'Wizard of Odds' great site for keno players

March 10, 2015 3:00 AM


There are times that for whatever reason a casino decides to change, eliminate, or add a new pay table to their available tickets.

When you notice this, it is important to reevaluate the new or changed pay book to see if the new pay is better, the same, or worse than the previous pay table.

An easy way to do this is available through the excellent website by UNLV professor and gaming expert Michael Shackleford. Anything he writes about in his website is totally mathematically accurate.

His keno section is extensive, where not only does he tell you all about keno and the odds involved, but in many of his appendices explains special tickets that are offered or have been offered.

The website is wizardofodds.com He has excellent info on ALL the other casino games as well. I can vouch for his accuracy and sincerity as I have taken a class with him at UNLV.

In his keno section he has a “keno calculator” that can be used to evaluate any pay table for keno from one to 15 spots. First convert the bet and payouts to a per dollar rate. Then enter the pays and it will calculate the return.

For example, if the casino offers an 80-cent ticket (i.e, downtown’s pop 80/Island rate) for a 4-spot that pays 80 cents for a 2 of 4 hit, $2 for a 3 of 4 hit, and $120 for all 4, convert everything to a per dollar amount.

For the 2 of 4 pay it is the same as the ticket price, thus if an 80-cent ticket pays 80 cents for a 2 of 4 hit, then a $1 ticket would pay $1. For 3 of 4, we have to do the math (hope you did not sleep in class when the teacher was teaching fractions and multiplication and division of them).

Calculate as follows: 100/80 X $2 = $2.50, thus you would enter $2.50 in the calculator for the 3 of 4 hit. For the solid 4 of 4 hit you calculate 100/80 X $120 = $150. Thus the 80-cent ticket paying 80 cents for a 2 of 4, $2 for a 3 of 4 and $120 for a solid 4 is equivalent to a dollar ticket paying $1 for a 2 of 4, $2.50 for a 3 of 4, and $150 for a solid 4. The total return is 78% for this ticket.

Notice he breaks down the contribution in each number of spots hit. This information can be quite useful, especially for tournaments where you are looking for the top hits to contribute the most on a given ticket. It also gives you the odds on a particular hit, giving you an idea of how frequent each number of hits will occur.

Sometimes you can eyeball a change as well. Recently a casino changed their ticket price from $1.15 to $1.25 without increasing the payouts at all from the prior rate except for the minimum payout (no change on 1- and 2-spots at all) where you get your money back for the minimum of hits to get anything back on that particular ticket.

Use of a common multiple can help here. Both $1.15 and $1.25 divide evenly in to $115. At the old rate you could buy 100 tickets for $1.15.

At the new $1.25 rate you can buy only 92 tickets for the same $115. Using a one-spot to make things simple works quite well in the calculation.

You will win, on average, one game in four and get paid $4. Thus playing 100 games at $1.15 means, on average, you will win on 25 of them for a total pay of 25 X $4 = $100. At the new rate you will average 92/4 = 23 winning games for a 23 X $4 = $92.

Thus you used to get back $100, now you get back $92, over an 8% reduction! If you buy more than a few tickets this is quite significant; not as bad as 6 to 5 blackjack versus 3 to 2 blackjack, but nevertheless not good for the player.

The fact the old rate had excellent returns (tied for the highest for $1 type play in Vegas) just means now it is a good rate but no longer near the lead in returns.

Any questions? Please write to me at the email address below. Until then, read all about keno at the wizardofodds.com and watch your numbers 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 PesachKremen@GamingToday.com.

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