Becoming 'tournament ready' before playing keno

May 20, 2014 3:09 AM


Keno sign. Keno betting tips and strategies. Keno Tournament tips and strategies. Las Vegas Casinos Keno tips You have arrived at your Tournament destination, have checked in to the hotel, unpacked, used the head, and are “tournament ready.” If you received a tournament packet or envelope when you checked into the hotel, now would be a great time to open it and look through the schedule and rules of the tournament. This way you won’t miss out on getting all you need and have paid for in a timely manner. If you didn’t get tournament packet, it should be available at the registration area.

Next, head over to the registration area, usually the keno lounge. Bring your government issued ID as you may be asked for it since you may be given script in return for your buy-in (some tournaments use script for convenience, but all use computer tracking of your play). By checking in you let the keno department know you are ready to play.

It would also be an excellent idea to pick up the pay folders for keno in that casino as they will answer many questions you might have.

Let’s say this is your first keno tournament (we were all there at one time) and you have only played straight tickets in the past. All of the keno pay books for the upcoming tourneys have examples of way tickets in their pay books. Look them over.

If you do not understand how way tickets work, ask the keno writers. However, if it is more than a simple question, please do not hold up the line. Kindly wait until the line has ended and the keno writers are available. Of course, rereading these columns should help you understand way tickets.

Read especially the rules concerning minimum and maximum play per ticket and ways, minimum number and maximum number of games allowed per ticket, and what type of tickets might be excluded from tournament play. The tickets that count in the tourney are separate from the tickets you play regularly, but you can play both at the same time.

For example, you can play a $5 6-spot as a tourney ticket and the Mega10 $1,000,000-plus ticket as a non-tournament ticket at El Cortez. You can play eight 7-spot tickets at $1 per way at The Orleans and the $2 8-spot progressive as a separate non-tourney ticket. Again, be sure to read the tourney rules as to which tickets and ways are allowed or not allowed.

One very important concept: Do not blame or be rude to the keno writers if you lose. After all, you picked the numbers (or the computer did if it was a quick pick), not the writers.

Have your social security card (or a copy) and ID with you. If you have a net of win of $1,500 or more you will be required to show them in order to get paid. If you are not a U S citizen or permanent resident, the keno manager can let you know the procedure for a big win.

If you hit a big win, tipping the keno writer is customary, especially if you have received good service. The casino will gladly furnish a security escort to the cage, your vehicle, or your room if you have a big win. I strongly suggest either putting large winnings on deposit at the cage or in a safe deposit box, if the casino offers this service. When it is time to go home, security will gladly provide an escort to your car, shuttle, or taxi though a small tip for this service would be appropriate.

If you can, try to play multi-game tickets as this speeds up the lines and is more convenient for you, too. Many casinos have keno on the room TV’s and some have results online as well. Check with the individual casino for details.

The restaurants and buffets frequently have keno boards as well. One note of caution: Some casinos have more than one game and the one showing in the restaurant or buffet may not be the game(s) you are playing. If the casino does not have runners and you need to replay your ticket, advise the cashier at the buffet you are just leaving to replay your keno tickets so you may get back in to finish eating afterward. If the casino has keno runners they will gladly run your tickets for you. Of course, the best time to eat is after you have given in a multi-game ticket. Figure 6 to 10 minutes per game.

The casino will post tournament results, usually on an hourly basis, so you can see where you stand at a particular game, giving you time to adjust your play accordingly. For example, if you have been playing 5-spot tickets, but need to play 6-spot tickets in order to get in the lead (if they hit) checking the standings will let you know this important information.

Remember, one game and things can totally change. Years ago I was at the Stardust ( a great keno game run by Annette Dearinger, now keno manager at The Orleans) when a $5 “B” rate for seven numbers came in for a player (not me) for $87,500. I am sure you know which place that ticket holder got in the tournament.

These three downtown casinos have tickets you can play: Island rate at California, Pop 80 rate at Fremont, 40-cent rate at El Cortez. They offer good high end payouts that allow you to hit it big for a small investment. Re-read prior columns to see how way tickets can make it easier to hit the big payout, but remember you do have to pay for each “way.”

As the tournament gets close to the end of playing time the casino will let you know which game will be the last. It is very important to use your allotted buy-in by the last game or what is not played may be forfeited. Even if you have a small amount, say 80 cents, this one time they will allow you to play it in the final game so you can use up all your buy-in.

In tourneys where you do not buy in in advance make sure you have played the minimum by tourney close. I was guilty of this infraction at the Halloween Fremont tournament as I fell asleep a few hours before it ended and did not only miss a chance to play to catch up but missed the minimum as well to qualify for prizes should my numbers have come in.

It is often good strategy to save some of your buy-in for the last several games to give you a good chance to catch up, but make sure you play it by the last tournament game.

After the tournament is over results will be tabulated, paperwork processed and awards prepared. There often will be anything from champagne and cake to a banquet dinner for participants. In some tourneys there will be cash drawings and important announcements of future tourneys at this event as well, so don’t miss it.

If you have any further questions on tournament play feel free to write me (email address below). Be sure to study up on the game and prepare to enjoy yourself at one of the best gaming values on the planet, and hopefully, return home with a great experience and pictures of Ben Franklin as well.

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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