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Can I Get Better At Balatro Without Being Weird About It

Help me learn to love the meta

A screenshot from the game Balatro: rows of playing cards on a blue background
LocalThunk

I, like maybe everyone in the world, cannot escape the clutches of Balatro. I got my first win in early March and… I have not won a game since. Can you help me, readers? And can you help me without turning me into a Balatro strategy weirdo?

Like Chris wrote when the game first released, I get sucked into hours of Balatro, “one more run”-ing my way into the late hours of the night when I have tons of other stuff to do. Sometimes things go wrong from basic luck of the draw–never getting good enough joker cards, or a boss blind I just can’t beat. Other times, it’s my own total lack of strategy and minmaxxing skills– I can cobble together an engine that can sweep the early game, but I can’t figure out how to scale it as the required numbers keep getting bigger.

I had a particularly painful brush with this last night, when I got a Legendary joker called Chicot that disables boss blinds. One of my other jokers had a 1-in-4 chance to level up my poker hands which kept paying off, and I found myself with a ton of high-level hands. Another joker added extra chips to every scored card, while another made every card I played count in scoring. I was on top of the world, laughing through meaningless boss blinds and watching all my numbers get bigger and bigger. But I couldn’t overcome the hurdles of those final ante rounds, and my run ended in crushing defeat.

I feel like I should be at the level where I’m generating tens of thousands of chips on each round. I look at your triumphant tweets; I watch the YouTube videos. Well, I try to watch the videos–like Chris, I’m a fan of Northernlion, but his games move so fast and are so full of meta stuff and minmaxxing that I quickly get lost. The “real” Balatro players seem to be operating on another level than I am, and it seems like true, consistent Balatro victory is a question of bending the game’s systems to your whims in a way that maybe I’m just not built for.

I have several fatal Balatro weaknesses. One is my love of randomness. I can’t resist the Misprint joker that adds a random bonus; given an opportunity to roll the dice versus a steady, guaranteed boost, I’ll always take the chance. This makes my engine exciting, but rickety and unreliable. Another weakness is that I’ll either focus on one kind of hand–my one win was based on getting lucky with flushes–and then get screwed if I can’t play that hand, or I’ll spread myself too thin and not really have a strategy at all. 

The solution to overcoming this, obviously, is to stop putting myself in the hands of fate and go into Balatro with a plan. It’s also becoming a thoroughly different person, someone who digs deep into Balatro’s guts and forges the knowledge to play the meta like a fiddle.  But I fear you need to have a steely, strategic mind for true Balatro mastery that I do not possess. You need to understand odds and synergy and resist the urge to foolishly mix things up halfway through just to see what will happen. You need to have forethought and patience. I am not that guy! Do I need to become that guy? Is there room in the pantheon of Balatro success for someone like me, who lives for the adventure but also really wants to win?

Hit me with your Balatro self-improvement regime, readers. Bonus points if your tips involve doing exactly what I’m currently doing, which is really fun, only doing it successfully, which would be way more fun.

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