A deckbuilder, roguelike inspired by the game of poker.


Made by a one-person development effort, with the moniker of LocalThunk, Balatro is a run-based card game in the “roguelite” genre, where some progression remains, whereas the main loop is fresh with every try. The crux of gameplay centers on the rules of traditional poker, meaning that up to five cards can be played to form a certain combination. The more complex the hand, the more points it yields. So, for instance, a full house is worth more than two pairs, but not as much as four cards of a kind. Equally, the four standard suits of card games can form their own combinations; those being clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. Points are generated with two variables, namely chips and multiplier. Chips are equal to the denomination of the cards, meaning that a two of clubs is worth 2 points, while a face card is worth 10 points. That total is then enhanced by a multiplier, which is decided by the complexity of the hand. Both variables can be increased significantly with modifiers from several sources.

A player usually starts with eight cards in hand, as well as a limited amount of hands that they can play and a few times that they are able to discard up to five cards. A traditional deck starts at 52 cards. Hands need to eventually yield a set amount of points to reach a certain threshold, in order to get through to the next round. These rounds are split into three sections:

  • Small Blind
  • Big Blind
  • Boss Blind

The three sections combine into an ante. There are eight antes in total to beat, after which players can either continue in Endless Mode or start a new run. In Endless Mode, the points scaling quickly reaches into exponential numbers. It is possible to reach an infinite score, which will be indicated as "naneinf" on screen. Ante 39 is currently seen as the end of the game, as the points threshold shows as "NaN" and cannot be cleared, even with an infinite hand.

The Boss Blind adds an additional circumstance to the points threshold, such as disabling certain cards or restricting what hands can be played. The prior two Blinds can be skipped, which will yield a Tag with a certain helpful boon. If the first two Blinds are skipped, the player will receive a Double Tag that carries over to the next time that they can be used. Failure to complete any round ends the run.

After winning one of these Blinds, the player is awarded a certain amount of money, counted in Dollars. The amount earned depends on the Blind, as well as the amount of hands remaining; with a few more possibilities on top of those two factors. Usually, only a few Dollars are earned. Right after receiving the payout, play is shifted over to a shop, where this money can be spent.

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Buying from the shop is one of the main ways to improve a run in Balatro. Its interface is divided into the following sections:

Voucher: A permanent help that costs $10, but persists for the entire run. These boons range from receiving more hands to play, to increasing the amount of items sold in the shop. A voucher can be bought one time per ante. When purchased, the empty space will read:

"Defeat Boss Blind to restock"

Card packs: Per round, up to two card packs can be bought that can, for instance, add playing cards to a deck or increase the yielded points of a specific type of played hand. These packs can vary in size and offer either one or two items, depending on their cost. There are five different varieties that can appear in these two slots, namely:

  • Standard Pack
  • Celestial Pack
  • Arcana Pack
  • Buffoon Pack
  • Spectral Pack

Card slots: Two cards appear in this top section of the shop, which usually includes Jokers, but are not limited to them. Unlike the card packs, the supply of items here can be refilled, by rerolling what appears in the shop, for a fee that increases with each roll.

Leaving the shop will bring the play over to the Blind screen, where the next round can be chosen. If the round is currently on one of the first two Blinds, the player can also choose the option to skip the Blind, to receive a Tag.

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A run usually starts with five slots that appear above the player's current hand of eight cards. These slots can be filled with Jokers, which persist after rounds, unless otherwise specified. Most Jokers come with a unique art style, which can even alter the shape of the card. Aside from being purchasable in the shop itself, these items will also appear in the Buffoon Pack.

Jokers offer a wide range of different modifiers, usually assisting in the amount of points tallied, but also accruing more money or altering the play in some sense. Likely, combining Jokers is the main way to shape the play to a certain style, such as focusing on a single suit or aiming for a specific playing card. There are four different rarities of Jokers: Common, Uncommon, Rare and Legendary; though the last one appears extremely seldomly. On top of the Joker’s regular modifier, the card can also appear in four different, additional editions:

  • Foil: Adds 50 chips
  • Holographic: Adds 10 multiplier
  • Polychrome: multiplies the multiplier 1.5 times
  • Negative: Adds a Joker slot

These editions can also apply to regular cards, to the same effect.

Some Jokers accrue their modifiers under certain conditions, such as the amount of times a hand was played. Others require specific conditions to be met, such as playing three or fewer cards. Jokers that do not meet their conditions but come in a certain edition still have their edition effect trigger.


Beside the Joker slots are two spaces for consumable cards. These items appear in the Arcana, Celestial and Spectral Packs and offer immediate uses that apply once, though they can also appear in the shop's supply slots. The three different varieties, respectively, are as follows:

  • Tarot cards: Focus mainly on effects that alter playing cards in some way, such as increasing their rank or turning them into gold, which can accrue more money. However, they can also create more Jokers or yield other cards.
  • Planet cards: Increase the level of yielded points from a certain hand. If a deck is sufficiently altered, new planets may appear to reflect the new, possible combinations, but only after that new combination has been played.
  • Spectral cards: Essentially a more powerful version of a Tarot card, though frequently at a certain cost, such as destroying cards to receive its bonuses.

The Standard Pack yields a number of playing cards, which can appear altered in some way, such as being a different edition, but that does not necessarily occur.


A Joker modeled after a trading card
A Joker modeled after a trading card

Aside from a different edition, cards can more frequently be altered with a modifier, through either a Tarot or a Spectral card, on top of appearing in Standard Packs. These effects apply if the card is played or otherwise triggered. The effects are as follows:

  • Bonus: Adds 30 chips
  • Mult: Adds 4 multiplier
  • Stone: Turns the card into a stone worth 50 chips, but doesn't count towards any hand combination
  • Steel: Multiplies the current multiplier 1.5 times if the card stays in hand
  • Gold: Adds $3 by the end of the round if the card stays in hand
  • Glass: multiplies the multiplier 2 times, but has a 25% chance of destroying the card.
  • Lucky: 1 in 5 chance to add 20 multiplier, 1 in 15 chance to add $20
  • Wild: Counts the card as any suit
  • Blue Seal: Adds a Planet card to the consumable slots if its playing card is held at the end of a round
  • Purple Seal: Adds a Tarot card to the consumable slots if its playing card is discarded
  • Gold Seal: Adds $3 if the card is played and scored
  • Red Seal: Triggers the card and any possible effects once more

Playing cards can have one modifier, one edition and one seal on them at the same time. Applying another of these three overwrites the previous variable of the same kind.


In the Collection section on the title screen, Balatro shows the variety of new elements that can be unlocked by playing and meeting certain conditions. These requirements range from just beating the game to playing or owning specific hands. The title screen can offer a tip on how to gain the next unlock, visualized by a card that's shackled under lock and key. Cards that appear in the shop need to be bought, before they count as unlocked. Currently, Balatro has the following content total:

  • 150 Jokers
  • 15 Decks
  • 32 Vouchers
  • 22 Tarot cards
  • 12 Planet cards
  • 18 Spectral cards
  • 5 Editions, which includes the base edition
  • 32 Booster packs
  • 24 Tags
  • 30 Blinds, which include the Boss Blind modifiers, as well as the Small and Big Blind

Obtaining later decks in the game require beating a run on a set difficulty. This increased difficulty is called a "stake" and is color coded. Higher stakes retain the modifiers from the previous colors, on top of adding their own requirements. Stakes are tied to their respective deck and therefore do not carry over to other decks. The respective Stake tiers are as follows:

  • White: Base difficulty
  • Red: No money from Small Blind
  • Green: Faster score scaling
  • Black: Introduction of Eternal Jokers that can't be sold or destroyed
  • Blue: -1 discard
  • Purple: Faster score scaling
  • Orange: Booster packs cost $1 more per Ante
  • Gold: -1 hand size

Some unlocks are achieved through card discovery, such as Legendary rarity Jokers being randomly obtained from Soul cards that can appear outside of their Spectral card ramifications.

Additionally, Balatro has up to 20 unlockable Challenges. These runs are specially modified, to center around a specific ruleset. Usually, this situational run will come pre-loaded with certain cards. Moreover, it is possible that certain cards will be banned for a Challenge run. The rules, cards and decks are specified beforehand.


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Balatro sold enough copies to be profitable within its first 24 hours of release. Upon its quickened ascend to popularity, the game ran afoul of rating boards, over a misunderstanding of its card theme. On March 1, 2024, publisher Playstack announced via social media that the game had been temporarily taken down from an unknown amount of stores, due to the age rating being changed from 3+ to 18+, without warning the publisher. This announcement was shared through an image with imposed text, explaining the situation. According to the message that the company received, the age rating kerfuffle occurred because Balatro:

"contains prominent gambling imagery and material that instructs about gambling"

A similar fate had befallen Strange Scaffold game, Sunshine Shuffle, the year prior, after the game's director, Xalavier Nelson Jr., had jokingly insinuated that the card game could teach children to gamble. In this latter case, the game was also effectively banned from the Republic of Korea.

On March 8, 2024, most of the issues around the age rating of Balatro had been resolved and the game returned to most storefronts. Despite delisting, the game had sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has since surpassed a million units sold.