Here's how to go after that big score in keno tournaments

April 29, 2014 3:09 AM


Keno Tournament Tips Las Vegas Keno Tournaments. Keno tips and strategies Las Vegas Casinos Today we shall discuss tourney tickets for those who would prefer the big score rather than be concerned with getting something back for their tournament investment. To hit it big in Keno you either have to bet large on a small number of spots or play a bigger number of spots on your ticket.

There are also those out there who believe figuring out and using way tickets is too complicated (write me for help c/o this newspaper, email address follows the column, for any help in figuring way tickets) and prefer to have a simple standard ticket that, if it hits SOLID, gives them a big win. In some cases both objectives are possible: that is a big win but also getting something back if you just hit some of the spots.

Let’s use the El Cortez as an example as they have an excellent rate (the $1.15 special rate) that can accomplish both objectives. If you consider hitting it big as $10K, go for the 7-spot; if you need $50K to consider hitting it big go for the 8-spot. In both cases you get paid for hitting about 1/2 of the spots.

In a 30-hour tournament (Friday, June 13, 9 a.m. to Saturday, June 14, 3 p.m.) you will have about 300 games. Thus you can play a few of these straight tickets and have an excellent chance of going home with something and a possibility of going home with the big bucks as well.

The 7-spot is an excellent example. You get your money back on 3-of-7. This happens once every six games or so. Once every 19 games you get paid for 4-of-7. While most places give you your money back for a 4-of-7 hit, the El Cortez gives you $3 for your $1.15 bet.

Once every 116 games, on the average, you hit 5-of-7, returning $20 for your $1.15 bet. Since you are likely to play 100 games this is likely to happen to you. For a hit of 6-of-7 you get $300. The odds of this are 1,366-to-1, which means if you play tournaments regularly this is likely to happen in some of your tournament play.

A 7-of-7 is rarer, once every 40,979 games, but it does happen and with the use of way tickets you can increase the possibilities (of course there is added cost to do so). For what it’s worth, 7-of-7 pays $10,000. Overall payback on this ticket is about 86%, an excellent return for keno. Keep in mind, as it is actually quite a bit more in a tournament if you hit a SOLID 7 you are highly likely to end up getting prize money as well, perhaps even winning the tournament.

Now, for those of you who have greater ambitions, there is the $1.15 8-spot, paying $1.15 for 4-of-8 (odds 11:1), $10 for 5-of-8 (odds 54:1), $90 for 6-of-8 (odds 422:1), $1,700 for 7-of-8 (odds 6,231:1) and $50,000 for a SOLID 8 (odds 230,114:1) plus the prize money you almost definitely will win for such a large hit. Of course, as with other tickets, use of way tickets can lower the odds for an added cost.

Can’t decide which is better for you? There is always a “way,” literally! Play a 3-3-2-2 ticket as two 7s and two 8s for $5.60 per game ($1.15 per way). This would give you 89 games of tournament play for your $500 buy in, but keep in mind there is a 20 game limit per ticket. However, once the 20 games are over you can replay the same ticket if you wish for another 20 games. After a total of 89 games played you would have $1.60 left over (you could play four games at their 40-cent rate on a straight ticket with this remainder).

The nice thing about this “way” of playing is, since you have 10 total numbers, you should hit a bunch of small hits to get something back even if you do not hit a big one. As 10-spot hits (all the numbers) are quite rare I would not be concerned with the house limit. The prize money you will also get will make up for anything lost due the house limit.

I call this ticket my “playing while awake ticket” (though Jay Leno’s cat now sleeps 23 hours instead of 22 out of 24, even this columnist needs some rest during a 30-hour span). Nevertheless, if staying at the El Cortez, your buy-in gets you a comped room as well; locals not using a room get a $50 food voucher. And, the keno games can be watched from the TV in your room. There is also a keno board at the excellent 24-hour Cafe Cortez coffee shop adjacent to the keno lounge, so in this case you can have your cake, and eat it, too (especially chocolate).

As an added incentive, I am scheduled to be there at the reception on June 12, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., prior to the tournament. You can ask me about which tickets to play, how to do ways, figure odds, etc., or comment about my columns, good, bad or indifferent.

As warm ups there are tournaments scheduled in Las Vegas before and after the El Cortez event (see box). There are also weekly mini tournaments at many properties as well, especially at the Coast (Boyd) and Station Casinos properties.

If you have any doubts about tournament play, it is one of the safest gambles around as your losses are limited and somewhat offset by the comps. And maybe your numbers will come up!

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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