There’s rarely a consensus regarding the best video game of any given decade, or even year. Over the last 10 or 15 years however, not many titles could come closer to that consensus than Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar’s open-world Old West epic was a marvel when it came out, and –– due respect to triumphant recent releases like Elden Ring, which we highlighted just recently –– it’s hard to argue there’s been a better game since.
Some of what makes any accomplished game great is always intangible; it’s simply a blast to play Red Dead Redemption 2, and that’s that. However, it is also the game’s virtually unrivaled combination of scope and detail that make it stand out. A review at GamesRadar.com (citing the game as one that defined the 2010s put it slightly differently, noting that the game “captures a sense of time and place” unlike any other. And this, as we see it, is thanks to the little things. Playing Red Dead Redemption 2 feels like diving into the Old West to live out a life of adventure, whether or not you focus on the core missions of the game.
This wouldn’t be the case were it not for all of the little things you can do in RDR2. And one of the most interesting of those little things –– functioning almost like a side game within the game –– is take on the poker circuit. Unlike past games in the Far Cry and Grand Theft Auto series that have tossed in poker activity as a sort of side gimmick, RDR2 presents it as a part of the in-game society, and something your character can regularly engage in. So, for those who never gave poker in the game much thought –– or who may simply want to play through this extraordinary video game all over again –– we’ve decided to provide something of a breakdown of how to navigate the Old West poker circuit….
Learn Texas Hold’em
First, you’ll need to learn the style of poker that’s played in RDR2, if you don’t know it already. Specifically, that means learning how to play no-limit Hold’em. This is a style of poker in which each player is dealt two cards –– their hole cards –– to begin play. There is then a sequence of betting in which players decide whether or not to buy into the game based on those hole cards. For the players who remain in, the dealer lays out three cards in a community area, such that everyone can use them at once to complete a five-card hand. This kicks off another betting sequence, before a fourth card (and more bets) and a fifth card are laid down. From that point, final bets are placed and remaining players show their cards.
As to the specific no-limit distinction, Poker.org’s guide to No-limit Texas Hold’em explains that this simply means players “can wager up to the size of their stack at any point in the hand.” This is where we get the popular poker phrase “all-in.” At any point in the hand, any player can push every last one of their chips into the pile, such that they either double up by winning, force others to fold, or find themselves all out.
Figure Out Where To Play
We mentioned that part of the appeal of poker in RDR2 is that it’s more of a circuit than a lazy side gimmick. This doesn’t mean there’s a tournament or league structure to it, but it does mean there are different places to play, with different buy-ins.
For $2.50 games, you can head to the in-game locations of Flatneck Station, Tumbleweed, or Valentine. For $5 games, you’ll want to venture to Saint Denis or Blackwater Hotel (the latter of which seems to get the most attention regarding RDR2’s in-game poker). A brief look at RDR2’s poker at IGN.com points out that you can also play at camp, and there are indeed some more informal games with fellow gamblers that can pop up in these settings. And finally, you can also play on the Grand Korrigan riverboat –– but only during the mission dubbed “A Fine Night Of Debauchery.”
Figure Out Why To Play
Aside from having a bit of fun, you’re first playing for money. We mentioned the buy-ins above, and while they’re not particularly high, they do make for enjoyable ways to rack up some extra capital for your cowboy (if you know what you’re doing!). Just bear in mind you can always lose those antes, too.
There are also some opportunities to play for special perks and achievements. If you’re playing solo for instance, the Blackwater Hotel poker tables offer you something called the “Social Club Challenge,” wherein if you always bet less than what’s in the pot, win two hands by bluffing, and directly knock at least one opponent out of the game, you win access to the Punchout cheat –– a nifty tool that lets you punch out bad guys with one hit.
Take The Game Online
When many talk about Red Dead Redemption 2 these days, they’re actually referring to activity within Red Dead Online. This is basically a more collaborative multiplayer side platform of the game in which people can link up online to enjoy a huge variety of activities together. And here too, it’s possible to play poker. Red Dead Online takes you out of the full open-world setup, so you won’t simply journey to one of the aforementioned locations to play. But you can open up multiplayer menus from saloons, select opponents, and set up games (either with friends at “private” tables or against strangers at “public” ones). And yes, you can make money off of your opponents!
Put Cheating Out Of Your Head
The only real downside to RDR2’s poker circuit is that you can no longer cheat. In the original Red Dead Redemption game, cheating was very much an option, provided you were equipped with the so-called “Elegant Suit.” And players tended to enjoy it, because it could spark brawls and general mayhem. This isn’t on the table anymore in RDR2, which is a bit of a shame from a pure fun standpoint, but does make the poker action more realistic (though perhaps not by Old West standards….).
And there you have it! Poker may only be a small part of this massive and magnificent game, but it also goes far beyond what the average mini-game provides. Dive into the circuit and you may just find a whole new reason to enjoy Red Dead Redemption 2.