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10 Tips And Tricks For Getting Started With Balatro

An image of the Steam Deck with Balatro playing

If like me, you have succumbed to poker-based Balatro’s charms, you’ll know that it’s a particularly addictive experience that’s hard to put down.

It’s the very definition of easy to play, hard to master; though you won’t be able to put it down, given how hard it is to resist the lure of the New Run button when you lose your current attempt, it’s actually really difficult to complete a run, given how high the Blind targets can get and how fiendish many of the Boss Blinds can be.

Though we can’t guarantee you success with your runs, here’s some of the tips and tricks for getting started with Balatro that we realised were super helpful in order to progress a little more each time!

1. Picking The Right Deck

Balatro New Run

Each deck of cards in Balatro has a different coloured back, and each bestows a bonus upon you for your entire run with those cards. At first, you won’t have much of a choice of decks for your run, but you’ll steadily unlock more as you play.

When you play your first games of Balatro, you’ll only have the Red deck, which gives you one extra discard per round. Though this is basic, it is very useful; it might even be one that you end up sticking with.

Once you’ve discovered a total of 20 items from Balatro’s vast collection, you’ll unlock the Blue deck, which gives you an extra hand per round, every time you attempt a Blind. When you’ve managed to collect 50 items in total, you’ll gain access to the Yellow deck, which doesn’t give you any round bonuses, but starts you off with $10 to spend.

Here’s where we pause; though there are 15 decks in total to unlock, opened by either collecting items or winning a run using different decks or difficulty levels, our recommendation for the best deck to win your first run with is Yellow. That’s because it’s crucial to build up your Jokers, upgrade your deck with Tarot cards and get your combo points racking up by using Planet cards.

All of the above need cash to get underway, and having that extra $10 right from the start can make a huge difference to your run, ensuring that your poker hands are overperforming in terms of their point totals as quickly as possible.

2. Skipping Blinds

Balatro Blinds Screen

The choice to skip a Blind is always a risk, even in the earlier stages of the game.

Of course, the reward can often be too tempting to ignore; for skipping a Blind, you’ll earn a Tag, with each Tag giving you a specific reward that either triggers immediately, or when the game conditions are met.

In particular, getting hold of free Booster Packs or cards immediately is often worth the risk, as long as you’re confident of reaching the next Blind’s points total.

Even if the points total of the next Blind seems intimidatingly out of reach, sometimes a bonus Buffoon Pack or Arcana Pack can make all the difference for you getting some very high combo totals.

Balatro Tags Collection

Personally, I tend to always opt for the Tags that give an immediate Booster Pack, such as:

  • Standard: which gives a free Mega Standard Pack that allows you to choose two playing cards to add to your deck, from a random selection of 5.
  • Charm: this gives you a free Mega Arcana Pack that allows you to choose two Tarot cards from a random selection of 5 cards.
  • Meteor: this gives you a free Mega Celestial Pack, from which you can choose two Planet cards from a random pack of 5 cards.
  • Buffoon: this gives you a free Mega Buffoon Pack; you’ll be able to choose two Jokers from a random pack of 4.
  • Ethereal: this gives you a free Spectral Pack, which allows you to pick one Spectral card, from random pack of 2 cards.

There are other, useful Tags that tend to tempt me too. Juggle gives you an extra three cards for your hand size in the next Blind; this can be particularly useful for Boss Blinds. The Coupon tag makes all cards and Booster Packs in the next Shop free of charge, which can be especially useful early in the game, or when approaching a Boss Blind.

Other than that, most tags offer financial incentives, Shop stock reroll bonuses or guaranteed Joker upgrades in the next Shop; though these are all useful, you’ll have to weigh up whether or not you can tackle a higher Blind total if you skip; I’d say that none of the others, in my experience, are worth risking an entire run for.

Boss is the only other Tag I’d make special mention of; that’s because it’ll allow you to reroll the Boss Blind, which can be crucial if you’re relying on a certain suit of cards in your deck, or you don’t think you’ll be able to deal with it, for whatever reason. Though of course this means you’ll get a random new Boss Blind that you can’t reroll, it may make the difference between success or failure on your current run.

3. Pay Attention To The Boss Blind And Always Use Your Run Info Button

Balatro Boss Blind Mouth

One thing that’s really easy to do is to just keep skipping Blinds and picking up bonuses, then realise you’ve got to the Boss Blind with a poor selection of Jokers or a lack of upgrades.

Pay attention to what the Boss Blind’s power is on any given run, as soon as you can. Knowing the cards it’ll debuff, or the fact that you will only be able to play one hand type, or one hand overall, gives you the ability to prepare for it as best you can.

For example, if you have The Mouth as your Boss Blind, it’ll only allow you to play one hand. Getting the full total of the Blind using just the points from a single poker hand is incredibly challenging, but with clever use of Planet cards to upgrade a specific type of hand, for example your most played hand so far, will really pay off.

Balatro Run Info Screen

So use your Run Info button as much as you can. Check out the number of times you’ve created a specific hand type using the Poker Hand button (see the image above for what the ‘Poker Hands’ screen looks like on the Run Info menu), look at the Boss Blind on your current run with the Blinds button and check out what bonuses you have with your Vouchers button.

Balatro Boss Blind Psychic

It’s also really easy to forget what your Boss Blind’s requirement is, even as you’re playing. For example, The Psychic tells you that you must play five cards when you’re submitting a hand; note that not all cards have to score, just that this requires you to submit five cards.

So when you’re putting together a Two Pair, for example, don’t forget to add an extra card to make sure you’re submitting five cards every time, or your hand will score zero and likely scupper your chances of surviving altogether. Use all of that information to give yourself as much of an advantage as you can when going for the Boss Blind!

4. Know Your Poker Hands

Balatro Poker Hands Screen

This seems like an obvious one, but knowing the points you can get for any given Poker Hand, or at least a rough idea of what they can earn you, is key to success.

Again, your Run Info button, and the Poker Hands option, is key here, but of course that won’t tell the whole story. Sure, you’ll be able to see the base level of points you can score, but what about the Jokers you currently have?

Sometimes, the right combination of Jokers and levelling up of your Poker Hands can make a Two Pair score more than a Full House, or even a High Card score more than a Pair. Know what to choose for your score, and what to leave behind in your hand.

5. Using Discards

Balatro Debuffed Cards

You’ll get a certain number of discards per hand; usually, this is 3, but it can change depending on your deck, Jokers you have or Vouchers you’ve redeemed, for example. Using discards can be a tricky choice, but you can discard up to five cards using a single discard, so you can often try and craft your cards around a certain hand type.

For example, if you’ve got four of the cards needed for a Flush or a Straight, get rid of all the cards that won’t contribute to that hand type. Don’t be afraid of getting rid of, say, a Pair of cards, if it won’t help with the hand that you’re aiming for.

There’s also the issue of running out of discards; how do you get rid of cards that are blocking up your hand, for instance debuffed cards when you’re facing a Boss Blind? Well, there’s a sneaky way of discarding cards even when you don’t have any discards left to use!

Simply make the best hand you can from the cards you have available, then add any of the cards you don’t want to that hand when you’re selecting the cards, as long as they don’t negatively contribute to the resulting combo score.

For example, if you have a Pair that’ll score highly, select those two cards and then add the extra three cards you want to get rid of.

As you can select up to five cards when you’re playing a hand, you can use each of these ‘slots’ to rid yourself of excess cards any time you’ve run out of discards, or even before, in case you think you may need to hang onto those discards for the next few hands in the round.

6. What Cards To Buy In The Shop?

Balatro Shop Screen

At first, it’s not a bad idea to grab all of the Jokers, Booster Packs and Vouchers that are marked as ‘Not Discovered’, as this will add to your item collection totals and allow you to unlock, for example, the Yellow Deck that proves to be so useful in the early game.

It’s tempting to grab whatever Joker, Tarot or Planet cards appear, but again, pay attention to what you’ve been using in terms of your hands, the bonuses you currently get from Jokers or the upgrades you’ve made to your deck with Planet cards.

For example, if you’ve been playing lots of Two Pair hands, make sure you keep upgrading Two Pair with the right Planet cards. In the same situation, if you get Jokers that come up which give bonuses for submitting a hand that contains a Pair, prioritise those.

Of course, the card selection in the Shop is random, so you may have to change your strategy or watch out for specific combos when it comes to Jokers, but with all of the previous tips in mind, such as looking at your Run Info and current card selection, this should be pretty straightforward.

7. What About Vouchers?

Balatro Vouchers

Of course, aside from face up cards and booster packs, you’ll have one Voucher per ante available in the shop too. Though expensive, with the base cost being $10 for any voucher, their effects last for the entirety of a run.

I don’t tend to buy many, as $10 buys a few Jokers, booster packs or other types of card that can be pretty useful. However, there’s a few I always buy if I can afford to.

For example, Clearance Sale reduces the cost of all cards and booster packs in the Shop by 25% for the rest of your run; though the initial $10 outlay can be a bit punishing, this can absolutely pay dividends over the course of a run, enabling you access to more cards and packs than you’d otherwise get.

Also, don’t skip the Blank Voucher. Though it claims to do nothing, if you buy one of these 10 times, you’ll unlock the excellent Antimatter Voucher, which gives you an extra Joker slot when purchased. Antimatter is another Voucher that I always try and pick up; having access to 6 Jokers, rather than 5, can be invaluable.

Finally, I would also recommend Telescope, which ensures that the Planet card for your most played hand of the run always appears in Celestial packs.

8. What Booster Packs Should I Choose?

Balatro Buffoon and Spectral Packs

This is something else that depends on where you are in your current run. Early on, a Buffoon Pack, giving you the pick of a few random Jokers, tends to be a worthwhile gamble. 

Later in the game, you’ll want to make good use of Planet cards to upgrade your hands, in order maximise the points you get for the cards you play; you can get these from Celestial Packs.

Balatro Arcana Packs

Arcana Packs, giving you selections of Tarot cards to choose from, can help to change your cards to certain suits, or give bonuses to specific cards. 

A tip: if you have one or more Tarot cards in your inventory, you can use these to transform your cards, prior to making a selection from the cards on offer in the booster pack!

Don’t be afraid to use cards that destroy or transform your standard cards in order to increase the probability of other cards being drawn; you can check out the composition of cards in your deck at any time, just by selecting your deck on screen.

You usually won’t see these often, but Spectral Packs give you a small choice of Spectral cards to choose from; these perform similar functions to Tarot cards, but tend to have more powerful, wide ranging effects.

9. What About Standard Card Packs?

Balatro Standard Packs

The final booster pack type, Standard Card Packs give you standard playing cards to add to your deck, but will often also offer you cards with pre-applied bonus types, which are always tempting to add.  Just be sure you know what each bonus type of card does before you decide; some score or offer a bonus when discarded, others when they’re kept in hand, for example.

Know your deck; have you got a Joker that gives you a bonus for playing a certain suit, or for playing Flushes? Have you upgraded your Flush hand type using a Planet card? If so, go for cards in the suit that you have most of in your deck; if they’re not bonus cards, don’t worry; your hand level and Jokers will help you build up those big points!

10. Just Have Fun Collecting!

Balatro Spectral Cards

You’ll spend a lot of time going on runs and not quite getting the eighth and final run completed; it’s very challenging to do so. I’ve seen many people say that they completed their first run after around 30 hours in the game; my first success was after 33 hours of play!

So don’t be disheartened; have fun collecting the cards, finding new and interesting combos, unlocking new cards and just poking around the surprisingly deep and interlocking systems under the hood of Balatro. When you do finally overcome the 8th ante, you can keep going with Endless Mode, and you’ll have a real sense of achievement and satisfaction.

You won’t stop there either. Balatro is a game that seems to constantly find ways to draw you back in; you’re going to have plenty more to unlock and lots more ways to challenge yourself, even after beating a run a number of times!

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