Twowin, a playing card game of tarot.

Cassiel C. MacAvity

Decks of 52 and 78

    Of quite a number of card games of varying ages and complexity, one factor they share is the game being played with a standard modern card deck of 52 cards and maybe a pair of jokers. The games range from the many variations in poker and solitaire to the basic uniform rules of twenty-one or blackjack, go fish, baccarat, all of them played quite successfully with one or more decks at a time, using the one same unvarying set of cards. At the same time, aside from the card decks that are specifically tailored for one game only, the other deck of cards that is in fairly major circulation is that of the tarot.

    Of the tarot, both it and the regular card deck seem to have a parallel and interlinked history that dates back to Europe of the 1400s to 1500s. From there, there are all sorts of speculations and stated origins, all of which are outside the scope or interest of this paper, although Oy Vey do some of the websites on the subject get Really Thick with How Deeply Symbolic and Magickally Greatly SigNificant They All Are . . .

    At any rate, there are indeed a number of points which seem to be universally agreed upon, or at least a look at a number of decks, both tarot and regular play, do make them obvious.

A deck of 52

    The regular playing deck is made of four suits of 13 cards each, for the total of 52. The suits are hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs, and within each suit, the cards start with the Ace and then the 2, and continue up to the 10 and the Jack, Queen, and King. In varying games, the Ace can be the supreme card or be rated below the 2, which suit is being played can have significance to the play of the game, and so forth as the deck gets used for it's primary use as a means of playing games.

A deck of 78

    Of the basic tarot deck, one of its stated origins is as merely a playing card variation. Today, such a deck is still used in game play, but a primary use is as a divination tool where there almost seems to be about as many variations in placement and interpretation, and also style of divination deck, as there are practitioners. Almost.

    The tarot deck itself is divided into two groups of cards, called the minor and major arcanas. The minor arcana is made of four suits of 14 cards each, where the four suits are: 1) Wands, staffs, or batons. 2) Cups. 3) Swords. 4) Pentacles or coins. The regular card deck's Jack, Queen, and King are replaced by the tarot deck's Page, Knight, Queen, and King. The major arcana is a series of 22 individual cards that represent historical and legendary archetypes that begins with the Fool at number 0 and The Magician at number 1, and finishes with Judgment and The World, numbers 20 and 21.

    The tarot-as-game theories state that the the major arcana were merely cards that would have particular meanings or influences within the individual game being played with them. This does tend to be the case with 78 card tarot playing decks. For those using the tarot for divination, the individual cards of both arcana are considered to have particular philosophical meanings which come out as each card is played. The minor arcana have generally prosaic meanings, with the major arcana having the entirely universal meanings and influence.

    With tarot game playing decks, the cards are like regular playing cards in that all the cards are printed so that they will read the same regardless of which end is up. With a regular divination oriented tarot deck, the cards have only one orientation, letting them be placed face up but upside down, which is called "reversing". When a card is so reversed, there are variations in meanings, but the meaning of the reversed card is almost entirely the opposite of the card placed upright. Such reversing of cards is a very important matter because with both majors and minors, most of the meanings of the cards are basically benign when upright. Reversal of most of the cards can give the bad news of the reading and thus guarantees requiring the possibility of card reversals in all readings. After all, in all circumstances and not just divinatory, fantasizing that bad news is just not relevant usually proves guaranteed to bring disaster in any circumstance.

    Beyond that, a main variation to note is that in various tarot decks, the conceptual images related to the numbers 8 and 11 in the major arcana cards are switched. The historically documented reason for these differences is found in Thee Ollde And Deeply Symbolick Discussions Of Dyverssee Greate Masteres, As Mentioneeed Aebove(1). However, as readings tend to be based more on the image of the major arcana card rather than its number, the switch in the images tends to have little effect. For playing Twowin, the game described here, the switch in images has no effect at all.

    (1) Yeah, I juste hate it when mye "E" key gets stucke that waye.    Ande Whate du youe mean its notte cleareley documenttedde??    Off Course It's Doceumemetede.    Aske Ye Localle Experte to showe you.    Alsoe aske f'r a deale on oceanne beachefronte propertie in Arizona. Butte I digresse.

Adapting 52 card play to 78 cards

    For the purposes of playing card games usually played with a regular card deck, the extra card of the minor arcana and the entirety of the major arcana are easily adapted to preexisting games. Twowin as a game has particularly been drawn from holdem and high low varieties of poker, from twenty-one, and from pai gow poker. Of much more complex games such as bridge, those already are somewhat the nature of the modern tarot variation playing games and decks.

The game of Twowin

    Twowin is played with two or more players or solitaire, with only slight differences in play. Both game variations have a house layout of eight cards in a side by side row. Reading from left to right and from the point of view of the players, the first five cards are the internal cards and are individually and in placement order called the root, the past, the future, and the unknowns. These cards are played as part of a hand of poker. The remaining three cards become the external cards, are individually and in placement order called the expectation, the environment, and the hopes and fears, and are played as part or all of a hand of twenty-one.

    As Twowin is played with a tarot deck rather than a regular card deck, then exactly as when using a tarot deck for divination, card play also features reversal of cards, so that upright cards have a different effect than cards upside down, or reversed. This does rather emphasize that the shuffling of the cards must always rotate half the deck. As contrasted with the shuffling of a regular deck, the importance of reversed cards when shuffling a tarot deck requires the complete change of orientation as well as order.

    The orientation of the house cards remains as they are placed, whether upright or reversed. The orientation of upright is in the direction of the player, where the base of an upright card image is towards the player. The orientation of the cards dealt to each player is up to that player.

    Any hand with a major arcana card takes precedence over any hand with no major major arcana card. To repeat, any hand whatsoever with a major arcana card takes precedence over any hand with no major arcana card. This applies in all instances of both poker and twenty-one.

    With both the major and minor arcana, and whether playing solitaire or two or more, play of them depends on whether considering poker or whether playing twenty-one, as follows.

Twenty-one play in Twowin

    In the minor arcana, Aces are 1 or 11, and face cards are 10. In the major arcana, the entire card value is counted, from 0 to 21. All reversed cards are 0. and thus while the twenty-one hand is made of some combination of upright and reversed cards, only the upright cards get counted numerically, where a reversed major arcana card is still a major arcana card and outplays any minor arcana card, even if the major arcana card has a value of zero and even if it is part of a busted hand of twenty-one.

    A natural 21 can be achieved by playing The World (21) and any reversed card and beats all other twenty-one hands, except when it ties itself, in instances of playing with several decks. The next ranking natural 21 will be the The Wheel Of Fortune (10) and the major 11 which also ties only itself. Following that would be The Wheel Of Fortune (10) or the major 11 and a corresponding minor arcana Ace and ten to add up to 21. Following that is a minor arcana Ace and ten, which still beats all other twenty-one hands, including counts of 21 made with three or more cards

Poker play in Twowin

    The minor arcana remains unaltered, forming four suits that are each made of the 14 ranks of cards. The major arcana is divided into three suits, consisting of 0 and 21, 1 to 10, and 11 to 20. In both major and minor arcana, no suit takes precedence. The rank of single cards is Ace, King, Queen, Knight, Page, 10 through 2, descending. For the major arcana, the rank is decided 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.

    For assembling of hands in poker, upright and reversed each count as their own orientation and provide differencing where reversed takes precedence.

    The best to worst poker hands are as follows, basically as usual:

Straight Flush:
Five cards in sequence from the same suit. For two Straight Flushes, the hand with the highest card wins.

Five Of A Kind:
Five cards of one rank

Four Of A Kind:
Four cards of one rank and some other card. When the four cards in two or more hands are the same, the highest fifth card wins.

Full House:
Three of a kind and two of a kind, consisting of three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different rank. With two full houses, the higher three wins. With two full houses with identical threes, then the higher two of a kind wins.

Five cards of the same suit. Two Flushes are compared for the highest ranking card, and then the next highest until one wins or they tie.

Five cards of sequential rank. Two straights are compared for the higher card which wins. Two hands with the same high card tie.

Three Of A Kind:
Three cards of the same rank and two more cards of differing ranks.

Two Pair:
Two cards of one rank, two cards of a differing rank, and a fifth card of a rank other than the first two. With opposing Two Pair, the higher pair of one and then the other decide the win, and if both pair in each hand are identical, then the higher fifth card decides.

One Pair:
Two cards of the same rank, and three cards of differing ranks. A higher pair beats a lower pair, and when the same, then the three other cards are compared until one proves higher than the other.

High Card:
Five cards that are all of different rank, are not in sequence, and not all are of the same suit. With two high card hands, the highest card decides, where when the highest cards are the same, with succeeding cards compared as needed.

Thus, for the major arcana, when factoring in poker and twenty-one together, the rankings are as follows:

The Fool                    10                    Or                    0
The Magician Ace Or 1
The High Priestess 2 Or 2
The Empress 3 Or 3
The Emperor 4 Or 4
The Hierophant 5 Or 5
The Lovers 6 Or 6
The Chariot 7 Or 7
Justice or Strength 8 Or 8
The Hermit 9 Or 9
The Wheel of Fortune 10 Or 10
Strength or Justice Ace Or 11
The Hanged Man 2 Or 12
Death 3 Or 13
Temperance 4 Or 14
The Devil 5 Or 15
The Tower 6 Or 16
The Star 7 Or 17
The Moon 8 Or 18
The Sun 9 Or 19
Judgment 10 Or 20
The World Ace Or 21


    The following includes some near random examples of ranking of cards in Twowin.

    Yes, with 7 suits to draw from in any hand of Twowin, a Five Of A Kind is indeed possible, where the highest Five Of A Kind will consist of The World, the major 11, The Magician, and two minor arcana Aces, all reversed.

    The Flush that beats all other hands less than a Full House with at least one major arcana card consists of Judgement and some four other majors from 11 to 19, all reversed.

    Yes, there can be a royal flush when playing Twowin, as a royal flush would consist of ace, king, queen, kight and page. However, as all of such must be from the same suit, and doing weird things with The Empress and The Emperor merely to invent a major royal flush would be weird, so any royal flush will be beaten by any hand with any major.

    The highest Straight Flush possible in Twowin consists of Judgment, The Sun, The Moon, The Star, and The Tower, all reversed.

    The Empress and Death will beat The Empress or Death and any minor arcana 3, which will beat a pair of minor arcana 3s.

    In twenty-one, a hand made of any minor arcana 10, any minor arcana 6, and The Hermit (9) is a bust, and will still beat a natural 21 made of any minor arcana Ace and 10. Any twenty-one hand of any count with a major arcana card, even one that is reversed and has a count of zero, will beat both the busted hand with the major arcana card and the all minor arcana card natural 21.

    In poker, a hand consisting of The Tower reversed, The Lovers, the Six of Coins reversed, the Six of Wands, and The Six Of Cups reversed are not Five Of A Kind but are instead a Full House.

    At the end of a joint hand of Twowin, the best poker hand wins internally and the best twenty-one hand wins externally. When there is a tie in the best poker hands, the best twenty-one hand decides the win, and when there is a tie in the best twenty-one hands, the highest poker hand decides the win. A tie in both hands is an impass. Tied joints hands in a single hand of game play is No-Win, to win one of the joint hands in a single hand of game play is One-Win, to win both joint hands in a single hand of game play is Twowin.

    When betting in Twowin, at the end of a joint hand where there is a divided win, the collected bets are separated into two equal pots, the internal and external pots, with any remainder amount going to the internal pot. When a pot does not get won, it remains on the table and is used to start the next game, or if play is to end, it is divided evenly among the players, with any remainder going to the immediately previous winner.

Playing Twowin with two or more players.

    Play begins with each player receiving four cards face down. The first card goes to the left or opposite the dealer or dealer position, with the player in the dealer position receiving the last card. The dealer then deals the house cards, as described earlier, with all cards face down.

    The internal house cards provide the community cards which the players use to form a five card hand of poker with two of their four cards.

    The external house cards provide the community cards which the players use to play twenty-one by adding the other two of their four cards, trying to reach 21 without going over. When the external cards themselves go over 21 and bust, then the count for the external community cards is zero.

    All four player cards are used equally, no one card plays in both hands. Each individual card has only one upright or reversed orientation in play, no one card plays as both an upright or reversed card during a single joint hand.

    Any first round of betting occurs, with checks, calls, and folds.

    If at least two players remain, the dealer then turns up the root card, particularly turning the card on its long axis, to maintain the card orientation.

    Any second round of betting occurs, with checks, calls, and folds.

    If at least two players remain, the dealer then turns the past and future cards, particularly turning the cards on their long axis, to maintain the card orientation.

    Any third round of betting occurs, with checks, calls, and folds.

    If at least two players remain, the dealer then turns the unknowns, again turning the cards on the long axis.

    Any fourth round of betting occurs, with checks, calls, and folds.

    If at least two players remain, the dealer then turns the expectation and environment cards, again turning the cards on the long axis.

    Any fifth round of betting occurs, with checks, calls, and folds. If at least two players remain, the dealer then turns the hopes and fears card, again turning the card on the long axis.

    Any sixth round of betting occurs, with checks, calls, and folds.

    Finally, if at least two players remain, the showdown takes place, with each player showing each hand of cards as internal and external as well as upright or reversed.


Playing Twowin solitaire

    For Twowin solitaire, the single player plays against the same house layout of five and three as a several player game, for five rounds. The house and player cards are dealt from a full deck of cards, where the deck is very thoroughly shuffled before each round. The game is won by winning both parts of all five rounds. If there is a tie or loss of any part of any round, the player loses the game.

    The internal house layout cards provide a five card hand of poker. Again, any hand with a major arcana card beats any hand without a major arcana card. The external house layout cards provide the beginning of a game of twenty-one, where again, reversed cards have a count of zero, where if the external cards add up to more than 21, they are considered a bust and counted as zero, and a major arcana card, even if reversed or part of a bust, still beats a lack of major arcana card in the opposing hand.

    When the player is playing twenty-one against the house layout, when the house layout has a natural 21, only an equal natural 21 can match that, where a natural 21 beats all other twenty-one card combinations, even 21 achieved with additional cards. Such an equal play of player and house is considered a tie.

    Play begins with the house cards layout, all placed face up. Cards are played as they are dealt, with upright or reversed counting differently as always.

    The player deals out seven player cards.

    Next, if the external cards have a value of less than 17, and have not already gone over 21, then the player deals additional external cards, face up and upright. This dealing continues until reaching or exceeding a value of 17 without going over 21. Going over 21 is a bust and counts as zero.

    The player then plays the seven player cards against the house layout of internal and external cards.

    Five of the player cards will become a five card hand of poker. The two cards not used for the poker hand are played against the external cards to play twenty-one, trying to reach a higher number than the external cards without going over 21. The player chooses which of the seven cards to use for which hand and the upright or reversed orientation in play. All seven player cards are used equally, no one card plays in both hands. Each individual card has only one upright or reversed orientation in play, no one card plays as both an upright or reversed card during a single game.

    The showdown comparison of the two sets of hands then occurs to determine the win of the game.


© 2010 Cassiel C. MacAvity