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A Gamblin’ Man in Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Thomas Posted:
Editorials Not So MMO 0

Like many, I had a ton of trouble getting Red Dead Redemption 2 to work after the PC release.  After much troubleshooting, updating, rebooting, and sacrificing not a few chickens to the gods of virtual voodoo, I finally got it working.  Of course, after most of a week trying to get it to run at all, now it runs fine and there wasn’t even a patch to explain it.   I’m walking away from my aggravation and focusing on one of the things I’ve enjoyed about the game because… well, I just try not to be negative as often as I can.   Takes more thought to put that aside, so that’s where I’d like to go with these articles.  

I’m taking a walk down the broken trail of Texas Hold’em to give some of those who might like to pick up the cards in-game a bit of advice.  After playing through the weekend, I’ve noted a number of key tips that might help keep some of you from going bust at the table.   Some of this is general poker advice, but there are some key differences you should know about between the virtual and real worlds, as well.

In La Canta de Kenny Rogers, we’re given the holy words of Lady Luck and our path towards quick riches is laid out plain for the faithful.  Sit back and relax while I break it down for you and then you too can follow where Red led in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Not all saloons have a poker table, but sometimes you just need to wash the dust out of your mouth.

Know When to Hold’em

There’s a tightrope to walk when playing poker.  Much like going to the grocery store and not coming home with tons of crap you didn’t need, you have to have a plan before you go in.  Once you’re in, you stick to the plan.  Poker is a game that plays on your emotions without even trying, so it’s that much more important that you develop a strategy and stick to it, no matter what.

A key moment in Hold’em is the betting between dealing the players and the flop (when the first three cards are dealt to the table for all players to use in making their hands).  Be willing to throw weak cards away if you haven’t put anything down, because you’re getting rid of a bad hand for free.  If I’m big or small blind or I’ve thrown down an ante, I’ll always call or go up to maybe $.30 to see the flop.  Bad cards can sometimes become a pair after the flop, so that’s worth sticking around for if it’s not costing you too much.

If I have an Ace or a King, I’m willing to go up to $.40 or $.50 to see the flop because any pair would be a higher pair with good value.  If you manage a pocket pair, ride it.  A pair in your hand is incredibly rare.   The river can eventually devalue it by making other combinations more likely, but if you get dealt a pair, you’re in good shape to be aggressive in the early part of the hand.

Don’t be too aggressive, though.   Know when to hold back and play it slow.  The goal is to get as many players as possible to continue contributing to the pot.  You’re better off with smaller and iterative raises, rather than single huge raises.  There are players that will go max bet at the drop of a hat, but there are also those who would quickly backout if faced with a sudden huge raise.  The trick is like the frog in the pot, turn the water up slowly.

Drag players along with slow steady raises, and then when you raise that last $.20 after the river’s been laid out to hit max, you’re more likely to have the other players with you on it.  It’s easy to rationalize a few cents more when you’ve already got four bucks and change in the pot than it is to take a three-dollar raise.

Max raises pushed a high-dollar player away from the table, and these idiots kept maxing every hand before the flop.   I just waited until I had pairs and then proceeded to skin them.

On that note, we circle back to the first thing I said in this section.  Have a plan and stick to it.  If the hand just became one you wouldn’t bet on, don’t bet.  It doesn’t matter if it’s only a ten-cent raise, just fold.   That’s how you get suckered in to losing more cash than you needed to, and poker is all about losing money slowly until the time is right to recapture some of it.

In fact, if you go into the game with that thought, it’ll help you a lot.  You’re paying each hand to see what the next card is.  That’s all.  If the next card isn’t worth the current bet, fold.  Losing money for several hands is fine, don’t give up.  I was down $20 last night after folding hand after hand until I hit a good streak again.  I walked away with over $60, so it’s a game plan that works, as hard as it is to stick to it.

Know When to Fold’em

Discretion is one of the often over-looked aspects of good poker-players.  Understanding the odds of someone having a better hand is key, and it’s made a little easier in Red Dead due to the shortcut that lists order of winning hands for you.  What it doesn’t list are the odds of each hand occurring, which of course are modified over time as cards are dealt and players fold.

The odds of seeing a pair in each hand is really good.  Two pair isn’t common, and three pair is pretty rare.  Everything else is incredibly unlikely, but they happen.  That’s good because you know with a pair of Kings that you have a little better than even odds of winning the hand, and a three of a kind will win nearly every time.

That also means your 8 and 9 are pretty unlikely to turn into a Straight, though.  Don’t bet heavily on it happening, because it’s not likely.   If you can get by with checking and calling on a dime a card to see the next card in the river, then that might be worth doing.  Don’t make a bad bet in the hopes that you’ll nail that Straight or Flush some time after the flop, though. 

This 10 and Jack of Clubs is a decent hand because I could pull either a Straight or a Flush, assuming I don’t get a pair.   I’d pay fifty cents to see a flop with a hand like this.  Not much more than that, though.

There are two exceptions to that in my own style.  If I have two cards in series of the same suit, I treat it like I would being dealt a King or Ace.  There are two ways I could end up with a very high hand, and there’s always a fair chance of getting a pair out of it, so the risk with worth it up to a point.  Even then, I’m unlikely to raise more than a dollar unless the flop gets me two of the missing cards for the hand.   If I have two more cards (the turn and the river) to pick up whatever I’m missing, then I willing to take a shot on a Flush, and more reserved on trying for the Straight.

Otherwise, I fold.  I fold a little more often than I would in a real game because players in RDR2 are harder to bluff.   Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that, but rather just that they’re oblivious.  They’ll regularly max bet even before the flop, which I’d never call on unless you had pocket Aces or on very rare occasion maybe pocket Kings.  Players will often max bet on a single pocket Ace and there’s too much chance of that turning into a pair or even two pair on occasion.  Just punch the eject button and wait for the next hand.  Those players are easy to sucker into bad bets, so just bide your time.

Another no-no is big raises from the middle table.   As I said earlier, keep your raises small and periodic to pull in the most cash from the table, but be extra cautious when you’re earlier in the hand.   If you raise after everyone else has called on a more modest raise, then you’re more likely to get more players calling.  If you’re in the middle and raise, that modest sum you raised on makes it a larger sum for those after you and they’re more likely to fold at the larger amount.

Know When to Walk Away

One other thing that I try to do, but that probably isn’t common, is I try to keep the pot under $20.  If you go over that, the house starts taking a percentage of the winnings.  That means each wager is worth slightly less, and it’s also pulling money out of the game.  A very smart idea on Rockstar’s point, but I don’t like paying taxes to faceless entities.  Keep the pots under $20 if you can, and then you don’t have to worry about it.

Some games just won’t ever go your way, and that’s alright.  If you’re busting more often than not, you’re not folding enough, though.  If you’re just breaking even, you’re doing great.  That’s the right place to be in order to start learning and getting better.

The most important advice is the piece about having a plan and sticking to it, but the second most important thing is to know when to walk away.  As long as I’m over $20, I’m willing to call it when I get bored.  It’s worth the five bucks to just go do something else for a while sometimes.  If I’m less than that, I’ll ride it out to the end.  As long as I have a dollar, I’ve got enough to keep going, so I never recommend quitting when you’re down unless your time is worth the delta.   Otherwise, you’re just giving into emotions, and poker punishes emotions.

On the other hand, once you’ve won big and you’re up, I actually recommend you quit or start focusing on playing conservatively.  Money naturally doesn’t have the same value when you’ve won above what you walked in with and it’s easy to make bad bets.   Either walk away on the high, or really focus on not being aggressive.   Your game should slow down when you’re up and the big wins come when you actually have killer hands and can sucker people into betting more than they should.  Since players rotate frequently, you should have enough new players at the table to do that relatively consistently.

My rule of thumb is that if I lose 10% of my max winnings, I evaluate the situation.  If I stay, I’m leaving once I’m back down to the $25 I came in with and I’m effectively saying the time is worth the difference.   If I don’t expect to have enough fun to be worth that delta or if I’m even on the fence, then I just pack it up and head out.   Gambling is one of those things that ebbs and flows over time.  If you’re doing it for the money, you have to leave when you’re high.  Otherwise, you’re doing it for fun and it doesn’t really matter.


For the most part, those are my basic rules for playing poke in Red Dead Redemption 2 and I hope you’ve found it helpful.   I definitely had a little trouble getting going because the players weren’t playing the way I expected.  Digital money has less value and so players are a lot more likely to be hyper aggressive in RDR2.  Use that to your advantage and fleece a few sheep for the extra cash-flow.

Even if making cash isn’t your main reason for playing poker in the game, and frankly cash is probably faster made in several other ways, you can still use these concepts to prolong your own time in the game and you should be able to play fairly indefinitely.  You’ll still get the occasional bout of bad luck, but I’ve definitely come out ahead over time applying these principles.   I hope you do too.

The last piece of advice that I’ll leave you with is that there are master classes by famous Hold’em players online.   If you really want to skin folks in RDR2, you might want to look those up.  Knowing how to calculate the value of hands and odds are just as valuable in the game as they are in real life.  A good understanding of the actual game will make you a shark in food-filled waters.   Just remember that players are hyper aggressive to other players and are not likely to be bluffed because some idiot at the table will always call whether he has the hand or not. 

Happy feeding, friends!


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.