Video keno sheds its ‘low roller’ image

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Very frequently, I
receive letters from readers who invariably ask about playing video keno,
especially how it relates to playing video poker.

It seems there are
plenty of poker players out there, many of whom are not quite ready to give up
their game of choice but are curious about the growing popularity of video keno.

Actually, my first love
was video poker. When I first moved to Las Vegas, my specialty was Joker Poker,
partly because it offered the chance to hit a “mini jackpot” with its
five of a kind (1,000 coins), as well as the standard royal flush (4,000 coins).

Plus the joker ensured
a lot more four of a kinds, which would help fill those buckets with quarters.
While playing joker poker, I had a fair amount of success, hitting a few
progressive jackpots on the machines at the downtown casinos.

What caught my
attention about video keno was the somewhat astounding jackpots that you’d see
on those old two-screen keno machines, with the payoffs on the top screen and
the game layout on the bottom.

Now, admittedly the
game itself had very little appeal ”” what could be more boring than marking
your numbers, and then waiting through the “beep, beep, beep” of the
machine as it sang out its numbers. But because the payoffs looked appealing, I
did some research and found that video keno was a game worth pursuing.

The key attraction to
keno has always been the payoffs, many of which reached the realm of lottery
jackpots.

Equally important, the
payoffs looked closer to the actual odds than the poker payoffs.

Let’s use the royal
flush as an example. The odds of hitting a royal on a jacks or better and a
deuces wild machine are about 42,000-1 (they’re slightly higher on a joker
machine because of the 53rd card). However, the standard payoff is only 800-1 or
$1,000 on a quarter machine.

A comparable video keno
jackpot would be hitting seven out of seven numbers, with a probability of about
41,000-1. Yet the keno payoff is a healthy 7000-1. On a quarter machine that
means $7,000 for a bet of four coins (a single coin returns $1,750!).

Obviously, there’s a
lot more math involved when you take the entire game into consideration, and
factor in the various hits, but bottom line for me is this: why would you chase
an 800-1 jackpot when you can pursue a 7000-1 prize with about the same
probability of hitting it?

Admittedly, hitting
either a royal flush or a solid seven is not an everyday occurrence, and it’s
even possible to play for weeks and weeks and never hit either one. You have to
remember, when you’re dealing with large odds, especially when they get into
the thousands or tens of thousands, it may take awhile to beat the odds. That’s
why I usually play the higher number keno games, eight-, nine- and 10-spot keno,
because they offer more opportunities to hit minor jackpots, while offering the
always-present chance of hitting the Big One.

Here are a few
examples: The 8-spot has a nice payoff for hitting seven out of eight numbers
”” $1,652 for four quarters bet. And with odds of 6200-1, the chances of
catching seven of eight is nearly seven times greater than hitting a royal
flush. Another way of looking at it: for every royal flush that’s hit, there
will be six hand-pay jackpots for hitting seven of eight on a keno machine!
While playing an 8-spot, hitting six of eight numbers, which have odds of about
422-1, results in a $98 payoff with four quarters bet. Those odds are close to
what the odds are to hit a natural four of a kind, which pays less than half as
much on a jacks or better machine. Incidentally, the odds of hitting a solid
eight are about 230,000-1, but they’re not insurmountable. At the El Cortez, I
hit the first two 8-spot progressives (on nickel machines!) for payoffs in the
$7,500-$8,000 range, and have subsequently hit a few solid eights, but most of
my most recent wins have come on Four Card Keno games (more on this later).

I also play a lot of
nine- and 10-spot keno. Quite frankly, I’ve never hit a solid nine spot, but
have cashed some eight of nine jackpots at $4,700. The odds of hitting eight
numbers are about 30,600-1, which are about 25% lower than the odds for a royal,
but the payoff is still a superior 4700-1 (as opposed to the royal’s 800-1).
The nine-spot also offers a seven of nine payout of $335 and, with odds of
1690-1, can often be hit at a sitting.

The 10-spot offers
similar attractions: catching eight of 10 is attractive with a payoff of $1,000,
but because the odds are about 7300-1, it doesn’t offer the value of hitting a
seven of eight, whose odds are actually less (6200-1) while the payoff is
actually more ($1,652).

Many keno players tell
me they concentrate on, almost exclusively, the five and six spot games. Of
course, these games offer great value, and playing those games steadily will
result in some nice ”” and relatively frequent ”” jackpots.

In fact, the five spot
offers the best value of any keno game: The payoff of 810-1 is better than the
royal flush’s payoff (800-1), but the odds of hitting a solid five are only
1550-1! Remember, the odds of hitting a royal are about 41,000-1, so this
difference can be interpreted to mean that for every royal, you should hit 26
solid five spots!

I suppose I play the
higher numbers in hopes of eventually hitting the top line payoff. And, because
I’m frequently doing so on a progressive bank of machines, those rewards can
be huge. Unfortunately, they don’t have monster progressives for five- and
six-spot games, not yet anyway.

But if a player can
win, and win consistently, playing a five or six spot, play on! There’s never
a substitute for winning in the casino. It sure beats the alternatives!

(L.J. Zahm is the
author of “Cluster Keno: Using the Zone Method to Win at Video Poker.”
For information, write to Cluster Keno, P.O. Box 46303, Las Vegas, NV 89114.)

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