Red Dead Redemption 2 mini-game guide: how to win money at Poker, Blackjack, and Five Finger Fillet

Know when to hold 'em

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Introduction

An outlaw that doesn’t gamble is like a cowboy that doesn’t ride a horse - and Red Dead Redemption 2 offers you plenty of ways to flutter away the dollars you amass on your travels across the Wild West.

It has four mini-games that tempt you with a chance to win cash: Poker, Blackjack, Dominoes and knife game Five Finger Fillet. If you’re new to them then they might seem confusing, especially as Rockstar basically throws all the rules at you at once and expects you to figure it out on your own.

But don’t worry, because in this article we’ve gathered all the tips and tricks you’ll need to have fun while walking away with a profit. Here’s our guide to Red Dead Redemption 2’s mini-games.

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Five Finger Fillet

What is it?

The most reliable mini-game for making money because it involves zero luck: it just relies on you being able to press controller buttons quickly. The aim is to tap a knife in the gaps between your fingers in succession, returning to your thumb after every tap.

At every table you’ll face several opponents in turn, each with faster reactions than the last. It has several variations to master, but you don’t need to worry about the difference: it all comes down to being quicker than your opponent and avoiding stabbing yourself in the knuckle by accident. 

What’s the best way to win?

The best way to win is to hold R2/RT when your opponent takes the blade - they’ll always go first - and pay attention to the button sequence they’re following, because yours will be the same. To start, it’ll be something easy, like X, Triangle, X, Triangle, X, Triangle, etc, but then it’ll become more random. The thumb tap is always X (or A on Xbox One) so you only need to remember five other buttons. 

During your opponent’s turn, repeat the pattern over and over in your head - we find it useful to whisper it out loud - and then just focus on pressing the right buttons when it’s your go without paying too much attention to Arthur on-screen. In fact, simply looking at your controller rather than your TV can prove helpful when it’s your turn to slice and dice.

Where can I play?

Your first chance will be in the smaller saloon in Valentine - you’ll visit it near the start of the game. Later, you’ll also find Five Finger Fillet tables in Strawberry and Van Horn. Once you’ve defeated all the opponents at a table, you’ll have to wait six hours before returning. 

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Poker

What is it?

Red Dead Redemption 2’s saloons favor Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, where each player starts with two cards. After a round of betting, three ‘community’ cards are dealt into the middle, which everyone can use to make a hand. Two more cards arrive after two more rounds of betting, and then you must make the best five-card hand with the seven cards available (two in your hand plus five in the middle).

During each betting round you can bet, fold your cards or, if nobody has bet yet, ‘check’, which means you stay in the hand for free. When someone bets you can call for the same amount, raise them with more money, or fold. You win by having a better hand than every other player at the end of a round, or if everybody else folds before that. 

If you’re a beginner, familiarize yourself with the ranking of Poker Hands, which you’ll find in the game’s ‘help’ section. Basically you want at least a high pair, and preferably more. 

What’s the best way to win?

Poker is an endlessly complex game full of strategy and trickery -but don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to win in Red Dead 2. All it requires is a bit of patience. The gunslingers you’re up against are mostly loose cannons that will happily throw all their chips into the middle with absolutely nothing.

It’s therefore hard to bluff them, because they’ll simply call your bet - but they’ll also call your bets when you have good cards, too. All you need to do is wait for decent starting duo such as high pairs or two high cards (if you’re really interested, you can find a full ranking of the best two starting cards here), and don’t be afraid to bet big late in rounds. These suckers will pay you off.

Where can I play?

Again, Valentine is a good starting point: once you’ve played through a bit of Chapter 2, it’ll unlock in the saloon there. You can also play in Blackwater, Tumbleweed and Flatneck Station.

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Dominoes

What is it?

The most relaxing mini-game in Red Dead 2, we reckon. You’re only playing for a couple of dollars at a time, and there’s something serene about sitting at the wooden board with two old boys, lining up your dominoes in front of you while the sun sets in the distance. 

Dominoes has a few game modes that shake up the rules, which we’ll go on to in a sec, but at its most basic you’re placing your dominoes on the board one at a time, and you can only put a domino down if matches one of the available tiles, which are the ones at either end of the domino chain. If there is a 5 at one end and a 3 at the other, you can only place dominoes that have a 5 or 3 on them. Got it?

What’s the best way to win?

Most of the time, you’ll be playing either Draw or Block dominoes: the aim here is to get rid of all your tiles first. In terms of strategy, you want to focus on three things.

Firstly, you want to keep as many options in your hand as possible so that you can play a tile no matter what the situation. If you don’t have a tile that matches board, you have to collect another one (in Draw) or pass (in Block). To that end, get rid of pairs early on, because they only provide one possible match.

Second, play high-value dominoes early. When one person gets rid of all their tiles, the values of the dominoes in the other two players’ hands are added up and the winner gets that number of points. Keep a 6-1 over a 6-5, for example, just in case somebody else wins.

Lastly, try to work out what your opponents have. If they pass when there’s a 3 at one end of the board and a 5 at the other, you know they have no 5s and 3s: use that knowledge to your advantage later.

What about points dominoes?

Red Dead also contains ‘All Threes’ and ‘All Fives’ variants of dominoes. Again, the game ends when one person gets rid of their tiles, but this time you can score points every time you place a tile. In All Threes, you get points if the open ends (ie, the dominoes you can play next to) add up to a multiple of three after you lay a tile - for All Fives, it’s a multiple of five. The number of points is the sum of the numbers at the open ends, so if you make them 3, 5 and 1 you’ll get nine points, for instance.

Now, this seems complicated, but don’t panic. Basically, you want to focus on scoring plays, creating chances for multiples of threes or fives. Again, get rid of doubles early to keep your options open, and make sure you try to work out what your opponent has. If you want to play defensively (you’re ahead but don’t have many scoring options, for example), you might want to replace high numbers at open ends with low ones so that your opponent scores fewer points. If the open ends are 3-2-6, for example, turning that 6 into a 1 could help maintain your lead.

Oh, and one last thing: Block and Draw dominoes only have two open ends, spreading out from the middle, whereas points dominoes has up to four, with two new lines spreading out from the first double. Think of Block and Draw as a long line, but points dominoes as a big plus sign. Don’t worry - you’ll get the hang of it.

Where can I play?

Emerald Station (a short train from Valentine), Blackwater or Saint Denis. 

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Blackjack

What is it?

A casino favorite in which you start with two cards and the aim is to get closer to 21 than the dealer. After receiving your cards, you have the option of taking more, one at a time, until you’re satisfied with your hand. Picture cards are worth ten points.

However, if you get more than 21, you go bust and lose your bet, so it’s a balancing act. If you have a 10 and a 6 you could take another card in the hope of getting a 5 or lower, or you could stick on 16 and hope the dealer goes bust.

The dealer can only play one way: if they have less than 17, they must ‘hit’ (take another card), but if they have 17 or over, they must stick. Aces can count as 1 or 11, depending on what suits your hand best, and the dealer starts with one card visible.

What’s the best way to win?

Blackjack relies a lot on luck, but you can tilt the odds in your favor. If you have 17 or above, just stick - it can be tempting, but it’s not worth the risk (unless you’re counting an Ace as 11, because you can switch it to a 1 instead if you go above 21).

If you’re at 11 or below, take another card. There are more 10-scoring cards than any other in the deck, and you have a good chance of landing one.

For everything between 12 and 16 inclusive, you should decide whether to hit or stick based on that lone dealer card that you can see. Basically, the age-old rules is: if the dealer has between 2 and 6 visible, hit, but if they are showing seven through Ace, stick. The maths checks out, trust me.

Never place an insurance bet (you get the option if a dealer is showing an Ace) and consider ‘doubling down’ if your first two cards add up to 11, which basically means you can double your bet to get exactly one more card. Pray for a 10 or picture card.

Or alternatively, just go mad, smack five dollars down on every hand and don’t stop hitting cards until you’re 21 or bust. It’s up to you!

Where can I play?

Blackwater, Rhodes and Van Horn.