With the advent of advanced computer technology, game manufacturers have introduced many variations of the standard keno game. Bally’s Game Maker and Keno Plus machines pioneered the "bonus" keno games, but IGT most recently has launched a legion of their own keno spin-offs.
Although I don’t spend much time on the keno variations, they can be fun and offer a nice change of pace to the standard keno game.
But there’s one caveat all keno players should recognize: The pay tables may be woefully deficient on some of these games. Thus, check the pay tables before beginning. A dear friend was recently playing one of the new keno games and hit 7-out-of-7, and while he had only one nickel bet, he was looking forward to the $350 (7000-1 is standard for catching a solid 7-spot) jackpot. But the machine paid a pathetic $20 because it was equipped with one of the lowest payback tables available.
Personally, I would never play a game that didn’t offer the "standard" payoffs. Most of the IGT, Bally and Aristocrat machines have games with standard payback tables, but some casinos opt for machines that have substantially lower payoffs. I guess holding 10 percent isn’t enough for some casino managers.
Thankfully, most of the Four Card Keno and Multi-Card Keno games come with "normal" pay tables, but double check anyway. The casino can install a game with a lower pay table.
One of the most amusing games I’ve ever played can be found on the Bally Keno Plus machine, called Triple Trouble. The concept behind this keno game is that you pick your numbers in the standard manner, choosing up to 10 spots, as you would in a standard game.
But the game features a bonus round that kicks in when three of the famous Bally "Devils" appear on screen (all three have to pop up in order to enter the bonus round). During the three ensuing, automatic games (you can’t re-set your numbers once the bonus round kicks in), all payoffs are tripled.
To compensate for the possibility of paying back "too much" to the player, the pay tables on many of the rewards are reduced, but they are still within a comfortable level of play.
And, it makes for some exciting play when the red devil comes up and you have a shot at some nice payoffs during those three games.
The only time I’ve been able to hit anything of significance playing Triple Trouble was at the Stardust, where I caught 7-of-8 numbers during the bonus round for a payoff of $4,800 (three times the standard 7-of-8 payout of $1,600).
The only other jackpots I’ve ever hit during the Triple Trouble bonus round have been 7-of-10, 7-of-9 and 6-of-7.
Another keno variation that has developed quite a following is Caveman Keno, which is among the choices on IGT’s Game King. In addition to its molar-rattling sound effects, Caveman Keno features a novel screen with prehistoric volcanoes, dinosaurs, and blond-haired prehistoric man, and — hopefully for the player — dinosaur eggs.
The eggs are the key, and they function in much the same manner as the red devils in Bally’s Triple Trouble.
Here’s how the game works: The player chooses from 2-10 spots, just as in regular keno. The computer will then draw three numbers at random (among those that the player did not pick). These three numbers will be marked with a dinosaur egg.
The game proceeds with the machine pulling 20 numbers, and the player wins or loses depending on his catches.
If the player has hit enough spots to win something, that award is multiplied by a factor depending on whether the egg numbers match the 20 numbers chosen by the machine.
The multiplying factor is 1 if the number of egg matches is 1 or less, 4 if two eggs match, and 10 if all three eggs match.
As you can see, the bonus feature is similar to the devils in Triple Trouble, but you don’t need all three to appear in order to gain a multiplier.
As with Triple Trouble, the payoffs are reduced to compensate for the chance of a high multiplier.
But you also get an even money payback for hits such as 3 out of 7 and 4 out of 10, both of which normally don’t have any return.
As you can see, with a multiplier of 10X, the jackpots can reach into the thousands of dollars for four quarters bet, but you need all three eggs to be hit (at odds of about 72-1; two of three eggs has odds of about 7-1), and the "egg numbers" are chosen exclusive of the numbers you pick, which makes it a little more difficult to hit a high catch plus the three eggs on the same draw.
The only other keno variation that I’ve played with any semblance of regularity is the 3-6-9 Way Ticket game, which is found on both the IGT Game King and Bally Keno Plus.
Like any other kind of way ticket, the 3-6-9 game allows for hitting many small payoffs with the possibility of hitting multiple medium jackpots. The abundance of minor awards allows for playing a longer period of time, but you seldom have a shot at some huge awards (which is the reason most of us are attracted to keno in the first place!).
Here’s the reason: In the 3-6-9 game, you’re playing seven coins per game, but never do you ever have four coins bet on one card. Thus, if you ever hit the top payoff, say 9-of-9, you will have done it with only one coin bet (even though you were betting seven coins each game).
Of course, if you hit 9-of-9, you will also have hit three solid 6 spots and three solid 3 spots, as well. But the jackpot still would not be as much as hitting a solid 9 spot with four coins bet.
Nevertheless, playing the 3-6-9 way ticket is fun, and you will frequently hit the minor payoffs, including the 7-of-9, which hopefully brings along with it a solid 6-spot from the three that are available.
In playing 3-6-9, you basically mark three 3-spots (noted by A, B and C on the screen). The combination also results in three 6 spots (A+B, A+C and B+C) and one 9-spot (A+B+C).
You can spread the numbers out, put them in rows or columns or create boxes, but I’ve had the most success playing a simple 3 by 3 box, just like in the Four Card Keno. Here’s a hint though: Mix the A, B, and C numbers up so you don’t have three A’s across the top, three B’s in the center and three C’s across the bottom of the box. The numbers rarely "come in" that way, and you can hit more solid 3 spots, which helps to keep your credits up.