Don’t get burned by‘hot’ numbers

Jan 18, 2005 6:12 AM

If we obtain a ball frequency report from the keno supervisor and we note that there are several balls that have come up more often than expected, these are referred to as "hot numbers." We note that there are only two possibilities that can produce such hot numbers.

Case I: The hot numbers were produced by natural random variation. In this case no playing strategy based upon the history of calls will be of any value; the future calls will be entirely random.

Case II: The hot numbers were produced by some bias in the ball selection process. In this case the bias may continue into some point in the future, or the bias may discontinue.

If the bias discontinues we revert back to Case I. If the bias continues producing the same hot numbers as it has in the past, it is possible that we will gain some advantage by playing these hot numbers. Now it’s time to discuss the processes that may produce bias in the ball selection process. Keno (and lotto) numbers are selected these days by two methods: A mechanical method involving ping pong balls with numbers painted on them, or by computers using a random number generator (RNG).

There are two mechanical methods: 1) The air blower system and 2) the mechanical cage system. Bias may be produced in these systems by either defects in the balls themselves or errors of operation. Sometimes a ball may split in half, and each half will wrap itself around another ball. It may take several games for the operators to realize that this has happened. In the meantime, the balls that are "wrapped" will become "cold numbers" and the ball that is split will come up twice as often. Another possibility is that a ball will split without separating and wrap itself completely around another ball. Although this situation is less likely than the previous, it does happen and is less likely to be discovered by the operators, so it might continue longer. As before, the ball that is wrapped will disappear (don’t play it). Another case is a ball that is split along the seam but hasn’t separated yet. These balls will come up much more often in a blower system than intact balls because the airstream catches them much more easily, and this is a defect that is much more difficult for the game operators to discern. Experienced keno employees can recognize a cracked ball by sound, (the cracked ball sounds different during the mix) but unfortunately, many keno games these days just don’t have the experienced keno employees that they had in the past.

Bias may be produced in a computer selected game by defects in the software or hardware. Although it is hard to believe, this is not just theoretical. Several cases have occurred in the last few years of defects in software that have produced non-random results in keno or lotto calls. For the most part, these defects -involve insufficient randomization of the "seed" which is the starting number for the random selection process.

The point is that it doesn’t matter what produces bias. If there is bias present, it is obvious that the best thing to do is to play the numbers that are coming up more often, not the numbers that are not coming up! And I do have to point out, that while these bias situations can occur, they are very infrequent.

Well, that’s it for now. Good luck! I’ll see you in line!