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Keno has one of the highest house percentages against the
player ”” a minimum of 22 percent ”” yet the game remains popular. The reasons
are that it is an inexpensive way to gamble ”” you can play a keno ticket for
as little as 40 cents (most casinos have a $1 minimum ticket); and there’s a
possibility of hitting a lottery-like jackpot.

Anyone who plays keno should think of the game as a form of
lottery or bingo and not a serious form of gambling. Therefore, any money bet on
keno should be for fun, without any great expectancy of return.

The Game

Keno is played on a blank ticket, which you obtain at the
keno parlor or at other places throughout the hotel-casino. A player selects
from one to 15 numbers out of a possible 80, and marks them on the ticket. The
marks are called “spots,” and the number of spots determine how much
the ticket is worth.

The operator of the game turns on a machine that randomly
selects 20 numbered balls out of the possible 80 and calls out the numbers. If
the player’s numbers match most or all of the numbers selected, he wins a
payoff based on how many spots he marked, how many spots he hit or
“caught,” and how much he bet.

Most casinos offer keno at the rate of $1 per ticket. Some
hotels in downtown Las Vegas offer lower prices, while some Strip resorts have a
$1 minimum. The accompanying chart gives sample payoffs for a 70-cent keno

If a player has a winning ticket, he must present it to the
keno operator before the next game begins. Failing to do so voids his winning

Basic Strategy

The most common keno ticket played is the straight ticket, on
which a player marks from one to 15 numbers and bets 70 cents or a multiple of
70 cents. Little thinking and planning is necessary to play a straight ticket.

But to maximize your chances of winning at keno, serious
players should play a “way” ticket. It is called a way ticket because
you place your numbers in groups that give you various combinations or ways of
winning. With way tickets you can have more numbers working for you, and you don’t
have to catch all of them to hit a good payoff. Basically, a way ticket consists
of three or more groups of equal numbers. Each group of numbers is circled, and
they are counted in different combinations, which increase the possibility of

For instance, suppose you wanted to play 12 numbers. If you
marked the numbers on a straight 70 cent ticket and caught eight of them, you’d
win $150. Now let’s see what happens when you mark the same 12 numbers on a
way ticket. Because all way tickets require three or more groups of equal
numbers, we will divide the 12 numbers into three groups of four. We could have
also divided the 12 into four groups of three or six groups of two. The choice
is yours. We do this on the ticket by marking the numbers, as we did on the
straight ticket, then circling the three groups. What we now have is something
different from the original 12-spot straight ticket. Counting two groups of
numbers at a time, we now have three groups of eight numbers, or the equivalent
of three 8-spot tickets.

These combinations are easier to understand if you refer to
the sample ticket. If we call the circled groups A, B and C, they can be grouped
together in only three possible combinations: AB, AC and BC. The result is three
groups of eight numbers, or a “three-way eight-spot.” The fraction 3/8
on the side of the ticket indicates the three-way eight-spot. Because you now
have three chances of winning, the cost of the ticket is three times a straight
ticket, or $2.10, but the potential payoffs, as you will soon discover, far
outweigh the additional cost.

Now if your same eight numbers hit, you are paid on the
eight-out-of-eight payoff scale, or a whopping $12,500, instead of the $150 the
eight out of 12 ticket would have paid.

This system of betting way tickets may sound complicated, but
all casinos that offer the game supply booklets and schedules that can help you
mark your tickets.


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