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Poker as a Roguelike: Balatro Review

A brand new deck-building roguelike has recently been released as a free demo. Balatro, created by LocalThunk, has been quite the popular game in the roguelike community, even going so far as to briefly being the most played demo on steam


Balatro takes advantage of the simple, strategy dependent game of poker and blends it with traditional roguelike mechanics to create what can only be described as a perfect roguelike experience. Because of the inherent synergy-dependent aspects of poker, the roguelike formula blends really well with poker. 


The gameplay of Balatro is very simple: Each turn, the player draws eight cards. The player can choose up to five cards to play or use a discard to discard those cards and draw that many cards. When the player plays a hand, the player will obtain a certain amount of chips and mult (short for multiply), depending on the created poker hand. The score of the hand is equal to the chips multiplied by the mult. For example, a straight flush has a chip value of 100 and a mult value of eight, so the hand’s score would be 100×8, or 800.


When a player runs out of hands to play without achieving the minimum score, the player loses and must restart a new run. If the player wins a round, they are rewarded with cash depending on how many hands it took to reach the minimum score. 


Using cash, the player can buy Jokers, vouchers and packs. These can be used to change the cards in the deck by changing their suits or ranks or they can be used to buff your chips, mult and poker hands, among other things. 


There are three rounds per ‘ante,’ a small blind, big blind and boss blind, where the boss blind has a some sort of passive debuff. Each blind increases the minimum score required and when the boss blind is defeated you “up the ante” and then continue onto another floor with more difficult rounds. 


Currently, there are only five antes, yet the demo’s difficulty is just enough to be challenging but fun and will probably take at least a handful of runs to win. 


The synergies and creativity of the current mechanics in the game are already so abundant that it is a wonder that they are adding over triple the amount of content that is currently available in the demo. 


I highly recommend trying out the free demo available on Steam and filling out the demo survey so that when the game comes out in full, the game will be the best it can possibly be. This is a limited window in which the player gets to voice their opinions of the game on a regular basis and this opportunity should not be ignored.

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About the Contributor
Braxton Knapp
Braxton Knapp, Howler Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Braxton Knapp and I'm a senior at Santa Fe. I was born in Oklahoma, and I've lived my entire life in Edmond. I went to North for my Freshman year, but I didn't have much in common with the people there. I live with my grandma and my two sisters. I like to draw, play chess and video games. Board games are my favorite thing ever!!!

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