I've received a few letters from readers recently that have asked where all of the discussion about video keno strategy has gone.
I'm quite aware that there were previous columnists for GamingToday who discussed video keno strategy almost exclusively, so hearing requests for a return to this subject is no big surprise.
Strategy is a funny thing. In some cases it makes a huge, verifiable impact on the outcome of a gambling event. This is the case when deciding whether to hit or stand during blackjack or determining the proper cards to hold on the initial deal of a video poker hand.
Make the wrong decision and the scales tip decidedly in the house’s favor. Learn proper strategy and you can minimize the house edge by making the mathematically correct decision each time.
In other cases, strategy isn't much more than superstition that has little or no quantifiable impact on anything. This is often seen at craps tables, where players might blow on the dice or set them to a certain number before shooting them.
The act of setting or blowing on the dice will not change the outcome once they tumble down the table, but the shooter wouldn't dream of doing otherwise because that's how they shoot to win. It's their strategy.
Video keno strategy falls somewhere in between. The game is controlled by a random number generator (RNG) that cycles continuously until the deal/draw button is pressed, at which point the numbers that the RNG was on during its cycle are displayed or "drawn."
There is no strategic mathematical advantage in picking one number over another in video keno. Each has an equal probability of being picked.
Contrary to what some people might have been led to believe, video keno machines are designed to act just like live keno. No outcome is pre-determined by the RNG.
If you hit a solid 8-spot, it is because the RNG happened to pick 8 of the same numbers that you did. It is not because the RNG told the machine to pay you 8 out of 8 regardless of where your numbers are.
That being understood, there are still strategic decisions to be made at video keno that can affect your bankroll. It's just that which numbers (or pattern of numbers) to pick is not one of them. What does matter is how many numbers to pick, how high to bet and how much to overlap numbers on multiple card keno games.
These strategic video keno decisions won't change the theoretical hold % of the game like blackjack or video poker decisions. However, they will affect the volatility of the game.
Volatility is an often overlooked aspect of gaming, yet it makes a huge impact in how much we win or lose and over what period of time those victories or defeats are made.
So pick whatever numbers you want. Choose ones that have meaning to you or which make a pattern on the screen. It adds fun to the game and doesn't cost a penny in terms of house edge.
You'll recognize patterns and clusters as the machine "draws" the numbers because our brains are wired to recognize them, but rest assured that no particular result has been programmed to appear.
It is truly random, even when it does strange things like filling in your numbers the hand after you moved them. (I hate it when that happens!)
We'll take a closer look at strategic video keno decisions in future articles so that we can understand which decisions have a real impact on our results. We'll also put to rest a few more video keno myths that might make an impact in our minds, but not in our bankrolls.
(Brad Fredella is the General Manager of Stetson’s Saloon and Casino in Henderson, NV)