Game Theory: Keeping the “Play” Factor in Your Tarot Readings, Part II


If you haven’t read part one of this series, you can do so here.


Let’s do some more examples using the technique I introduced in my earlier blog post—creating an element of “play” by turning spread card options into a game contest of choice. The purpose of involving this type of irreverent gaming into your tarot readings is not to take away any of the seriousness of the reading… In fact, depending on the topic brought to the table by the client, you might wish to gauge whether this element is appropriate. In other words, this type of “playing” as an introduction to the core reading might not be appropriate for a client who has come to you in order to get some consoling from the passing of her spouse—she may already be at a place where she is desperate for human connection and is already willing to open up about herself and her sorrows.


This type of “play” element is intended for clients who are showing some reservations and perhaps even wariness about getting a tarot reading, are having trouble opening up and discussing more personal issues of the heart, or need a way of relieving stress or anxiety. Case studies have shown that engaging in “play”—as with games and interactive, cooperative exercises—lowers inhibitions when interacting with another person, especially someone who is a new acquaintance (or even a stranger). That is the purpose of this type of play element in your tarot readings. I don’t mean to suggest that it should be your regular “go-to” stratagem for every tarot reading. The tarot reader should always be sensitive to the disposition of the client and their situation—this is just as much a part of the responsibility of a professional tarot reader as is interpreting the tarot cards, themselves.


That said, let’s try our new game, this time using a four-card spread. Just because I am putting them in a single-row doesn’t mean you can’t arrange them in a different configuration—perhaps in a circle representing the four elements, or a cross representing the cardinal directions, or the Archangels at the four corners of the Earth, or representing the four Cardinal Virtues…the possibilities are endless depending on your creativity and knowledge…


Vendenborre deck, the Four Aces


Don’t forget that however you arrange your spread, you need to lay down TWO cards for every spread position. Therefore, if we are attempting to do a four-card spread, we need to lay down eight cards (2 x 4 = 8). Remember to leave all cards face down. Then you will need to designate what each position will represent. For the purposes of this exercise example, let’s assign each position with the human-attribute character of each of the suits: EMOTIONAL (for Cups); MENTAL (for swords); PHYSICAL (for coins); and CREATIVITY/SPIRITUAL (for wands):


Four-card spread; 8 cards laid out


Now it is simply a matter of “contesting” the two cards vying for each position… Before revealing the cards in the first contested position, we ask a single question that the “character” of the cards will answer. (You could say that we are personifying the cards…) For the first position—EMOTIONAL STATE—we try to ask a question that might determine the emotional efficacy of the cards… Thus we could, for instance, ask any one of the following questions:


  • If these cards were asked about their favorite movie, which one would say The Notebook?
  • Which card gets more overwhelmed by family dynamics during Thanksgiving?
  • Which card is more apt to make its grandmother’s holiday cookie recipes every Christmas without fail?
  • Who takes longer to bounce back after the loss of a beloved pet?
  • Which card enjoys walking in the rain?


These, of course, are just sample questions. You can certainly make up your own questions (and are encouraged to do so). And while you don’t have to ask a question related to emotional character, it might help to boost the emotional impact of the position, later, during the ultimate spread interpretation. After turning over the cards and determining which card “wins” the essence of the question, the “losing” card is discarded and put aside or back into the deck.


Remember, there are no wrong answers; the “winning” card is solely dependent upon the client’s determination and interpretation. You, the reader, might feel like you would have awarded the “win” to the other card, but what is important here is allowing the client to feel a sense of participation, and also possibly for you to be able to extrapolate some understanding of the client’s psyche. As the reader, you should feel free to question the client about their answer—or even get into an involved discussion about it. But you should never insinuate that the client’s choice in this game is wrong. There are no wrong answers…only possible revelations and clues within the client’s choices.


Moving onto the next spread position—MENTAL STATE—we would ask a question that reveals which of the two cards is most superior in response to mental or intellectual-related prowess… Here are some sample questions that might be used for the two-card competition:


  • Which card brought home the trophy from the debate team finals championship?
  • Which card has the highest level of educational degree?
  • Which card has read more non-fiction books this summer/ this year/ in their lifetime?
  • Which card won a contestant spot on the game show Jeopardy?
  • Which card was valedictorian of their graduating class?


Some sample questions related to the two-card contest in the PHYSICAL STATE position might include:


  • Which card is a bigger gym bunny of more of a sports jock?
  • Which card is more likely to win a marathon?
  • Which tarot card “character” is more likely to die in the same town in which they were born?
  • Which is a bigger environmentalist?
  • Which is more likely to practice composting?
  • Which card enjoys camping more?


Some sample questions related to the two-card contest in the CREATIVE/SPIRITUAL STATE position might include:


  • Which card is more likely to be a poet/songwriter/musician?
  • Which card is more likely to be a tarot reader?
  • Which card is more likely to attend church regularly?
  • Which card is more likely to figure-out how to build a website from scratch?
  • Which card can figure-out what to make for dinner—without a recipe or cookbook—simply by looking at what’s in the refrigerator?


…Once you have all four winners, there are only four cards left in the spread. These are the four cards that you will use to do your reading based on the original question or issue raised by the client.


Gringonneur deck, the Four Cardinal Virtues


Let’s try another four-card spread using a different set of position criteria. As noted above, the four cards can really be assigned almost any designations. This time let’s use the four Cardinal Virtues as our designations…


four-card spread; 8 cards laid out (VIRTUES)


Here are sample questions that you could use for each of the two-card contests specific to each Cardinal Virtue (although, again, you should feel free to try to come up with some “competition questions” of your own…


For the STRENGTH/FORTITUDE position:


  • Which card survived three military tours abroad in Afghanistan?
  • Which card stayed at home with three kids while her spouse was overseas on military duty for 24 months?
  • Which card would be more likely to give up a big city job promotion and move home to a rural community in order to take care of sick and aging parents?
  • Which card won the state wrestling championship?
  • Which card endured the rigors of med school so it could follow its dream of joining Doctors without Borders?
  • Which card can twist the lid off a pickle jar every single time?


For the JUSTICE position:


  • Which card traveled to North Dakota to join protests of the Keystone Access Pipeline project?
  • Which card told the recess monitor that she saw the school bully take milk money from a little second grade student…and made sure the money was returned to its rightful owner?
  • If these cards were gymnasts, which one would excel at the balance beam?
  • Which card started volunteering in the literacy program at the jail after his/her sister was killed by a drunk driver?
  • Which is the most likely to make lists of “pros” and “cons” whenever they try making a decision?


For the TEMPERANCE position:


  • Which card can make a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates last for three weeks?
  • Which card is more likely to pay the full amount on their credit card bill every month?
  • Which card obsessively had to go see every single movie nominated for an Oscar before the Academy Awards ceremony took place? (DELETE THIS CARD.)
  • Which card is more likely to be at the mall for the 6:00 AM door opening on Black Friday? (DELETE THIS CARD.)
  • Which card is more likely to read the last page of a murder mystery before finishing the book in order to find out who-dunnit? (DELETE THIS CARD.)


And for the PRUDENCE position:


  • Which card donated to their local environmental protection non-profit?
  • Which card started an education savings fund for their child within the first year of the child’s birth?
  • Which card volunteered to be the “designated driver” at their best friend’s bachelor/ette party?
  • Which card decides to buy 100 lottery tickets whenever the state jackpot reaches over $500 million? (DELETE THIS CARD.)


While this game exercise works great for clients with whom you need to build some trust or connection or empathy,…it is a perfectly fine game to play with yourself for your own personal readings, too. For more exercise in this type of game-playing, try journaling some questions you might ask in order to determine the outcome of a two-card “battle” for positions based on the four elements: Fire; Air; Earth; and Water…


the Four elements







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