Keno compares when you factor in bankroll

April 26, 2016 3:00 AM


KenoI was chatting online with a friend and mentioned an upcoming keno tournament. He responsed that keno is the worst game in the casino as the house holds 20-plus percent. I said since it is a slow game this is not necessarily true.

The friend makes his living playing casino live poker and it is true, with enough skill, you can get the edge, especially in the lower stakes games where a lot of people play hunches, superstitions, etc.

Of course you have to neutralize the effect of the rake (house edge) with skillful play. Unlike card counting the casino doesn’t care as they get their fixed amount out of every pot regardless of who wins or loses.

He also mentioned the smokiness of some keno lounges and unfortunately he is correct. The poker rooms have gone nonsmoking; it is time for the keno lounges to do the same.

Nevertheless, let’s get at the truth. House edge is one component for judging if a particular game is good or bad for the players. But you cannot ignore game speed in the calculation. Let’s do some comparisons. We will use a $10 wager for all the games.

At a blackjack table you get about 60 to 100 hands per hour, depending on how busy the table is. We will use the average of 80 hands per hour. It has been published that the average blackjack player loses at the rate of about 2% per hour. You may play better or worse than this as player skill is very important in blackjack. Thus in an hour you will wager about $800 to $850 (allowing for doubling down and splitting, of course) assuming 80 hands per hour. Two percent of $800 is $16.

We move to craps. If you are the average player you can lose from 1.4% and up depending on the bets you make as they all have different house edge. For the purpose of comparison we will use a pass line wager of $10. Whether you do or don’t take the odds will not make a difference as there is no advantage either way.

Taking the odds lowers the overall house edge but the amount of money for a given flat bet (base bet) stays the same. On average it takes a little more than three rolls to reach a decision, giving about 60-100 rolls an hour.

Let’s use the average of 80 rolls, about 25 decisions per hour. Thus $10 x 25 x 1.4% = $3.50; however most craps players make place bets, which increases the loss per hour due the higher house advantage.

We now move to roulette. Unfortunately most wheels in Nevada are double zero, the house edge on all bets is 5.26% except the five number bet. You get about 40 spins an hour at best and, betting $10, on average you lose 5.26% of your action, which is 40 x $10 x 5.26% = $21.04.

Now let’s beam over to the keno lounge. You play $10 per ticket with a house edge of 20%. There are tickets with better odds and tickets with worse odds available. Game speed is 6 to 10 games an hour, depending on how busy the game is at the time. We shall use 8 games per hour. Multiplying you get 8 x $10 x 20% = $16.

Thus, as you can see, the keno player is generally no worse off than the players at the other games. Of course you can reduce the house edge at blackjack by studying basic strategy.

You can keep the house edge at craps to an absolute minimum by making the smallest flat bet you are allowed and using the money saved from the flat bet on the odds with no house edge.

Of course $10 with $10 odds or $10 with $100 odds will average the same result over the long run. In roulette you can seek out a single zero game and the house edge is cut in half. In keno you can look for tickets that return more than the average such as the pop 80 5-spot or the Deano rate at The D.

Keno does compare favorably with other casino games in terms of bankroll longevity. You want to compare prices (house edges) and become knowledgeable in the game of your choice so your bankroll will last longer in any game.

Take advantage of all good promotions, use your slot card or account number to be tracked for all games so you get maximum comps for your action.

Average results are just that, an average. Always bet with money you can afford to lose, and of course enjoy yourself to the fullest!

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: