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Keno is more than just jotting down numbers on a play slip

Apr 1, 2014 3:09 AM

There are many readers out there who read this column for interest but rarely feel they should play keno as they cry about the high house advantage being unfair or worse, a rip off.

Keno is a more expensive game to run, being labor intensive, and requires more space than a bunch of “one arm bandits.” If you do not know what a “one arm bandit” is you are not old enough to gamble.

Keno is more than just jotting down some numbers on a play slip (as you do in playing the lottery), waiting for the draw and collecting your money or using your slip for scratch paper.

While keno is a random game, to say no skill is involved is simply not true. While there is no skill required in number selection (as all numbers are equally likely and perceived “patterns” are just the result of statistical fluctuations) there is skill in knowing how to figure and use house percentage to your benefit, how to know which tickets are best to try for a short run versus long run hit, how to use casino specials to your benefit, how to maximize your Keno Komps, and how to play, especially in tournaments.

First of all, knowing house percentage is vital in ANY gambling game, and keno is no exception. The lower the house advantage the longer your money lasts. If your money lasts longer you have a better chance to get comps as more play is recorded on your card (account). As a result, your chance of hitting the BIG one is increased.

Here is an example using a 5-spot “special” taken from actual downtown Las Vegas keno play books. In one casino you pay $3 for the ticket and are paid $60 for a 4-of-5 and $2,000 for the SOLID 5-of-5. In another casino you pay $1.15 and are paid $1.15 for 3-of-5, $22 for 4-of-5, and $1,000 for 5-of-5.

Even without doing the math you can see just by looking that the second casino’s ticket is a much better deal. The math backs this up as the first casino’s ticket has a return of 67.18 percent while the second casino’s ticket has a player return of 87.31 percent.

Where would you play? If you say the first casino please email me (address at bottom of column) as I have a beautiful historic bridge over the East River I would love to sell to you.

If you want to go for $2,000 for a 5-of-5 just play the second casino’s ticket at $2.30 and you get the higher intermediate pays as well. The $60 pay at the first casino for a 4-of-5 does not even begin to even out getting nothing for a 3-of-5 catch as you hit 3-of-5 about 7.5 times more often than a 4-of-5.

It is the policy of this columnist to publicize good “kenotunities” (a word I made up) and just not write about the poor ones in the hope these other casinos will improve their game to make their games worth a column.

In our example above, the second casino is the El Cortez, which has this excellent $1.15 special rate. The first casino will not be mentioned to give them an opportunity (if they read this column) to improve their payouts.

The second item is knowing how to go for what you desire. If you want to buy a boat a SOLID 6 might do the trick, but you will need a SOLID 7 for a yacht, though Las Vegas has not been covered by water for years.(Las Vegas was part of a huge sea years ago and when Noah traveled the world until he landed in Turkey he might have gone over the very spot in Las Vegas on which you were standing.)

We know the odds of a SOLID 6 are 7,752 to one and you don’t plan to play 7,752 games. Even if you do there is about a one in three chance you will not hit it. Of course there are chances you may hit it more than once as well.

But you can reduce the odds, but it will cost you. Just play a ticket with seven kings (a singe circled number as a group), and besides the one 7 you have seven 6s. Now you are only facing odds of 1,381 to one.

If you do catch a 6-of-7, you have your SOLID 6, plus six 5-of-6 hits as well, and the 5-of-7, too.

The king ticket is a VERY powerful ticket. This type of ticket allows you to miss by one and still have a SOLID hit. Of course if you hit all 7 (40,978:1 odds) you have one SOLID 7 and SEVEN SOLID 6s. What a payday! Go for it!

Play the El Cortez $1.15 rate or the “Deano” rate at The D for the highest returns while waiting for the solid hit.

Here’s another word I coined, “Kenotiquet.” It means have your tickets ready before you get to the counter, do not smoke in line or at the ticket counter, write your tickets neatly and correctly, and do not blame the keno writer if your numbers did not come up; after all you chose them.

Have a good time, play within your means, and hope to see you at the June El Cortez tourney if you are in town.

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 [email protected].

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