The Cal provided a great keno tourney atmosphere

March 24, 2015 3:08 AM


Main Street downtown has one of the better buffet deals around for casino playersBig Al from Texas and myself combined to play in the Cal Keno Tournament March 1-5. Although we had tickets that could have won anytime, we actually only got back $48.77 of the $500 buy-in.

We played way tickets to get ahead of the leader (if they hit), and also to try for second or third as the leader caught a $3 seven-spot early in the tourney for a whopping $48,000. (Play downtown as they pay much better on 7-spots!)

The good thing about the tourney was the coupon books given to all the players that allowed a Main Street Station buffet for just a few dollars. This is one of the better buffets, if not the best downtown and beats many of the higher priced ones on the Strip in quality and selection.

We tried craps at the El Cortez, and unlike last time did not catch a long or even an intermediate roll. On to blackjack. The first session produced a win for Al while I had a small loss. The second session I had the larger win though only betting $5-$10 per hand.

The final craps session was at Harrah’s with another choppy table. Did we win? No. Did we lose? Yes.

We did get some of it back in comps as the rooms were comped and the meals were heavily discounted. When you get a comped room, usually there is no tax or resort fee. Thus a room comp is quite valuable in Las Vegas.

Big Al is not afraid to put the money out there (I am), and if the seven stays away at craps, a profit can be made. The point here is you will probably have more losing than winning sessions.

The big winner of $48,000 and the $4,000 first place finisher won enough to take care of buy-ins for the rest of the decade if they play in all the Vegas keno tournaments and they will still have plenty left over. Keno is a long odds game, but when your ship comes in, it really comes in!

What is funny is when I cashed out my last tourney ticket a game was run and 7 of my 8 numbers showed, meaning a ticket I often play of 8 kings playing the 7s and 8s would have yielded a nice winner.

If I played it the result would be highly unlikely to be the same. The time to write my ticket would have changed slightly when the balls were shuffled and the length of the shuffle, etc. Nevertheless, best not to look at the board if not in the game if believing you would have won if you played.

Did we use the wrong strategy? There is no way to be sure as luck plays a major part in keno. I have done reasonably well over the years in these tournaments. Keno means few wins but large when you hit your tickets solid.

The strangest thing playing with Al was his one-bet $5 slot system he used at Harrah’s. He sat down, put in three coins ($15) and got a $300 hit. That was all the slot play for the day but this financed craps table play. I would not play $5 slots unless you can afford the losses.

Big Al and I are scheduled to beat it again downtown at the end of April. He is a tough player as he knows not to make sucker bets in craps and keeps his action to the Pass or Don’t Pass, Come or Don’t Come. Al also takes at least double odds, meaning the house edge on his play is about one half of one percent. Playing this way, your chances of surviving to when a good roll hits are much better than playing high house advantage bets.

The beauty is our losses were limited (we shared the wins and losses at keno). For my $225.62 I got four free nights and heavily discounted meals. Of course, this result does not include other games we each played, just our keno play.

I like the video poker at The Cal and El Cortez plus machines with good pay tables. The points received on my slot card will help toward future discounted or comp stays.

Well, let’s hope for better luck next time. If you are interested, The Cal has another tourney May 31-June 4.

Good luck to you all, and may your numbers come up while you are playing in the game!

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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