Dealing With Shrinking Keno Pay Tables

Feb 9, 2010 5:02 PM

We’ve had several readers ask about keno pay tables, and whether it’s worth playing machines with the "bad" ones.

Naturally, you should always play a machine with the highest possible pay table. (That being said, I had an interesting – and lucrative – experience in a Las Vegas casino last weekend; I’ll share the experience at the end of this report.)

Unfortunately, depending on your jurisdiction or casino, you may not always have access to the best-paying keno machines.

In those situations, it’s crucial that you play keno machines that offer major jackpots within at least 5 percent of a "standard" pay table.

Thus, if you hit something like 7-out-of-7 or 8-out-of-9 or 10-out-of-10, you get to take home a nice chunk of change, along with a W-2G. And a fistful of dollars makes up for a few credits lost along the way.

For instance, many of the keno machines in Las Vegas have gone to pay tables that "fudge" a little with the smaller payouts, but they’ve retained the top awards. These machines, represented by Column B in the chart, have a payback percentage of about 89 percent, down from the standard 92 percent pay tables.

I compiled this chart last week, after checking around the neighborhood casinos in Las Vegas. The three machines represented include the standard keno table (though these have become an endangered species), a table with reduced pay offs and a table from an older machine that actually pays MORE than the standard table.

As you can see from the chart, if you’re playing a 9-spot, you’re going to receive a few less credits for catching 6-of-9, and about 10 percent less when you hit 7-of-9. But the 8-of-9 jackpot still pays 4,700-to-1, even though the top jackpot (9-out-of-9) is reduced from 10,000 to 9,000.

These lower-paying machines are playable, if you can’t find anything better, with the cost to you being a higher "breakage" factor. The lower payback means you, in theory, will have to play longer and spend more money to hit a given jackpot.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t sit down at a machine and immediately hit the top payoff. It happens every day.

But that’s the nature of gambling; and it’s not a function of the paytable.

A few more observations about the reduced pay tables: the drop-off for hitting 6-of-7 is significant, from about 400 credits to 335. Also, the award for catching 7-of-8 slips from 1652 to about 1450 credits.

Nonetheless, you can probably live with these lower payoffs, assuming you can’t find the better pay tables.

Incidentally, that higher-paying table can be found on several Game King keno machines at Arizona Charlie’s casino, among others, in Las Vegas.

Now, getting back to my "lucrative" experience last weekend, I was playing a keno machine with the "bad" pay table when I caught 8-of-9 for a nice hand-pay jackpot.

I’ve included a photo of the winning keno screen, and as you can see, the pattern is consistent with the clusters I’ve been discussing recently – it used the eight "cross-over" numbers in the last two columns, coupled with one "orphan" number at the top of the third column from the right.

As you can see, the machine filled in seven of the eight core numbers, along with the orphan kicker.

Let me also note that this machine, for a long time, failed to fill in six of the eight core numbers. All the while it was filling in six of eight in the other clusters – the top and bottom boxes, as well as the two columns.

But patience obviously paid off, handsomely at that.