How To Calculate Scores In Balatro

Welcome to the intricate world of Balatro, where the art of calculating hand scores involves navigating a labyrinth of mechanics and nuances. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey to unravel the complexity behind Balatro Score Calculation. Whether you’re a seasoned player seeking mastery or a curious newcomer eager to understand the game, join us as we dissect the intricacies and provide a thorough explanation of how this enigmatic calculation is meticulously carried out in the realm of Balatro.

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Score Calculation Guide For Balatro

In Balatro, the objective is to construct a deck capable of generating hands with sufficient points to defeat the ultimate adversary without prior knowledge. Like many other games within the Roguelike Deckbuilding category, Balatro incorporates numerous mechanics, such as jokers and card enhancements, to enhance your score. Nevertheless, the game’s tutorial provides only a cursory explanation of how jokers and cards truly impact the overall score. This guide is designed to assist players at an intermediate level in gaining a deeper understanding of the actual calculations behind scores in Balatro.


In Balatro, the calculation of a hand’s score is succinctly expressed by the formula: Hand Score = Chips x Multiplier. However, the intricacies lie in understanding how chips and the multiplier are precisely determined. This involves several steps: determining the base hand chip/multiplier, scoring from played cards, effects of held-in-hand cards, and the impact of jokers. The subsequent sections will delve into a detailed explanation of each component. It’s worth noting that the balancing of the Plasma Deck’s Chip/Mult occurs post all four calculation phases, just before the Chip x Mult multiplication. For clarity, a personalized notation will be used to describe cards, such as [Rank]-[Suit (S, H, C, D)](-[Enhancement]-[Edition]-[Seal]), with optional elements omitted when irrelevant (e.g., 3-H for 3 of hearts, Q-S for Queen of spades).

Base Hand Chip/Multiplier:

The initial step in the score calculation process is straightforward: the game assesses the type of hand you possess and adds the corresponding base chip and multiplier to your chip and multiplier counts, respectively. These values are contingent upon the hand type and its level, which can be upgraded using planet cards. For instance, if your hand is a Straight at level 1, the game would contribute 30 base chips and 4 multipliers to your chip/multiplier count. The base chip/multiplier for each hand type can be found in Run Info -> Poker Hands.

It’s important to note that the order of cards in your hand doesn’t affect the evaluation. For example, a hand with cards 3-S 5-H 4-C 2-C A-D is still considered a Straight, as the cards can be reordered without changing the hand’s nature.

The only way to increase chip/multiplier earnings at this stage is by upgrading hand levels, achievable through planet cards, the “Space Joker” joker, and the “Burnt Joker” joker. The base chip/multiplier for each hand increases linearly with the hand’s level, making some hands more lucrative to upgrade than others. Notably, the Flush only gains 15 chips and 2 multipliers per level, which is less favorable than Three of a Kind. Upgrade values for each hand can be checked in Options -> Collection -> Planet Cards.

An important detail is that modifications to the hand’s level occur before adding the base chip/multiplier. For instance, when playing a level 5 flush against “The Arm,” the game reduces the flush’s level to 4, yielding only 80 chips and 10 multipliers instead of 95 chips and 12 multipliers.

If facing “The Flint” blind, its boss ability halves both base chips and base multipliers, resulting in a base score approximately a quarter of the original. “The Flint” rounds up after halving, for instance, converting 7 base multipliers to 4 instead of 3.

The “Vampire” joker evaluates the hand type before removing enhancements. For instance, a hand with cards 7-H 6-S-Wild 5-H 4-H 3-H is still considered a Straight Flush, whereas a hand with 7-H 6-H-Stone 5-H 4-H 3-H is just a high card.

The “Four Fingers” joker allows for a Straight Flush with both a 4-card Straight and 4-card Flush, even if they are not the same four cards. This relaxed requirement enhances the value of the joker. For example, with the “Four Fingers” joker, a hand of 9-H 6-H 5-C 4-H 3-H is deemed a Straight Flush.

Additional jokers influencing hand-type evaluation include the “Shortcut” joker (affecting Straights) and the “Smeared Joker” (reducing suits to only Spade/Club and Heart/Diamond).

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Played Cards’ Scoring:

The second phase involves scoring the cards in your designated scoring hand, progressing from the leftmost to the rightmost cards in the order they were in your hand. Only cards contributing to your hand type are considered during this phase, and certain joker effects also come into play.

It’s crucial to differentiate between “played” and “scored” cards in Balatro. “Played” cards are those selected before clicking “Play,” while “scored” cards are the ones that actively contribute to your hand type. For instance, if you play 7-H 7-D 3-S 2-H, forming a Pair with 7-H and 7-D, only these two are “scored,” while 3-S and 2-H are merely “played.” Only “scored” cards provide chips and trigger their effects, although the “Splash” joker eliminates this distinction.

The “debuffed” effect also comes into play during this stage. Debuffed cards do not contribute chips or trigger effects, but are otherwise identical to ordinary cards. Notably, if your deck does not rely on card effects, leaving cards debuffed when facing “The Verdant” blind can be acceptable.

As previously mentioned, cards are evaluated from left to right in the order they are played. This becomes significant when dealing with Mult-on-score jokers and/or cards with the Mult enhancement, as well as Glass cards and/or the “Bloodstone” joker. For example, in a level 1 Pair hand with a 10-S Mult Card and a 10-H Glass Card, playing them in different orders can impact the application of multipliers.

The author intends to create a comprehensive list of on-score jokers.

Side notes:

– The “Hiker” joker’s effect triggers after the card provides its chip value. For instance, an un-upgraded A would give 11 chips and then be upgraded afterward.
– Each joker with “cards are played once more” stacks with the red seal, providing an extra trigger for the card’s effects and chips.
– When equipped with the “Vampire” joker while playing enhanced cards, the enhancements are removed before the cards are scored.

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It’s important to note that the “Vampire” removes enhancements from played cards, and the cards do not need to be scored for their enhancements to be removed.

Held-in-Hand Cards’ Effects:

This marks the third and perhaps the simplest calculation step, given the limited effects that come into play during this phase. The game systematically examines each card in your hand, proceeding from left to right, and activates their effects if applicable. It’s worth noting that debuffed cards do not trigger held-in-hand effects.

The only effects that can occur during this phase include:

1. A x1.5 multiplier effect from “steel”-enhanced cards and Kings when the “Baron” joker is in play.
2. A +13 multiplier effect for Queens when the “Shoot the Moon” joker is active.
3. A +$1 effect with a 1/2 chance for face cards when the “Reserved Parking” joker is equipped.

There is a bit of uncertainty, but it is presumed that cards with a Red Seal may trigger their held-in-hand effects an additional time, possibly stacking with the “Mime” joker if available.

In the event of facing “The Hook” blind, cards are actually discarded before the played hand is evaluated (i.e., before the previous phase is completed). This discarding action counts as a discard, thereby triggering the passives of the “Castle” joker, “Ramen” joker, and “Green Joker.” However, cards discarded in this manner do not activate held-in-hand effects.

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Joker Effects:

This final phase of score calculation is relatively straightforward, yet it often contributes significantly, explaining why the “Jokerless” challenge is positioned as the ultimate challenge run in my opinion.

The game evaluates jokers from left to right, providing +X chips or +Y multipliers based on their specified effects. All jokers with written requirements for granting +chips, +multipliers, or x-multipliers trigger in this phase. The effects of Foil’s +50 chips, Holographics’s +10 multipliers, and Polychrome’s x1.5 multipliers occur after the joker’s primary effects.

The order of jokers doesn’t always matter. Specifically, joker ordering is inconsequential when neither of the following two conditions applies:

1. You possess the “Blueprint” joker or the “Brainstorm” joker, and/or
2. You have both +multiplier (or Holographic) and x-multiplier (or Polychrome) jokers.

In the latter case, for instance, if you have a +100 multiplier joker and a x10.0 multiplier joker, placing the +100 multiplier joker first yields +100 x 10.0 = +1000 multiplier, while placing the +100 multiplier after the x10.0 only provides about +100 multiplier.

To summarize the previous paragraph: place x-multiplier jokers on the far right, position the joker you want to copy with “Blueprint” or “Brainstorm” appropriately, and don’t worry about joker ordering otherwise.

When an upgradeable joker fulfills its upgrade requirements, it upgrades before delivering its effect. The upgrade animation plays before the played cards are scored. For instance, when playing four cards with a basic +16 chips “Square Joker” joker, it upgrades first, resulting in +20 chips for the played hand. The same principle applies to resets for the “Ride the Bus” joker and “Obelisk” joker: if the requirements are met, they reset before taking effect (thus giving +0 multiplier and x1.0 multiplier, respectively).

In contrast, degrading jokers (primarily those with food-based names) trigger their effect before degrading. This point is pertinent only to the “Ice Cream” joker, as all other degrading jokers degrade at the end of the round.

Side Notes:

– If you have the “Baseball” joker, the x1.5 multiplier effect triggers immediately after the uncommon joker’s effects take place, although the x1.5 multiplier animation occurs on the “Baseball” joker.

Note on Wild Cards:

Cards featuring the “Wild Card” enhancement are considered to belong to all four suits simultaneously. Consequently:

1. They are debuffed when facing any of “The Goad,” “The Club,” “The Window,” and “The Head” blinds.
2. Having a Heart/Diamond Wild Card in hand does not prevent Blackboard’s effect.
3. They trigger all “played cards with X suit” effects.
4. Discarding them always upgrades the “Castle” joker.

Verification is required to confirm whether a single Wild Card is sufficient to trigger the effects of the “Flower Pot” and “Seeing Double” jokers.

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Afterword and Tips:

After navigating through the four extensive phases, we arrive at our grand chip/multiplier numbers. As highlighted in the overview, the final score is simply calculated as Chip x Mult – no magic involved, just straightforward mathematics.

While winning runs is a comprehensive topic deserving a separate guide, I’ll share one score-related tip: a successful deck should have a reliable method for acquiring both chips and multipliers. The game facilitates reaching 100 chips/100 multipliers more easily than achieving imbalanced combinations like 1000 chips/10 multipliers or 10 chips/1000 multipliers – all three scenarios yield the same final score. If you delve into the calculations, Plasma Deck’s balancing of Chips and Mult (i.e., X chips x Y multipliers becomes Z chips and Z multipliers, where X + Y = 2Z) never diminishes the final score.

Understanding the order of evaluation for each mechanic helps identify combinations that do and don’t work. A specific note on glass and steel cards: since they take effect in phases 2 and 3, respectively, they may not synergize well with jokers providing a flat +multiplier, as such jokers take effect in phase 4.

Additional Points to Consider:

  1. Raised Fist Joker: Functions similarly to a held-in-hand card effect, allowing it to receive additional triggers from Red Seal and Mime. However, it does not trigger if the target card is debuffed.
  2. Blackboard: Triggers even with an empty hand. However, it does not activate if there are any stone cards present.
  3. Wild Card: Contrary to previous information, it does trigger the Seeing Double joker.
  4. Plasma Deck’s Effect: While the Plasma Deck’s effect doesn’t reduce the final score, it’s important to note that the deck needs at least 2x the score for blinds. The Plasma Deck gains more than 2x the score when the chip/multiplier imbalance is greater than approximately 5.83 (3 + 2 * sqrt(2)) times the other.

I plan to update this guide in my spare time, incorporating a list of score-affecting jokers in relevant sections and including pictures to enhance the guide’s clarity. Feel free to share any corrections and constructive comments, and stay tuned for my future guides.

Cheers, and enjoy playing the game!

Last Updated on March 12, 2024

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