Balatro Guide: Tips and Tricks to Become the Ultimate Card Shark

Stuck and struggling to crack LocalThunk's poker roguelike? We've come up with a few tips and tricks to help you on your way.

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Ever since it made its debut recently, many of you have likely already begun flexing your card skills in Balatro, and if you haven't you really should (I explain why in my review). But, just because anyone can pick up and play Balatro, well less folk as of late due to a ratings hiccup that adjusted the age attached to the game from 3+ to 18+, it doesn't mean that you will be any good at the game. I've created this short guide filled with six tips and tricks to hopefully get you on your way in your effort of becoming a true card shark.

But before I get into this, I'm going to be glossing over the core mechanics of Balatro, so if you're unsure as to how this game works, be sure to read my review (which you can also find here).


Know when to hold 'em

Yes, I'm starting this guide by once again referring to Kenny Rogers iconic song The Gambler, because it's actually packed with a few bits of great advice. To start with, this and my second point actually relates to the discard mechanic and how that affects the hands you can build. Essentially, don't get carried away with it. If you've got a good hand, it's probably a good idea to hold onto it in case the cards you are dealt as replacements aren't any good and don't combine with the cards already in your hand.

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Know when to fold (discard) 'em

That being said, don't hold out hope for the perfect hand. The clever folks at the University of Iowa in America have done the hard work and calculated the probability of getting poker hands, and the likelihood you manage to develop a straight flush is 0.00002% and a four-of-a-kind isn't much better at 0.00024%. Now granted that's in regular poker rules and in Balatro you have way more cards to play with (more when considering discards too) but the point is that the perfect high-scoring hand is incredibly tough to make, so it's probably best to look elsewhere and focus your attention on more reasonable hands, like a three-of-a-kind.


Don't constantly shoot for the moon...

This is similar to the last point but has more of an overarching theme to it. Essentially, in Balatro the key to success is building a team of jokers that you can frequently rely on to generate massive multipliers to bank the biggest and most impressive score. However, as complex hands are hard to come by, my point here is to focus your attention on building a playstyle and joker line-up that can be used often. For example, I like three-of-a-kind jokers because they can be used in a multitude of ways. Not only can you use a three-of-a-kind hand to bank a solid score, but you can also activate their multiplier on full houses and four-of-a-kinds too. Needless to say, there's a lot of versatility on this hand, so use a strategy similar to this to aim for the stars but also allow you to fall and safely land on your feet for decent points.

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...But snap up any planet and tarot cards that fit your playstyle

You might think that tarot cards and planet cards aren't too useful, especially considering they are consumables that are single use, but the right card can be absolutely vital particularly when facing later and much larger blinds. So, if you see a planet card that, for example, building on my last point's strategy, improves three-of-a-kinds by increasing the multiplier they kick out, then pick it up and use it as soon as you can.

Likewise, it's a brilliant idea to keep a couple of tarot cards on hand in case everything falls apart and you need a get out of jail free card. Tarots are your ticket to safety, so keep at least one good one on hand. You'll thank me for suggesting this as you get to later blinds when you need to be at your best.


Don't be afraid to spend your cash

One of the biggest crimes you can commit in Balatro is to hoard your cash. In case you haven't realised already this is a roguelike, which means if you win, or more likely fail, you lose everything and have to start from square one. So, spend that money you gather from winning blinds and spend it on jokers and planet and tarot cards, particularly on undiscovered cards if possible, as that way you'll unlock and see more unique jokers entering into the store. This is about the only time that Kenny Rogers is wrong because in Balatro there's no walking away - you're either a winner or loser, there's no inbetween.

If you get stuck, try a seeded run

If, or more likely when, Balatro starts to beat you down and make you demoralised and think that you'll never be able to beat it, there is a solution that will allow you to get a boost of dopamine and inject a bit of hope into your gameplay. It's called the seeded run, which is essentially the way you can replay former runs that you've already experienced, taking some of the random nature out of the gameplay and making it easier to overcome. There's nothing wrong with playing a seeded run, so give it a go and actually find some success for once.


These are just six quick tips for beating Balatro. We can't provide you a clear cut guide to beating this game due to its random nature and creative elements, but hopefully if you start incorporating these into your play you'll begin to find more success as you continue your journey to being the ultimate card shark.

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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

LocalThunk's poker roguelike may just have stole the title of February best indie game.

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