Let's go into some more fun keno tournament tickets

May 06, 2014 3:00 AM


Keno tournament strategy This week’s column starts on a very sad note. Bobby Dean, long-time keno manager at Palace Station, passed away recently at age 69 of a heart attack. He was working hard training staff in preparation for his retirement in the fall.

Bobby was an absolute expert in all phases of keno, very helpful to the public, and an avid fan of the game. This is a great loss to keno.

With four great tournaments coming up in May and June, plenty of time to get in on the action remains. Three of them are downtown and there is one west of the Strip. They are:

     May 19-22 – Fremont; John Mukai, keno manager

     June 1-4 – California; Carolyn Bankston, keno manager

     June 12-14 – El Cortez; Vinny Sanzare, keno director

     June 17-19 – The Orleans; Annette Dearinger, keno manager

Any tournament run by these “Big 4” simply has to be great! I can personally vouch for the excellent job they have done to make keno an enjoyable and potentially profitable experience for the player, whether a novice or an expert. There is no sweating of big keno winners by management in these casinos. You are treated well, and they all have great food, too.

Let’s go into some more fun tournament tickets. We don’t want to get bored!

All the above casinos have regular and special ticket options made for tournament play. Though I have mentioned playing the ticket with the lowest house edge is often the best option in the long run, the tournament is a short run, and sometimes you need to play aggressively to end up in the money.

These tournaments tend to pay up to 10th or 20th place with a total prize fund around $10,000. Some pay more to fewer winners and some pay less to more winners. The expected value is about the same either way.

Expected value is a concept in probability where you can figure out the worth of a particular situation, including gambling. A simple example:

You have 100 people in a tourney playing $500 each in tickets with a house advantage of 20 percent. You have $10,000 in prize money being paid out. Thus, 100 people playing $500 each equals $50,000 in action.

The casino, on the average, will return 80 percent (some tickets return more, some less) Thus $40,000 of the $50,000 is returned to the players. Add in the prize money and $50,000 is returned to the players. So, on average, you can expect to break even.

Of course the distribution is skewed with the winners getting most of the returns but your expectation heading in to the tourney is to break even. Naturally you will do better when you add the extras such as room, food and gifts.

If you study the game well you can gain an edge over the other players. Realizing your objective in the tourney to place in the money is important. Always check the standings to afford you the opportunity to play most profitably.

If you are $2,000 behind the leader, playing a $1 6-spot that pays $2,000 makes more sense (actually dollars here) than playing a 5-spot that pays $1,000. Playing tickets with a near impossible chance to win big (i.e. a 15-spot) is probably less advisable than playing a ticket with more reasonable odds. Books by Wayne McClure, David Cowles, James Claussen and Stanford Wong can really help you. It is my hope reading these columns will help you as well.

Look particularly for tickets with larger high-end payouts as this is usually what wins tournaments due to the limited number of games played. You give up some of the smaller payouts but in tournaments it is not only the win the casino gives you that counts, but also the win from beating the other players. Getting $1,000 instead of $500 for 5-of-5 is more important than getting $20 instead of $4 for a 4-of-5.

Way tickets with small groups will be easier to hit, although frequently for a less than way tickets with larger groups. Answer: combine the best of both worlds. Play the total number of spots you like, but give yourself the opportunity for smaller but substantial hits as well.

Let’s use a ticket grouped 3-3-2-1. Using the ways determining formula of (2 to the nth)-1 being the number of possible ways with four groups we get 15 possible ways. We have: 1/9, 1/8, 1/7, 3/6, 2/5, 2/4, 3/3, 1/2 and 1/1 for a total of 15 ways. In a tournament I would avoid playing the ones, twos, and threes as they do not usually return enough to advance you to a higher place. Concentrate on ways that can result in a large win on a SOLID or near-SOLID hit.

If you play the 4’s and up you have 10 ways; at 50 cents a way a ticket cost of $5. In the beginning, even 4’s may not be worth playing. If you still want the ticket to come out even playing just 5’s and up, adjust how much you pay for each way. Even different rates from the pay book can be used for different ways, though all possibilities of the same way must be at the same rate and amount. You can play the 5’s, 6’s and 9’s at 50 cents and the 7’s and 8’s at $1 and you still have a $5 ticket. Each tourney may have slightly different rules on minimum tickets.

Have any further questions? Don’t be afraid to ask the keno writers for help. Many of them have been writing the game for years and have seen it all!

You can go for the throat and play all king tickets. I especially like a ticket discussed in prior columns of 1/8 and 8/7’s all kings. This adapts well to most rates by playing the 8 for twice the amount as the 7s. For example, using the $1 regular rate for simplification, play the 1/8 at $1 and the 8/7’s at 50 cents each. Hit 7 numbers and you are almost sure to end up in the prize money, and if you hit all 8 the tournament first place prize is 99.44 percent likely to be yours.

Go find a tourney you like, and the “way” to play like a champion, or at least get lucky, that helps, too!

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 PesachKremen@GamingToday.com.

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