There still seems to be an opinion out there that keno is a poor game to play, that it is a sucker’s game, and should be avoided due to its “high” house advantage. Is this really true? On the surface, maybe, but in reality, no. In fact, in some cases the house edge at keno is actually competitive.
As this column is being written there are keno opportunities with practically no house edge. The 9-spot progressive at The Atlantis Reno is over $1,200,000 thus is close to 100% return. The 10-spot Mega Keno is over $2,000,000 and climbing and may approach break even before it is hit. The other progressives get to positive territory at times.
On top of this, casinos such as The D offer returns of 85% on special tickets (Deano rate), throw in comps and offers, especially tourneys, and you are close to break even as well. In some tournament situations you might even have a mathematical advantage.
Those who worship lowest house advantage are neglecting another part of the equation, game speed. If you play a $5 keno ticket every 10 minutes with a house edge of 15%, in an hour you would lose, on the average (ignoring comps), $4.50.
If you are an average blackjack player with standard rules at a $5 table, you would lose about $10. If you have a fair concept of basic strategy you would lose about $5.
Betting $5 on the pass line at craps would yield similar results.
Game speed is just as important as house edge. Thus, before one bad mouths keno they should do their research. You may say many keno tickets hold 20% to 30%, which is true, but just like you look for the best bets at craps to lower the house edge, the keno player can do the same by looking for tickets and special rates that return more.
For example, the 80-cent rate downtown in many casinos averages about a 25% house edge, but if you play the 5-spot the house edge drops to 18%. This rate is available at the California Hotel (Island Rate), Fremont (pop 80 rate), El Cortez (40 cent rate) and The D (Deano rate).
Of course, just like there are very poor bets at many table games there are poor bets at keno. Just avoid them, and look for the better returning tickets.
If you are from out of town, plan your vacation around a keno tournament and you really have the best of it. The tourney prize fund basically eliminates the house edge and you still get free or discounted rooms and meals, and often a small gift as well. This can be the best that Las Vegas has to offer.
Use the excellent transit system to get around while in town, subscribe to Las Vegas Advisor to get their excellent coupon book and The Casino Guide and you definitely have the best of it. Thus, you will find laying keno within your means is not a bankroll buster or a game to be avoided, but a good game to play and be enjoyed,
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