You can't go wrong playing keno at the California hotel

August 20, 2013 3:09 AM


California Hotel and Casino With tournaments coming up four times a year at downtown California Hotel, I thought I would show you another tourney ticket you might like to try.

The Cal has the “Island” rate, which is the equivalent of the “Pop 80” rate common in downtown Las Vegas. It has a good return of about 75% on most tickets, some a bit higher. The rate is based on 80 cents per game but is allowed at 40 cents a way and, depending on the casino and the number of ways you play, often is allowed at 20 cents per way.

My gambling strategy: Have fun, be smart

When gambling think loss rate, not payback

At tournaments, you normally favor the high-end payouts but it is nice to get some return from the less-than-solid hits as well so you go home with some money.

A suggested ticket is groups of 2-2-2-1-1-1 played at either 40 cents a way or 20 cents a way, if allowed. There are 20 total ways if you play for the sixes and up, consisting of one 9, three 8’s, six 7’s, and ten 6’s.

While the odds of hitting a 9-of-9 are quite steep (1,380,687:1), the odds of hitting the lesser number of spots are easier, especially since you are playing several ways. Let’s take hitting 6 of 9 with odds of 174:1.

There are (9*8*7)/(3*2*1) = 84 possible ways to hit 6 of 9 with 10 of these being the “right” way, that is a solid 6. Thus, once about every 174 games you hit 6 of 9 (on average, you might hit it more than once or not at all) and about 1 in 8 of these times (10/84) you hit the 6-of-9 in such a way as to catch a SOLID 6.

Of course, even if you do not catch 6 solid there are LOTS of small pays. Let’s use a common example. Say from your groups of 2-2-2-1-1-1 you hit six numbers as follows from the groups: 2-1-1-1-1-0.

At 20 cents a way (ticket cost of $4) you get paid $7.50 for the 6-of-9. You also hit 6 of 8, which pays $15. Plus you get paid for two 5-of-8’s at $1.50 each, which totals $3. In addition you have several small pays for the several 4-of-7’s and 5-of-7’s. Lastly you get paid for a few 4-of-6’s and a few 3-of-6’s.

Of course, should you hit the six solid, such as 2-2-2-0-0-0 or 2-2-0-1-1-0 or similar, you get $500 for the solid 6 and a whole lot of lesser pays.

If you hit 7-of-9 (odds of 1,689:1) and you hit 7 the right way, that pays $3,500. And, if you hit 7 the right way you have to also hit a SOLID 6 for another $500.

Should you happen to hit seven as follows: 0-2-2-1-1-1, not only do you hit a SOLID 7 but you also hit three SOLID 6’s, and still have a host of the smaller pays as well.

This is another good example of the power of kings and deuces in keno. By the way, for those of you who can handle $20 a game ($1 a way, different pay tables) this ticket is also a good way to chase Station Casino’s 6-, 7-, 8- and 9-spot progressives.

The Cal throws in prize money and food to those who enter, as well making the return even better with, depending on past play, free or discounted rooms, subject to availability.

The tournament is by invitation but usually a call to the keno department of The Cal will result in an invite, subject to availability. The buy-in is $500. You keep all you win plus, if you place, get prize money, too, as well as food and room deals.

The writers at The Cal are very knowledgeable and friendly, and Carolyn runs a great keno game. Check it out! You might see me there for one of their tourneys later this year.

They also have competitive video poker pay tables to enjoy while waiting for your numbers to come in. Even better, if from out of town the CAT bus goes directly from the airport to within a block of the hotel. That’s convenience.

This is keno at its finest. Yours truly had a great hit there in 2004. Best of luck, and may your numbers light up the board!

Pesach Kremen is a former UNLV Masters Gaming student, has won and placed in multiple local keno tournaments, and has written several academic papers on Keno. You can reach him at

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