Killer Strategy to Beat Gold Stake in Balatro (Complete Guide)

Hi! I’ve beaten Gold Stake. Do you want to, too?

Balatro is a fantastic new game developed by LocalThunk that’s highly replayable. To get the most out of your playtime, you want to win.

I’m going to share a killer strategy that will double your win-rate. And, I’m going to explain the math behind it, in case you want more convincing before trying it for yourself.

Five-Card Hands will Kill You

Let’s talk about Randomness and Variance.

I’m not going too deep, so stay with me. This section is just to prepare your thoughts.

A games master presents you with a situation:

I have a white bucket with two balls in it; one blue, and one red.
I have a black bucket with ten balls in it; five blue, and five red.

The games master asks you a question:

From which bucket am I more likely to pick a blue ball from?

Don’t think too hard about it.
The correct answer is that you have the same likelihood to draw a blue ball from either bucket.

In this situation, you’d have a 50% chance to pick a blue ball, whether you pick the white or black bucket. This is randomness.

But now, the games master presents you with a second question:

If I take two balls instead, from which bucket am I more likely to pick both a red and a blue ball from?

How do you solve this question? The answer is in the image below.

When you imagine taking two balls from the white bucket, there’s only one possibility: you’ll take both a red and a blue ball.

But from the black bucket, you can take red and red, red and blue, or blue and blue. There is a greater variety of possible outcomes present within the black bucket’s setup. This is variance.

So, now; why will five-card hands kill you?

It’s easier to succeed when you ask the universe for less

Let’s change the way we’re thinking.

The white bucket contained one red ball and one blue ball. But now, it’s not a bucket, it’s a White Deck. Let’s say it now contains five Ace of Spades and five Ten of Clubs.

The black bucket contained five red balls and five blue balls. But when we turn it into the Black Deck, let’s say it contains the cards of a regular 52-card deck.

The vile games master asks you a more fiendish question…

In which deck would it be easier to get a Flush?

You don’t need to do the math on this.

Consider, though; the odds are pretty good with both; it’s relatively easy to get a Flush with either deck, isn’t it? I’m sure you’ve cleared Ante 1’s Small Blind with a flush plenty of times.

If you’re interested:

In our custom White Deck, the odds are drawing a Flush in our first hand is 22%.

Yet, in the Black Deck, the odds of drawing a Flush in the opening hand is 2%.

If you thought the White Deck was better, did you think it would be 11 times better? This is the power of variance: the white deck simply has much lower variance!

There are fewer variations of possibilities; fewer ways in which you can’t draw a Flush.

So, what?

When playing these games, we often think about randomness: it’s easy to ask “What are the odds of drawing my fifth club card for the Flush I want?”, or “which cards should I discard to build towards the Straight I’m trying to make?”

But when you just play the odds, eventually, you lose.

One hand, at the wrong time, you’ll miss that Straight draw; you’ll miss that Flush, and it will feel like the game cheated you — because randomly, out of nowhere, the game didn’t give you the card you deserved. Risking your late-game on randomness is a therefore poor strategy.

Don’t beat randomness. Run with it: beat variance instead!


You can skip to here if you just want the secret trick

The game’s generous default setup can give you hundreds of chips and high multipliers for pursuing five-card hands, which make them seem very appealing. However, they are a trap.

Some basic facts about the game:

  • Firstly, Planet Cards can raise the base chips and multiplier of whichever hand you are pursuing better than any other choice.
  • Secondly, by late-game, Jokers will always form the majority of your Score.
  • Thirdly, during the course of the game, Tarot and Spirit Cards give you the chance to thin-out and refine your deck.

No matter what, it’s always easier to find three cards in your deck than five

The previous sections, and all of the above, should prime you to understand this next section.

When you’re trying to make a Straight, Flush, Full House, Five-of-a-Kind, or other combination of five-card hands, you are looking for five cards. When you dig for five cards, you are giving your deck five chances to fail you. This is variance.

After all, it is extremely likely that by the late-game of Balatro, you will still have a large, clunky, complex deck full of unwanted and imperfect cards. You will have high variance. When you are exposed to high variance, sooner or later, even with a good setup of Jokers, your deck will fail to produce your desired fifth card, and you’ll just have to flop a bad hand.

To defeat variance, you naturally want to ask your deck for fewer cards.
High Card, Pair, Three of a Kind and Two Pair only ask you for one, two, three, or four cards.

Therefore, the biggest secret of Balatro successes:
If you ask your deck for fewer cards, you will get the hand you want more frequently.
Then, Jokers can be used to increase the score of whichever hand you’re playing.
It is very possible to win Balatro using nothing but High Card for points!


When you play for five-card hands such as Flush, you need to get lucky five times.
Asking for that gives your deck more chances to kill you.

Since Jokers can be used to elevate the score of any hand, ask your deck for less-complicated hands to get those hands more frequently.


Aim for a Three Of A Kind deck today and see your win% skyrocket.