There’s still life in these old war horses!

Jan 24, 2005 1:25 AM

I recently heard from members of the family that hit those huge video keno jackpots down at the El Cortez. We’ll be writing some articles about their extensive keno play, maybe some tips and report results in the realm of keno jackpots.

For now, however, it’s nice to hear from such a dedicated group of players. They, like myself, enjoy playing the older keno games like the IGT Fortune machines that have pretty much become an endangered species.

Nevertheless, there are a few still around town, and if you have a chance to play them, by all means give them a shot.

If you’ve never seen one of these babies, they come in the tall, stand-up model or the "hump back" table top machine. These classic games have three- and four-coin maximum bets and dumping hoppers, and offer one of the better chances to win.

For newcomers to Las Vegas, these machines are found mostly at the downtown properties such as the El Cortez, Western Hotel, Fitzgerald’s, Main Street Station, California Hotel, Plaza, Las Vegas Club and Gold Spike. There are also a few circulating around some of the "locals" casinos such as Palace Station, Gold Coast, Nevada Palace, Opera House, Arizona Charlie’s and The Skyline.

Unlike the newer models, these classics weren’t designed to accumulate credits, although some have been retrofitted with the software to do so. Instead, they dump coins after every payout. It may seem tedious to re-insert coins after every payoff, but that’s part of the allure of these machines.

Another charming element of these venerable machines is the jackpot bell. For those who are fortunate to hit something, the bell goes off like a doorbell from the 1950s, sort of a sick ringing sound that’s enough to make your molars rattle. But a jackpot is a jackpot, so who’s complaining?

Moreover, the video keno offers are significantly greater than their video poker counterparts. For instance, the top award for hitting 10-out-of-10 spots on a 25-cent keno machine pays $10,000 (with maximum four coins bet), but the "smaller" payoffs are actually better deals.

For example, hitting seven out of seven numbers pays a whopping $7,000 with four coins bet, a significantly better reward than the $1,000 paid by a video poker machine with five coins bet for a Royal Flush. With odds nearly the same (about 40,000-1), you can see you have a much better payoff with the keno jackpot (7,000-1) than with the poker jackpot (800-1).

And you don’t have to hit the top jackpot to make money. Using the 10-out-of-10 example, the odds of hitting all numbers are huge.

But with odds of about 7,400-1, the chances of hitting eight-out-of-10 are five times more likely than hitting a Royal, but the payoffs are identical. Yet keno requires only four coins (as opposed to five) to hit the top prize. Such a deal!

Overall, it might be difficult to track down these old timers. And some people won’t like the work or the dirty fingers associated with shoveling coins, and many will miss the sound and graphics of more modern machines. But for keno purists, nothing’s more fun than the old IGT Fortune machines.