Playing 40-cent keno downtown will pay

May 26, 2015 3:08 AM


The question of the day: Blackjack or Craps?There are times and trips that we want the big hit, even if the chances of getting it are less than optimal. What ticket is the best for a big hit?

You could argue the 8-spot progressives in Las Vegas, the Mega Keno progressives in Las Vegas and Reno, and 9-spot progressives in Reno are good candidates.

But what if you don’t want to spend $1.50/$2.00 per game, yet hope for a shot at a large win?

The best rate for this is the 40-cent bet at the Pop 80 rate offered in several casinos in downtown Las Vegas. The 40-cent rate at El Cortez, the Island Rate at California, the Pop 80 rate at Fremont and Deano rate at The D all offer $7,000 for hitting 7 out of 7 with a 40-cent bet.

Using a three day trip as an example where you arrive in the afternoon of day one and leave mid-morning after staying three nights gives you a lot of chances to hit it big.

Let’s say you arrive Sunday at 3 p.m. and have to leave at noon Wednesday. If your hotel offers keno 24/7 and you choose to play a multi-game ticket, you would have about 600 to 1,000 games, depending on game speed at the particular casino.

If the casino keno game closes during graveyard you would have about 400-700 games. Thus at 40 cents a game your tickets will cost anywhere from $160 to $400. Since most of the payback is concentrated on the high end you will either hit it big or drop most of the buy-in.

The odds of hitting a solid 7 are 40,979:1 thus once in 40-60 trips you are likely to hit the big one. Of course if you spend more playing way tickets you will hit more frequently but spend more money as well. Being that the odds of hitting 6 out of 7 are over 1300:1 you may not even hit 6-of-7 on a trip.

Odds of hitting 5-of-7 are 116 to 1, odds of hitting 6-of-7 are 1366 to 1.

Let’s say you play 1,000 games, the most likely outcome is hitting 6-of-7 once paying $70, 5-of-7 about nine times paying $63, and 4-of-7 about 53 times for $21. On average expect to get back about $154 of your $400 action plus any comps earned.

If you do not even hit a 6-of-7 your return drops to about $84, thus it is up to you if you can afford a loss of about $315. If you play 500 tickets costing a total of $200 expect about $42 back. Odds of hitting 6-of-7 are now less than 50%. If all your numbers come up in the same game you get $7,000 plus all the small wins of the other games.

I think the above is a fun way to be in the action while not going for broke. How many times do you buy in for $100-$200 in blackjack or craps during your trip and lose it all, even with best play? Unless the casino has a single zero game, roulette should be avoided. Ditto for casino blackjack games that only pay 6-to-5 for a 21.

By best play we mean restricting craps bets to come, pass, don’t pass, don’t come with odds and at least simplified blackjack basic strategy where you never hit into a possible bust.

Always hit a hard 17 or soft 18 should the dealer show a 7 or higher, split Aces and eights, and double down on 10 and 11 when the dealer shows a 9 or less. Note, this is not perfect basic strategy, just a simplified form to keep the house edge low. Learn the complete basic strategy to further lower the house edge.

People say in keno the house edge is often over 20%, which is usually true but the game moves very slowly. You actually lose your money slower than in many table games. The above suggestions are based on just a simple straight special 7-spot ticket.

The house edge is about 25%, which means each game costs you about 10 cents. At 6 to 10 games per hour that means an expected loss of $1 or less per hour.

Playing perfect basic strategy at the standard double deck blackjack game downtown with about 100 hands per hour at a $5 minimum table will cost you about $2.50 per hour on average and about $5 per hour with the modified basic strategy described above.

If any of you out there have some interesting keno anecdotes or hit a 7-of-7 let me know where you were and what you were doing when you hit it!

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