In our guide, we will tell you whether you can use tarot cards to play poker. If so, are there some special rules? Do you have to use all the cards or just some of them? Are the cards mutually convertible? These are just some of the questions we intend on answering in our article, along with a suggestion which cards to use.
Tarot decks are predecessors of modern French suit decks, so you can easily play poker with a tarot deck. The game becomes identical if you remove the major arcana cards from your tarot deck.
Most people know that a standard poker deck has 52 cards, or 54 if you include the two Jokers. The cards are divided into four suits of 13 cards based on the French tradition, them being – clubs (♣), diamonds (♦), hearts (♥), and spades (♠). Each suit contains an Ace, a King, a Queen, and a Jack, along with numbered cards starting with two and ending with ten.
This is the most common deck used today, but it’s certainly not the only one. Have you ever wondered whether you can use tarot cards to play poker? Keep reading to find out!
Can you play poker with tarot cards?
Most people don’t know that tarot cards were actually created as playing cards, with the first documented decks appearing around the middle of the 15th century. The tradition of card games in Europe started around the 14th century and was probably imported from Egypt.
These cards evolved and were, as you well know, eventually replaced by the French suit deck, today being used mostly in different esoteric practices.
Although poker didn’t exist in medieval Europe, the standard tarot deck is not that different from a modern poker deck. A standard tarot deck does have 78 cards, but if you remove all the Major Arcana cards, you’re left with a total of 56 cards, which completely correspond to a modern poker deck, with the addition of a knight card for each suit.
The rest is completely identical, with the tarot suits corresponding the modern ones like this:
|Tarot suit||Modern poker suit|
You can even remove the additional knight cards if you want to play a completely identical version of poker, but it’s unnecessary as it doesn’t really change much.
As for the full, 78-card deck, which you can also use, but then you’ll be playing a slightly modified version of poker. Let us see what that is.
Arcane Poker: Playing poker with tarot cards
Playing poker with a full 78-card tarot deck is called arcana or tarot poker. Believe it or not, it’s possible with only a small number of modifications to the general concepts of poker.
The rules of the game remain the same, but you’ll have to modify some basic concepts to successfully “eliminate” the difference in the number of cards. Now let us see those adaptations.
The first thing you need to know is that the additional cards in the tarot deck are counted as three additional suits to your four basic suits (the minor arcana).
As we’ve already said, the minor arcana consists of four suits of 14 cards (the knight is included), but that doesn’t change anything when translated to poker. These three additional suits do add something to the poll.
The remaining major arcana cards are divided into three suits, consisting of 0 and 21, 1 to 10, and 11 to 20. There is no precedence of suits, except that major always top minor suits.
Also, the order of cards in the minor arcana group remains unchanged, while the “strength” of major arcana cards is determined by the second digit of the two-digit number of a card, with the zeros counting as 10s, ranging from 10 for The Fool, to ace for The World.
When explained like this, the whole concept of adapting major arcana cards for poker might seem a bit confusing, so we’ve prepared a table for you to see the exact values the cards:
|0||The Fool||10||First Majors|
|1||The Magician||Ace||Second Majors|
|2||The High Priestess||2||Second Majors|
|3||The Empress||3||Second Majors|
|4||The Emperor||4||Second Majors|
|5||The Hierophant||5||Second Majors|
|6||The Lovers||6||Second Majors|
|7||The Chariot||7||Second Majors|
|8||Justice or Strength||8||Second Majors|
|9||The Hermit||9||Second Majors|
|10||The Wheel of Fortune||10||Second Majors|
|11||Strength or Justice||Ace||Third Majors|
|12||The Hanged Man||2||Third Majors|
|15||The Devil||5||Third Majors|
|16||The Tower||6||Third Majors|
|17||The Star||7||Third Majors|
|18||The Moon||8||Third Majors|
|19||The Sun||9||Third Majors|
|21||The World||Ace||First Majors|
The second new thing is that any reversed card beats the same card when upright. This is a new thing in arcana poker and stems from the general esoteric application of tarot cards. A reversed card will always beat an upright card, just as two reversed cards of any kind will beat two uprights card, but will lose to three upright cards. We think you’re starting to grasp the concept.
A direct consequence of this addition is that when shuffling your deck, you always have to rotate half of the deck because the cards’ position is determined based on how they were originally placed.
The third rule – which we’ve already mentioned – is that any hand with a major arcana always beats any combination hand with a minor arcana. Here, we have to stress out two things. Firstly, minor hands remain the same but aren’t as powerful as in regular poker. Secondly, the order of major hands – although generally unchanged – is as follows (from best to worst): straight flush → five of a kind → four of a kind → full house → flush → straight → three of a kind → two pair → one pair → high card.
And this is how you play arcana poker. All other elements and rules remain unchanged, so you can freely apply what you already know from regular poker.
Although not directly related to poker, we wanted to give you at least a brief peek into the most popular contemporary tarot card game.
Namely, poker was never meant to be played with tarot cards, and although the adaptation is relatively easy, that is just a mere coincidence.
Some games were first played using tarot cards, and some are stilly played with them. One of them is French tarot, or jeu de tarot, a trick-taking strategy card game that uses the 78-card tarot deck. It is designed for three to five players but is usually played by four.
The goal is to combine cards and gain point with the player with most points winning the game. It is a very quick game, lasting from 5 to 10 minutes per round.
What are the best Tarot cards to play poker with?
Well, there is no general rule about the type of tarot deck you can use to play poker. Namely, any 78-card tarot deck will be of use. If you want a more authentic feel, try to find an old one or a replica of an old one, because tarot-based card games are really old.
As for us, we’ve tried out some decks and can freely recommend the Mystic Mondays tarot deck (Amazon), because of the quality of the cards and the illustrations, but also because it includes everything you need to have to play the game.
It is a very modern and innovative deck with creative illustrations. If you’re looking for something different, yet with an authentic feel, this deck is the perfect pick for you, and it’s available at a reasonable price.
And that’s it for today. We have introduced you to the world of playing poker with tarot cards. If this sentence seems odd to you, remember that 600 years ago, everyone played card games using tarot cards.
Luckily enough, poker is adaptable to tarot cards, both if you want to play the original game (minor arcana + four knights) or the arcana version, which utilizes the full 78-card deck.
The arcana version has some slight modifications, but they aren’t that big, and you’ll easily adapt to the new rules. Also, if you grow fond of tarot cards, you can try the jeu de tarot, an exciting and fun tactical card game stemming from France. I hope you’ve enjoyed my article and see you next time!