As I’ve mentioned before, the only thing that can be altered by a casino to increase or decrease the theoretical hold percentage of a video poker or a keno machine is the paytable.
The rest of the game – the number of cards, the number of keno balls available and drawn, and the randomness of the deal of the cards or the draw of the numbers – remains stable and unable to be changed in any way by the casino. There are no paylines, symbols or reels like there are in slots, so there’s really nothing else to alter.
This makes it relatively easy for savvy players to compare paytables between video poker and video keno games to determine the looser of two or more machines. As long as the games are identical, the differences in the payouts for hitting certain hands or winning combinations will tell the player which machine is set looser.
Last week I explained how 100 percent-plus settings on video poker simply paid the player between one and four more credits per credit bet for mid-level hands like straights, flushes and full houses. This is also true for all of the various video poker settings, not just the 100 percent-plus settings. On most non-wild card versions of video poker, the only payouts that will change between settings are those for straights, flushes and full houses.
While a looser setting on a video poker machine will give you enough credits for an extra couple of hands during a typical session, it won’t give you any more for a big jackpot. Four-of-a-kinds, straight flushes and royals will always pay the same between identical versions of video poker games, regardless of how loose or tight they’re set.
Not so with video keno. Payouts for very substantial hits like 6-out-of-6, 7-out-of-7 and even 7- or 8-out-of-8 can vary by hundreds, even thousands, of credits per credit bet between tighter and looser settings.
This key difference in the size of the payouts that are changed between different payback settings of keno versus poker makes comparing paytables much more important for video keno players than it is for video poker players. A player on a tight video poker machine might get shorted a few credits from time to time, but one big hit on a tight keno machine can cost the video keno player a small fortune.
For example, hitting 8-out-of-8 can pay 8,000 credits on one machine and 10,000 credits on another, and that’s per credit bet on the exact same game – traditional keno. I don’t know about you, but if I’m a quarter player playing video keno loaded and I hit 8-out-of-8, I’m a lot happier if I have an extra $2,000 in my pocket after they’re done paying me just because I played the looser machine.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that shopping around to find looser versions of video poker is a complete waste of time; it’s just not as all-important as many experts make it out to be. After all, when was the last time you cashed out because you got 10 extra credits on a full-house or five more quarters for hitting a flush?
Looser versions of video poker give you what I like to call “ammunition” credits. They give you more hands to play and therefore more chances to hit a big hand. How many more chances you get depends on how many times you hit these mid-level hands on the looser machine during your session, but most players still have to get lucky enough to hit a big hand before they’ll cash out.
With video keno, looser versions give you more than just ammunition. They give you cashout-size credits. Even payouts as small as 5-out-of-5, can vary by nearly 100 credits between the tightest and loosest settings available. For quarter players, that’s a $25 difference for each quarter bet, which is pretty substantial.
Getting a few extra video poker hands for playing looser versions of the game is nice, but getting several hundred dollars more in your pocket just for taking the time to compare a couple of video keno paytables… that’s more than just nice. That’s big bucks!
Video keno players everywhere should heed this advice and start shopping around a bit more. What pattern to play or which numbers to pick is virtually meaningless advice that makes absolutely no mathematical difference to your bankroll. Looking for a better paytable does. It’s that simple, and it’s far more important than you might realize.
(Editor’s Note: Brad Fredella is General Manager of Stetson’s Saloon and Casino in Henderson, NV.)