El Cortez still best in town for keno odds

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In part 1 last week, the column focused on the craps play of Mr. Al and myself. Today’s part 2 will focus on our keno play at the El Cortez, the downtown Vegas casino with the most keno special rates available, including Mega Keno.

If you like to try different rates at different prices with good returns the El Cortez is your place to play keno. Besides they have a very strong slot club with numerous and interesting promotions.

They give 20 cents cash per $100 coin in (before any point multipliers), which is twice what many other casinos give back in cash. There is no reduction for video poker play. If the money goes into a machine, be it reel slots (they are for real!), video keno, video poker, you get the 20 cents per $100 coin in.

By the way, if you play 1,500 points in a prior month you get 5% of casino ATM withdrawal back in free slot play (max $50 free play).

Al and I met at the nonsmoking section of the keno lounge (hint to casino managers, players want nonsmoking in all areas of the casino, how about it?) and we discussed and played various types of tickets.

Tickets considered were king tickets (1/8 and 8/7) at the 40-cent rate (similar to pop 80 rate in many downtown casinos) for the chance for the big hit. The 40-cent rate pays $7,000 for a 7-of-7 and $8,000 for 8-of-8. As discussed in prior columns, playing 8 kings for the 8 and the 7s requires you to just hit 7-of-8 to get a SOLID 7.

The second ticket considered was a way ticket at the $1.15 special rate, which shares the highest return for the players along with the D’s “Deano” rate for action in the $1 realm. (Doesn’t using the word “realm” sound literary of me?) We played one 5 and five 4s at $1.15 for a ticket cost per game of $6.90 and played a multi-game ticket.

The third ticket played is my tourney action ticket played at the 40-cent rate for 20 cents a way (As long as the ticket price is $2 or more this is allowed). The groupings were 2-2-1-1 played for the 5s and giving us one 8, four 7s, eight 6s and twelve 5s for a total per game ticket cost of $5. We played this ticket in a multi-game format as well.

Thus we combine tickets for a big hit (the one 8 and eight 7s), a ticket with a good chance of getting a decent hit for fewer games (the one 5 and five 4s) and a ticket for lots of action (the last ticket).

We then proceeded to the Cafe Cortez for lunch where, as mentioned in Part 1, I had the best liver and onions I have ever had. As a side note, I went to the Cafe Cortez twice for their Chanukah Dinner of Matzoh Ball Soup, Salad, Brisket or Apricot Chicken, Kasha Varnishkes (Kasha buckwheat groats are cooked with onions and chicken stock, then mixed with bow tie pasta) , a vegetable, a potato latke (potato pancake) with apple sauce, and sweet raisin kugel (noodle dish) for desert. With an iced tea the total, including tax, came to $21.30. Add $4-$5 for the server and for $25-$26 I had a fantastic holiday meal!

As luck would have it we got a decent hit on the one 5 and five 4s king ticket, hitting 4-of-5 once, giving us a SOLID 4 and a few other small plays. Thus a ticket that we paid $69 for (10 games) returned $264. Since the same numbers were used for all of the tickets, the 20-game “action” ticket of $100 returned $137.90. The 8-spot king ticket was the only one for which we received less than we paid.

You have not met a true knowledgeable player until you have met 77-year-old Texan Mr. Al. He even runs his own mini casino on his ranch (money is not handled in the casino itself to keep everything 100% legal and in full compliance with Texas and Federal law). He is generous, a non-smoker, (a 77-year-old smoker would be exceedingly rare) and a very avid craps player. The 10 times odds featured at the El Cortez fit right in with his and my playing style. As mentioned in part 1, I was able to increase the odds bet from double odds up to 10 times odds (got up to 8 times on several numbers) to get increased action on a good roll without any increased house edge (in fact overall house edge decreased based on the amount of money wagered due the odds bet being paid at the true casino odds).

Neither Al nor myself made place bets as why get artificial casino odds on the numbers when you can get true odds? The come has a 2-to-1 edge on the initial roll and if a point number is rolled you can back it up with 10 times odds.

This is even better for the bettor (could not resist this homonym) as let’s say you make a place bet of $66. If it hits at casino odds of 7-to-6 (true odds are 6-to-5), the casino has a 1.52% edge (lowest house edge except for pass, don’t pass, come, don’t come, and odds, if taken).

But if you bet $6 with $60 odds you get paid $78, and you had a 2-to-1 edge before you got to number 6 (i.e. win on 7, 11 – 8 possible ways; lose on 2, 3, 12 – four ways). Thus strong players going for the lowest house edge play the pass, don’t pass, come, don’t come with odds. Your money will usually last considerably longer this way, increasing your chances of being at the table when a good or monster roll occurs. (Ask the cocktail server if they serve “Monster” energy drinks to wake you up to play lively during the “monster” roll!)

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Mr Al and myself hope to repeat this experiment again in the future. Meanwhile, the wisdom of playing in a casino with good odds keeps the house advantage low and enables your money to last longer. The excellent low priced dining at El Cortez is just another plus!

Another plus is the ease of getting to and from all areas of Vegas from the El Cortez (BHX, 207, 208,  Deuce) with the excellent 24-hour bus service. Save your money from taxis and rental cars and use it to enjoy the great food described above!

The city buses (CX, WAX, 108,  109) serve the airport as long as you have one piece of luggage or less (backpack on your back with that one piece is OK). This has allowed me to spend money on keno and good meals rather than on rental cars, their multitude of fees and pass alongs, taxes, etc.

You can even check your keno tickets with your smartphone while riding the bus (Do not do this while driving!), by going to the various keno websites (KenoUSA, etc.) while the bus driver worries about the traffic and other drivers.

Mr Al and I had great fun at keno and craps at the El Cortez. Now is your chance!

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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