There is a common sense approach to keno that can improve your odds of winning.
Mathematically we are not changing anything as there is no way to change the math of the game; however, we can improve our chances of winning by using common sense in evaluating which ticket to play. A perusal of a typical keno pay book can demonstrate this concept quite well.
We will use the pay book from the California, located in downtown Las Vegas, home to one of the best run keno games in Las Vegas. Below are pays for the 9- and 10-spot tickets at the regular $1 rate.
Mark 9 Spots, betting $1
Catch 4 – receive Free Play (your $1 back)
Catch 5 – receive $2
Catch 6 – receive $40
Catch 7 – receive $280
Catch 8 – receive $2,800
Catch 9 – receive $50,000
Mark 10 Spots, betting $1
Catch 5 – receive Free Play (your $1 back)
Catch 6 – receive $15
Catch 7 – receive $160
Catch 8 – receive $1,000
Catch 9 – receive $10,000
Catch 10 – receive $50,000
As you will notice, the top pay is the same for 9 out of 9 as it is for 10 out of 10, but the odds of hitting a 9 out of 9 are 1,380,688 to 1 while the odds of hitting a 10 out of 10 are 8,911,169 to 1.
Why play a ticket where the same jackpot is almost 7 times as hard to hit? We notice you get your money back on the 9-spot when hitting 4 out of 9, which has odds of 9-1 and on a 10-spot you get your money back if you hit 5 out of 10 with odds of 20-1. Thus, for both the maximum and minimum hits playing a 9-spot gives you a much better chance than paying a 10-spot.
We also learn the overall return on the 9-spot is 70.1% and the overall return on the 10-spot is 68.4%, meaning little difference in the short run for each number of spots. Thus, it is the intermediate hits where the 10-spot is better. The 9 out of 10, which pays $10,000 has odds of 163,391 to 1.
Which ticket is better for you? It depends on your personal preferences. I like the 9-spot better as you will get your bet returned over twice as often on a 10-spot and your chances of hitting the big one ($50,000) are 7 times as easy as with the 10-spot.
Many players like to stay in the action as long as possible thus the 9-spot is better for this. Everyone wants the BIG winner, the 9-spot is also better for this as well. The 10-spot is only better is you feel you can get a good hit, but not a solid hit such as 9 out of 10 or 8 out of 9.
Personally, I would drop down to the 7-spot, which pays $16,000 at The Cal with odds of a solid hit being 40,978 to 1. Of course, since most seasoned players play way tickets to enhance their chances, you can play all of the above with pays adjusted proportionally up or down for how much you play per way.
Play a 2-2-2-2-1-1 and you can have it all with a 10, two 9s, five 8s, and eight 7s. Play at a quarter a way and for $4 a game you have a lot of action and a chance to hit it really big as if you hit most of your numbers you will have all kinds of wins. As discussed in prior columns if you hit a solid 9 you must also hit four solid 7s.
Yes, common sense does apply to Keno. Check out the pay book at your favorite casino lounge and pick the ticket that will give you the best opportunity of reaching your goal.
Keno is a slow moving game thus your money will last longer giving you that chance for the big win. Best of luck to you!
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. Email: [email protected]