Playing keno seek 'pop 80 rate' in tracking payouts

January 14, 2014 3:09 AM


keno at a casino live keno betting strategies Las Vegas Casinos It has been said that sooner or later your numbers will come up. The question of course is: Were you in the game then?

A typical Las Vegas stay is about 3 days and 3 nights. There are many 24-hour keno operations. Let’s see if there is a way to get in as many games as possible so perhaps you do have a real chance to hit it big.

Keep in mind though, the more games you play the more it will probably cost. Of course, promotions, freebies, and comps can significantly assist your bankroll. Playing low PC tickets is another great way to make your money last longer.

With the advent of the Internet, companies can report keno wins online and hotel rooms using a TV channel can show their games. This enables you to track your results anywhere. It makes the idea of always having a ticket in action more promising.

First of all, decide your objective. Is it small frequent wins, a moderate win, or the big score? Of course we try to do all of the above; not easy. Choose what works best for you and your bankroll.

For purposes of today’s column I will use a casino that makes this possible – the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. Their game is open 24/7 and they have about seven different pay rates. There is a special rate that pays in the 85% return area, and also 40-cent keno using the “pop 80 rate” pay table.

The pop 80 rate is a common pay table used downtown that is based on 80 cents per game. It offers paybacks in the mid 70’s, percentage wise. At The D it is higher, in the 80% range, under their Deano rate. Many places will allow 20 cents a way or even 10 cents a way (The D) if enough ways are played.

Here is what I may try on my next trip. Generally, I like to watch my games and not just look up results. However, my biggest keno hit ($16K in 2004) happened while I was at the buffet in the adjacent hotel, which did not have a keno board.

I hit the win at the excellent game at the California, run by Carolyn Bankston, and was eating at the Main Street Station buffet at the time.

For times when I am sleeping, away at jiujitsu training (Cobra Kai is an excellent place to train in Vegas) or visiting other places in town (very easy to do with the Cat Transit system of Express, offering 24/7 service on many routes and new, clean buses) I play a multi-game ticket at the 40-cent rate to stay in on the action.

I suggest a 7-spot as it pays $7,000 for 7-of-7. If I have the money, I will play the $1.15 Special 7-spot as it pays on 3-of-7 and has a top pay of $10,000 with an overall return of 85%.

Using CAT with the monorail and free shuttles available makes getting around town to try all your favorite keno establishments really easy, on the Strip, downtown, and the locals casinos. But while traversing Vegas these tickets are in action.

The second type of keno play is when I am in the casino but not in the keno lounge area. At the El Cortez this might be the excellent Flame restaurant or their 24/7 coffee shop. The latter is adjacent to the keno lounge, thus you can play fairly actively while in the coffee shop. In this case, when I am at the facility where I see the boards with results each and every game I tend to play way tickets to get more action.

A Special ticket of 3-2-2 groups gives you one 7, two 5’s, and one 4, which at the excellent $1.15 special rate has a cost of $4.60 per game. If this is too much, use the 40-cent rate, also play the 3-spot and you are playing at $2 per game. Show your slot card to get comp credit while playing.

Let’s say you want to play from your room. No problem. They have keno on the TV. Their Cabana Tower across Ogden Street is 100% non-smoking, has beautiful rooms with refrigerators, a small workout room on the first floor, and a very quiet, relaxing atmosphere.

Their excellent host Nords Malilay is super helpful to regular players at the casino. Since they have 3-to-2 blackjack, multiple odds on craps, and some video poker pay tables up to 100% (with proper play) your money goes a long way at El Cortez.

There is a bus stop adjacent for the BHX (Boulder Highway Express) and less than two blocks away you can board The Deuce to the Strip, all the while having your keno tickets in action. What does it feel like to hit 7-of-7 while riding the bus?!

Now let’s get to the gravy, which is playing in the keno lounge, from the non-smoking area, of course. Here there are all types of ways to make it more fun and interesting, with greater chances to win. If you get thirsty, don’t worry, cocktail servers frequent the keno lounge, and as mentioned, if you get hungry the 24/7 coffee shop is adjacent.

Here is what I might do, bankroll permitting. For maximum action my favorite ticket is a deuce-king (group of two-group of one) ticket, which I would play at the 40-cent rate at 20 cents a way with groups of 2-2-1-1-1-1. Total cost would be $5.

You have one 8, four 7’s, eight 6’s, and twelve 5’s – loads of action for $5 a game. Don’t spill your soup if you hit 2-2-1-1-0-0 or better while eating! By the way, if you hit in this manner you will have a SOLID 6 and four SOLID 5’s.

A hit of this type at Fitzgerald’s (now The D) at 40 cents a way at their Truly Special rate (now the Deano rate) enabled me to get first place in their Sizzling Summer Keno tournament in 2004.

If you want to splurge more for a chance at an even bigger win, try one 8 and eight 7’s, all at the high return rate of 85%. Total ticket cost would be $10.35 per game. Hit 7-of-8 and you have hit it big as you have a SOLID 7.

A hit like this would give you $1,700 for the 7-of-8, $10,000 for the 7-of-7, and $300 for each of the seven 6-of-7’s hit for a total of $13,800 ($1,700 + $10,000 + 7 X $300). If you hit that please invite me to your victory dinner at the Flame.

It is also allowed to mix pay rates on a ticket, a combination ticket. For example, you could play the 8 at the $1.15 rate and the 7’s at the 40-cent rate. Just make sure to mark this on your ticket. For example: 1/8 at $1.15 rate, 8/7 at 80 cents (using 40 cent rate).

When at the counter, make sure also, in a pleasant way, that the keno writer knows exactly what you want as the computer generated ticket governs the payout, regardless of whether you or the keno writer made the mistake.

It is also important to know how to calculate the number of ways and the proper payoffs as there have been cases where faulty data was entered into the casino computer or the computer language GIGO (garbage in garbage out) was inadvertently used.

I have had several inquiries about what I feel are the best keno books. I suggest “Keno Winning Ways” (Wayne McClure), “Lottery and Keno Winning Strategies” (Wayne McClure), “Keno Handbook” (Jim Claussen) and “Winning Keno” (David Cowles). The Gamblers Book Club ( as well as some book web sites (Amazon, B & N, etc.) have some of these books. However, some are out of print, so be sure to check the used book offerings as well.

Go out there, play ‘round the clock keno and hit it big!

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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