It is wise to check keno win percentages

April 28, 2015 3:08 AM


It's wise to check win percentagesThe importance of checking the percentage of a keno ticket cannot be overemphasized.

Those of you who have heard The Kingston Trio singing “M.T.A.” should be aware of the phrase in the song, “This could happen to you.” In the song, Charlie does not have the nickel to pay the exit fare thus is doomed to “ride the streets of Boston forever.”

In Keno you are doomed to lose forever if you do not have even a rough idea of how to check percentages.

Today I discovered a 10-spot ticket that returns 3% to the player and a 9-spot that returns 11% to the player.

What was the tip-off? The 10-spot has odds for a SOLID hit of about 8.9 million-to-one, but it is a catch all ticket, meaning all the pay is only for the SOLID hit. It is a nickel ticket that pays $15,000 for a SOLID 10-of-10, the equivalent of a $1 ticket paying $300,000 for a SOLID 10-of-10.

But in a catch all ticket there are no smaller pays. If the odds are 8.9 million-to-one, then one should get at least 70% of 8.9 million for this catch all but the return is the equivalent of $300,000.

Divide the $300,000 equivalent pay by 8.9 million and you see what undoubtedly is the lowest return in Las Vegas.

The 9-spot is not much better. It pays $9,000 for a SOLID hit for this nickel ticket, equivalent to $180,000 for a $1 ticket, but the odds are 1.3 million-to-one. Divide $180,000 by 1.3 million and you see another very poor return.

You need not be a mathematician to see this, just be aware of the general odds and what is paid.

The same casino has a quarter rate that at least returns 50%-65% (similar to state keno lotteries), which makes for a much better play. Unfortunately, with Nevada keno you need to remember: “Let the buyer beware.”

As mentioned in several prior columns, go online to find a keno return calculator, convert the ticket price to a $1 rate and see what the ticket returns.

Another warning, check the pay books for specials, see if a special code must be listed on the tickets such as 40-cent special or $1.10 special rate or “keno stimulus,” etc. so you get the rate you want. Otherwise you may just get paid the regular rate.

If the rate or game is not to your liking, feel free to let the keno department know, then find another casino. It may not effect immediate change but it might help in the future.

For example, one Strip casino (the same one that gives the player a return of 3% on a ticket) also charges an incredible $5.99 ATM fee. Will they get a letter? Absolutely! Will I publicize this online and in my group? Definitely.

There are plenty of great games in town such as the California and El Cortez downtown and Excalibur on the Strip that offer the player a better deal. Reno has great games at Atlantis, Rail City and the Peppermill.

Play with what you can afford at a place that treats you well and gives you a fair deal.

The best way to get your feet wet is to play at The Cal tournament in Vegas or the Atlantis tournament in Reno.

Feel free to write me with any promotions or rates offered by various casinos if you would like a personal reply on their value. This column is for you, the reader.

Best ticket of the week is still the popular 80-cent rate with ways as low as 20 cents in many places downtown as well as Jerry’s Nugget in North Las Vegas.

Want any special strategy? Write me! Or, go down to the Gamblers General Store/Gamblers Book Club (now combined together) at 800 N. Main Street downtown (bus #108) and get some books on keno to help you. A knowledgeable player is a good player!

Have fun with keno; see you there!

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