Regular or "live" keno moves at the rate of about 12 games an hour. It can’t be played faster, because of the time it takes to write up tickets and the time needed for all of the keno runners to complete their rounds.
With video keno you can set your own pace, but you can expect to play up to 10 to 12 games per minute. And, of course, the more games you play, the more chances you have of winning.
Video keno games are laid out much like a paper keno ticket, with 10 columns and eight rows displaying numbers 1 through 80.
The numbers you select and the numbers picked by the machine are indicated on this screen.
The current versions of video keno have only one screen, comparable to the lower screen of the older two-screen versions.
The payoffs are displayed when you touch the box marked "paytables."
Video keno payoffs will vary from casino to casino and sometimes from machine to machine, so it’s always a good idea to be sure you’re playing a machine that will give you the maximum payoff for your coins.
Some machines have interesting sound effects followed by a loud ringing sound when a jackpot is hit. This is to call attention to the fact that someone has won and to encourage others to play.
Video keno is very easy to play. The machines come in virtually all denominations, from 1¢ to $1 a game. Plus there are multi-card games, such as Four Card Keno and 20-Card Keno, which can vastly increase your chances of hitting, though your investment is going to be substantially higher, assuming you bet max on all the cards.
In recent years, manufacturers have added features to standard keno games, such as bonus numbers and other ways to win jackpots. These are usually fun to play, but often times the paytables are slightly less than standard games.
You may pick from one to 10 numbers on most machines. Now you’re ready to play: Press the "start" button. The computer will pick 20 numbers at random and they will light up. Hopefully the numbers you picked will be among those 20.
After each game you may continue with the same numbers or erase them and choose new ones.
In addition to individual keno machines, there are machines that are linked together to offer a progressive payoff. These take a portion of the money played on each machine and add it to a progressive jackpot. To win the progressive jackpot, you must play the maximum number of coins and mark the required number of spots. I have seen progressives for eight, nine and ten spots.
Some critics believe video keno doesn’t compare favorably to the highly popular video poker. Admittedly, the payback percentage on keno machines (about 92 percent) might be lower than most poker machines, but that merely translates to a higher "breakage" factor, which means you probably need a larger bankroll to play video keno than video poker.
What really counts are the odds to win. To help illustrate how important this is, let’s look at some of the keno jackpots.
The odds to hit a solid 7-spot is about 40,000-to-1, about the same as hitting a royal flush in poker. But look closely at the payoff. For about the same odds, the solid 7-spot pays an astounding 7,000-1, whereas the royal pays a paltry 800-1.
Here are other examples: The 8-spot has a nice payoff for hitting seven out of eight numbers – $1,652 for four quarters bet. And with odds of 6200-1, the chances of catching seven of eight is nearly seven times greater than hitting a royal flush.
Another way of looking at it: for every royal flush that’s hit, there will be six hand-pay jackpots for hitting seven of eight on a keno machine!
While playing an 8-spot, hitting six of eight numbers, which have odds of about 422-1, results in a $98 payoff with four quarters bet. Those odds are close to what the odds are to hit a natural four of a kind, which pays less than half as much on a jacks or better machine.
Incidentally, the odds of hitting a solid eight are about 230,000-1, but they’re not insurmountable. At the El Cortez, GT columnist Linda Zahm hit the first two 8-spot progressives (on nickel machines!) for payoffs of $6400 and $7900, and have subsequently hit a few solid eights, but most of my most recent wins have come on Four Card Keno games.
The 9-spot ticket also offers a nice jackpot – catching eight of nine results in a nice $4,700 (for four quarters bet). The odds of hitting eight numbers are about 30,600-1, which are about 25% lower than the odds for a royal, but the payoff is still a superior 4700-1 (as opposed to the royal’s 800-1). The 9-spot also offers a seven of nine payout of $335 and, with odds of 1690-1, can often be hit at a sitting.
The 10-spot offers similar attractions: catching eight of 10 is attractive with a payoff of $1,000, but because the odds are about 7300-1, it doesn’t offer the value of hitting a seven of eight, whose odds are actually less (6200-1) while the payoff is actually more ($1,652).
Even though many people like to play the higher-number games, that doesn’t mean you should neglect the smaller number games such as 5-spot, 6-spot or 7-spot keno.
The five and six spots offer great value, and playing those games steadily will result in some nice – and relatively frequent – jackpots. In fact, the five spot offers the best value of any keno game: The payoff of 810-1 is better than the royal flush’s payoff (800-1), but the odds of hitting a solid five are only 1550-1! Remember, the odds of hitting a royal are about 41,000-1, so this difference can be interpreted to mean that for every royal flush, you should hit 26 solid five spots!