Do You Need to Know Poker to Play Balatro?

No.

Balatro is turning some would-be fans off because of its semblance to poker. As the resident Balatro shill, I’m going to dispel some notions about the game, and maybe you too, dear reader, will have literal dreams about playing it.

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Do I Need to Understand Poker to Play Balatro?

No, because:

Balatro is Not Poker

Comparing Balatro to poker is similar to comparing Call of Duty to Bayonetta because the protagonists of both games use guns. Sure, the guns still shoot bullets and hurt enemies, but they’re in service of entirely different playstyles, aesthetics, and skill sets.

Balatro uses poker cards and even poker hands, but after the first round of play, it jack-knifes so far off the typical poker ruleset that you’re playing something else entirely. I didn’t know how to play poker when I started Balatro. I knew a few hands, but not their score or anything like that.

Balatro has a nifty cheat sheet that tells you what each hand is worth, but these hands differ wildly from typical poker hands because they each offer a Chip and Mult modifier. These do not exist in real poker, and hands can be upgraded to obscene levels, such that a pair is worth (literally) hundreds of times what a royal flush would be.

Balatro IS a Game of ‘Joker’ Synergies

In the screenshot above, I have Jokers that modify my hand. One offers me a flat Mult (multiplier of my chip count for the hand) based on how many Jokers I have. Another is copying the ability of the Joker to the right of it, which multiplies the entire score by 3 if I play the same hand twice or more in a round. The one to the right is another x3 multiplier due to how many “Enhanced” cards I have. Finally, to the very right is a card that is yet another x1.5 multiplier based on cards of a specific, changing suit. 

Add all these up, and I would score upwards of a million points by playing pairs. Not flushes, not straights: Pairs. You may need a little luck, and you’ll need to play a few decent “poker” hands at the beginning of the game, but with some planning, your runs will become your very own broken game of not-poker.


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Author
David Morgan
David is a pediatric asthma researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital by day, and Prima Freelancer by night. He always finds time for the games he loves, and then some more to tell you all about them.