A common question that people ask is how many tarot cards are in a reading?, and the answer to that is that there is absolutely no set number. In fact, it is entirely up to the reader and their own technique on how to read tarot cards and the purpose of the reading.
Therefore, you can do a one-card reading or you can do a 36-card reading or more. A one-card reading would be like a quick answer to a question you have. Or if you have a 36-card + reading. then that means you are asking a very complex question that you need to look at a variety of components in order to get the answer you are looking for. However, I personally have never done a reading that involved so many cards in one shot.
And a common reading that many readers do that I also don’t do because it is not a spread that resonates with me is the Celtic Cross which involves 10 cards. There are other 10-card readings that are similar to it that I have done. That spread also looks at different angles that surround a particular question.
However, what the majority of readers stick to in general is a 3-card, past, present, future reading. And the beauty with the 3-card spread is that you can find other purposes for that type of reading.
Other examples of 3-card spreads include:
The 1st card represents the nature of a dilemma, the 2nd card represents the cause of the problem, and the 3rd card represents the solution to the problem.
The 1st card represents the situation that is current. The 2nd card represents an obstacle that you are facing. The 3rd card represents the outcome.
The 1st card represents what you think about the situation you are in. The 2nd card represents what you feel about the situation. The 3rd card represents what you do about the situation.
Those are just some examples of 3-card spreads that go beyond the past, present, and future readings.
Basically, when it comes to how many cards are in a reading, that is again up to you as the reader. You can also come up with your own spreads as well, and it can involve as many cards as you wish. Only you know and only you can trust that. Sure, there are many spreads that you can use, but you can come up with your own as well if you are confident to do so. And once again, it can involve as many cards as you like!