A Game Plan For Keno Tournaments

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There are several casino tournaments in Las Vegas every year. Some of them are in the buy-in style, where you buy in for a stated amount, usually $500, and you keep all your winnings. In addition, if you place you also get prize money. Usually the casino also gives you free or casino rate rooms, some food, and a small gift.  It is a very good deal.

Many are discouraged from entering the tournaments as they feel they are just giving away $500 with no realistic chance to win or place. In reality, this need not be the case.

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Most tournaments allow you to play any ticket allowed in regular keno play, with just a stipulation of a minimum per ticket and a maximum per ticket or way, the latter to prevent someone of means from literally “buying” the tournament. Thus, the only real question is: What is the best way to play to win, if that is your goal, or to have fun and still get a fair amount of your money back?

The two goals need not be mutually exclusive. Even though keno is a random game there are ways to play to enhance your chance at a large win or to get some of your money back even if you do not hit the big one.

Let’s eliminate the tickets that generally do not help with either objective. 

Playing 1, 2, 3 or 4 spots, with rare exceptions, will not help you in a tournament as the pays are too little for the amount invested.

Playing more than 8 spots (unless part of a way ticket) has odds that are way too high for a Solid Hit (catching all the numbers).

To give an example that has a good shot of fulfilling both objectives – winning it all but going home with some money even if you don’t hit it big – consider this ticket: 2-2-1-1-1-1 using the popular 80 cent rate (available in many downtown and other casinos). Thus you have two groups of 2 (deuces) and four groups of 1 (kings). 

You play this ticket for just the 5’s, 6’s, 7’s, and 8’s. This translates to 1 eight, 4 sevens, 8 sixes, and 12 fives. At 20 cents a way the cost is $5; at 40 cents a way the cost is $10. This way you play with odds starting at 1551:1 for a 5 of 5 but since you have several fives working for you the odds are a lot lower.

The odds of hitting 5 of 8 are 54:1 but since you will not necessarily hit the 5 numbers solid, the true odds fall between 54:1 and 1551:1. Since you will play 50 or 100 games with this ticket for a typical $500 buy-in the chances of a successful 5 of 5 are not that bad.

In addition, when you hit 5 of 5 you will also often have a few 5 of 6, 5 of 7, and a 5 of 8, adding more to your win. If you are fortunate to hit 6 numbers (422:1 for 6 of 8) you will also have to hit two 5 of 5’s as well, and if you hit 2-1-1-1-1-0 you will hit four 5 of 5’s. (I did this in a tourney in 2004.)

The big money is if you hit 7 of 8 the right way for a solid 7 and a 7 of 8. Granted, the odds of this are over 6000:1 but divided by 100 plays that reduces to 60:1 for any given tourney, reduced a little more as you have four 7 of 8’s you can hit. Of course if you hit all 8 – 230,114:1 – you will be looking at a high five-figure payday!

In summary, this gives you a lot of bang for your buck and a chance at a really nice win. And, even if you do not hit enough numbers for a solid hit, you still go home with a few hundred dollars, no hotel bill, a full belly, and a small gift.

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At Gaming Today we are dedicated to providing valuable up-to-date information on the casino industry and pari-mutuel race wagering. With news and features, plus expanded coverage in key areas – race and sports analysis, picks, tips, and handicapping.

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 [email protected].

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