Video Keno, Parlor Keno two very different games

Right behind where I like to play Video Poker at Red Rock Resort in Summerlin is a bank of Video Keno machines. 

I suspect like many machines in the casino nowadays, they actually play a variety of games. But, it seems like when I sit down to play, there are usually Keno players sitting there. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find the sounds coming from the machine to be annoying as it ‘plinks’ for each of the 20 numbers the game picks for each round. If the player wins, it makes an additional sound. 

If you’re playing, it probably is melodious. If you’re trying to focus on your Video Poker hands, you hope it can become background noise.

Video Keno is a sort of hybrid between Video Poker and Slots. Like Slots, there is no strategy once you pick a machine and start playing. You make a wager, you pick your numbers and you start the round. The machine does all the work.

There is one way that Video Keno differs from Slots and it is a big difference. All the math about Keno is fully known. While there is no deck of cards like in Video Poker, we are still dealing with known probabilities and a truly random distribution that we would expect if we were dealing with 80 numbered ping pong balls and selecting 20 of them for each round.

Why is this important? Because it means the payback of any machine can be calculated with perfect precision. It means that the player still has one important choice to make. That is – which machine to play based on the paytable of the machine? To be more accurate, the paytable of the specific number of numbers the player wishes to select. 

The reality is that if the player wants to pick five numbers, he or she might be better off on one machine. But if they want to pick six numbers, they might be better off on a different machine. This is similar to Video Poker where the paytable for Jacks or better might be better on a particular machine, but if a player wants to switch to Deuces Wild, they’d be better off getting up and moving rather than playing the same machine.

Unfortunately, with regard to payback averages, Video Keno more resembles slot machines than Video Poker. But at least you can know exactly what the payback for your machine is. With slots, you can sit at a machine and have no clue if it set up to pay 85 percent or 94 percent. The one that appears to have ‘higher’ payouts may really have a lower payback programmed in. 

This is not possible with Video Keno. Video Keno paybacks can go to the low 90 percent range, which is considerably higher than live Keno. Live Keno paybacks tend to be in the 65 to 75 percent range due to the overhead associated with running a Keno parlor. 

The downside to playing Video Keno vs. Live Keno is that you play way more hands per hour. A live Keno game runs only about 30 hands per hour. A machine can run hundreds per hour, depending on how fast you play, whether your change your numbers between hands, etc. Of course, you can also play Video Keno for lower denominations – as little as pennies or a nickel vs. $1-2 minimum at the live games.

Are you a Keno player? If so, I’d like to hear from you as to whether you prefer live vs. machines and how many numbers you play and why. Drop me a line!

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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