring answers you may not receive from a Tarot deck.

The following suits can be interpreted in a similar way to traditional Tarot:

  • Hearts = Cups. Of course, hearts represent feelings and relationships. This covers the whole range of emotions, from despair to joy. The element of Hearts is Water.
  • Spades = Swords. Swords represent communication, which includes subjects such as decision-making, studying, facing conflict, and displaying ambition. The element of Spades is Air.
  • Diamonds = Pentacles, coins, or disks. Diamonds symbolize the practical and material world, and covers concepts such as property, business, home, and money. These cards could also represent health issues. The element of Diamonds is Earth.
  • Clubs = Wands, rods, batons, or staves. The club is an action card, which signifies adventure, risk-taking, and competition. This could refer to either physical or spiritual energy. The element of Clubs is Fire.

How to Use Playing Card Numbers to Read Tarot

Along with that, you can use the numbers in playing cards to read Tarot. The following numbers can be interpreted to represent the following:

  • Ace = New beginnings
  • Two = Balance, delays
  • Three = Connection, division
  • Four = Stability, being stationary
  • Five = Disturbances, challenges
  • Six = Harmony, yearning
  • Seven = Mystery, concern with superficiality
  • Eight = Movement, stagnation
  • Nine = Growth, satiety
  • Ten = Completion, new beginnings, new endings

It might take a little while to get used to this new way of reading Tarot, but using playing cards can be a lot of fun! 

The Royal Court in Tarot

In a deck of playing cards, the Royal Court can be used to represent people and concepts. The Royal Court represent the following:

  • Jacks = Represent children, young people, and the immature. This can also signify the start of something new, messengers, or thoughts.
  • Queens = Represent women and femininity. The Queen represents love and motherhood, and is nurturing, introspective, and creative. As such, this card denotes growth and power, along with healing and intuition.
  • Kings = Represent men. This card can signify authority, control, and leadership, along with possession and demand. 

Using Playing Cards to Represent the Past, Present, and Future

Similar to Tarot, you can use a three-card reading to learn more about the past, present, and future.

All you need to do is shuffle and cut the playing cards to associate your energy with it, and then clear your mind. Following that, you should choose three cards and lay them out, one at a time.

The card in the position 1 represents the past. Position 2 represents the present, and position 3 represents the future. Add this to the numbers and the suits, and you will be able to read playing cards just as easy as Tarot!


The world of Tarot is a large one, and it can be a lot of fun figuring out all the intricacies of it. Whilst reading Tarot with playing cards may not be conventional, it can still offer insights into your life, and should be respected just as much as traditional Tarot reading.

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