How to tell if he likes you, and other sleepover occult games

When I was a little girl, Ouija boards were only rarely hailed as the harbingers of devil worship that they used to be, and mind-bending was so commonplace that one night when we hypnotized a girl into believing she was a toddler on the Titanic and she spent the rest of the night cry-babbling in a corner, we were barely phased.  But these days, when party guests are busy talking politics and kids, I’m just as likely to get shunned as scoffed at if I suggest a friendly game of “light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

Have we grown out of the thrill of the supernatural in our play time?  Are shared experiences of mystery and magic no longer considered relevant after the legal voting age?  This possibility confuses and saddens me, so I suggest we stand up and answer those questions with a resounding “No!”

In the hopes of garnering your support in the “spooky is still fun” cause, and in honor of the love spell extravaganza that has been hitting the pagan podcast airwaves surrounding St. Valentine’s day, I bring to you:

“How to tell if he likes you after one game of cards*”


Now, some will tell you that to discover the initials of your beau-to-be, you need to stick a key in a Bible and recite the words of Ruth, or peel an apple all in one strip and throw it over your shoulder.  My friends and I weren’t allowed to have knives at school, so instead of peeling the apple, we would turn the stem, reciting the alphabet with each turn, and whatever letter you were on when the stem broke off would be the first initial of your lover’s first name.  Effective as this may be, there are only so many apples, and really… how much fun is a name?  We wanted more answers, and we wanted to be able to at least have a say in our pool of potential suitors.

Enter the card game.

The card game (affectionately called “Four Kings”) allowed us to not only name four boys in whom we might have some interest and guarantee a match with at least one of them, it also gave us the opportunity to find answers to our every question about them, and to get a glimpse of our possible futures together.

Besides my very limited social circle, I have yet to meet anyone that played this game as a young’un (or as an adult, for that matter).  If you did, or if you played something similar, please tell me about it!  You can either leave a comment here by clicking up near the top of this entry, or contact me at PaganSpace or email up there on the right.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here are the full rules:

Love Divination with Playing Cards

Begin with one dealer (the card “reader,” if you will), and one player (the “querent”), and one deck of 52 cards.  The dealer removes the four king cards and shuffles the deck.  The kings are arranged facing the querent from left to right as follows:

King of Hearts   –   King of Diamonds   –   King of Clubs   –  King of Spades

The querent then labels each of the kings with the name of a boy she knows, with the most loved on the left (King of Hearts), a boy she likes as the King of Diamonds, a friend that’s a boy as the King of Clubs, and lastly a boy she hates (King of Spades).  [Thank you to commenter Katharine for reminding me of this detail!]  I should say that this game can also be played for ladies, and one can substitute Queens for Kings, if desired.  For simplicity of pronouns only, I am assuming female players and male um… targets.

Before going any further, the querent must choose three cards face down from the remaining deck, and set them aside for later without looking at them.  These cards will answer the three main questions: “Who do I like?” “Who likes me?” and “Who am I going to marry?”  But before we can learn that much, the querent gets to ask 15 other questions of her choice, as long as the answer can be one of the four boys chosen as Kings.

So say for instance you are the querent, and your first question is, “Who [of these four boys] is the teacher’s pet?”  You ask your question, the dealer turns over a card, and the suit of that card matches the suit of the King who is the teacher’s pet.  If the card turned up is a heart, and the King of Hearts was named Johnny, then Johnny is the teacher’s pet.  Make sense?

When we were kids, these questions tended to be completely innocuous and not very interesting things like, “Whose favorite color is blue?” or “Who has the nicest laugh?”  A more adult version might consist of questions more along the lines of, “Who is better at [insert sexual activity]?” or “Who has the hottest [insert body part]?”  The sky’s the limit, but it can be surprisingly hard to come up with evocative questions on the spot, so we recommend brainstorming a list of question ideas to keep handy any time you intend to play.

Once you have determined the answer to a question by turning up one card, you place that card face up under the King with the matching suit, then lay two more cards face down on top of it.  This is key!  Remember not to look at the two additional cards, and keep them with the right King.

Continue to ask questions, laying the answer cards on top of the corresponding King along with two cards face down each time, until you run out of cards.  The number of cards in the deck minus the four Kings is divisible by three, so it should work out evenly, unless you’re doing something crazy or you’re missing cards.

Once all of the cards have been distributed (and all but three of your burning questions answered!) it’s time to discover what your future life with each boy might be like.  Start by turning over all cards that are face down, but keep them with their respective Kings.  In this stage of the game, hearts represent love, clubs represent children, diamonds represent money, and spades represent fights.  By counting the number of cards in each suit under a given King, and weighing the value of the cards, you can sketch out how much love and money, and how many fights and kids, you can expect from your future with that boy.  Higher numbered cards and face cards represent greater passion, high dollar amounts, smarter kids, and bigger fights.  Lower numbered cards represent cooler or gentler feelings, lower funds, dumber kids, and small arguments.  An ace of diamonds indicates that you will be millionaires.  An ace of spades, or seven spades of any value on one King, represent divorce.

The dealer is responsible for interpreting the life represented by each group of cards, and she can embellish as her skill and imagination permit.  :)

Finally, we come to the conclusion.  The querent now takes up the three cards that were set aside face down at the beginning of the game, shuffles them and orders them as desired, then hands them to the dealer.  The dealer explains that the first card determines who the querent really likes, and turns up the first card.  The suit determines which King holds the querent’s heart.  The second card turned up reveals which of the King-boys has feelings for the querent, and at last, the third card determines whom the querent will marry.  In lucky cases, all three cards will fall on the same King.

After exhausting the potential love scenarios of your homeroom class or office, remember the always popular movie star round! This is a particularly good option when the querent is already spoken for, as it eases some of the anxiety brought on by toying with the future of a current relationship.

I very much hope you enjoy playing this little game, and if you have any questions or comments, please do let me know!  Regardless of how many Kings or Queens are in your court, I hope you all had a lovely and happy Valentine’s day, and I wish you all the love in the world.  Aces.


*Rules from the ca. 1989 incarnation, recollected and annotated with much nostalgic giggling by my amazing elementary school friends T and H.  Love you!


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. newworldwitchery
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 17:59:26

    I really have to start reading some of your back posts more often. This is an absolute *gem* of an entry! I love this game, and your description of it is just so perfectly executed. Seriously, you’ve got a good thing going here!


  2. arrowclaire
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 20:29:38

    Oh boy, thank you! ^-^ We had a lot of fun reminiscing about it before this post. So many hours spent with this game in elementary school! I think I might do a follow-up post on other occult/spooky/magical games we used to do at slumber parties… then maybe they can make a comeback!


  3. Katharine
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 02:26:04

    Wow. Eighteen years ago, I spent a huge chunk (read hours upon hours) of my time playing a version of this game with my group of friends at sleepovers. I couldn’t remember all the specifics, and was scouring the internet to see if I could find it. We played pretty much identically other than our Kings were named as someone you love (hearts), someone you like (diamonds), a friend (clubs) and someone you hate (spades). I think our future-telling cards were love, money, kids and sex (dirty, dirty 12-year-olds that we were!). I am amazed that I found this – we never had a name for it. You saved me hours of frustration trying to remember what future-telling cards were for. Thank you! And a special thank you to Google for interpreting my search of “kids card game 4 kings ask questions” and directing me here!


    • arrowclaire
      Dec 15, 2012 @ 10:36:50

      That is so great; thanks for leaving this comment! I completely forgot that we ALSO selected our kings based on love for hearts, like for diamonds, friend for clubs and hate for spades. Thank you so much for the reminder of that little detail. I still remember the horror of the final winner being the king of spades.

      I would love to know if this game is still being played by 12-year-olds today, and whether the rules have evolved any more.


  4. Megan
    Jul 14, 2013 @ 19:21:00

    lol I called “Four Kings” “Four Aces” I was having a college sleepover with some friends and I was looking for the rules since I forgot. Nothing came up when I typed in “Four Aces” So I gave Kings a try. Thanks so much, the game and memories had me in crying TEARS!


  5. Kate's Bookshelf
    Jan 22, 2016 @ 05:24:37

    I know this might sound silly, but I found this post back in 2011 and ever since when I’m feeling a little lost as to what my love life has in store, I run through the cards. Surprisingly, the one man whom has been in my life for over that long, always comes out the best. Though lately divorce and lack of love have been in his cards. I don’t believe in tarot or fortune telling, but I still can’t help myself, and this has to be one way that I always ‘deal’. Like I said, a little silly, but also entirely comforting in a weird sort of way. So, basically, thank you for having the rules to come back to.


    • arrowclaire
      May 18, 2016 @ 19:30:22

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner – just returning from a sort of sabbatical – but I’m so glad to hear that this has been useful to you. I consistently find that even if you don’t believe in “fortune telling” per se, these systems have a great way of getting you to check in with yourself and the universe, and it’s a fun way to keep a finger on the pulse. Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you!


      • Kate's Bookshelf
        Jun 08, 2016 @ 20:10:49

        Not to worry about replying. I just wanted to let you know how your post was rather lovely. And yes, it is a fun way to keep a pulse on yourself and what you are thinking and such. Sometimes it helps center your dreams maybe. And thank you for the wishes. Hopefully the sabbatical did what it was supposed to do. Best of luck to you as well. :)

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