Get your share
of the jackpots!

Feb 28, 2005 3:05 AM

People are still buzzing over the lucky family that took home more than $400,000 in video keno jackpots at the El Cortez a few weeks ago.

And why shouldn’t everyone be excited? Video keno offers the chance of winning big money with a small investment. And it’s wonderful to see it actually happen.

Most keno players, as you would expect, seem to want more detailed information, such as which machines were played, what numbers were picked, how the bets were placed and so forth.

A few people expressed interest in trying my Cluster Keno system, which has had some success of its own at the El Cortez. Recall a year ago a player hit $11,000 jackpots playing nickel Multi-Card Keno on consecutive days, which prompted the casino to remove the 5¡ denomination from the machine (while leaving intact 1¡ and 2¡ Multi-Card games).

I’ve also had a few players say they have tried the Cluster Keno system, but were only able to hit a few 6-of-7 and 7-of-9 jackpots, but couldn’t land the huge payoffs our lucky winners enjoyed.

To these folks, let me say that gambling is always based on luck. Sure, you put yourself in the best position to win through strategy, but in the end, the numbers have to come in, the cards have to fall or the dice have to land just perfectly.

You must be patient when playing a system. And realistic. The key to winning is playing with consistency.

Moreover, when you hit 6-of-7 playing keno, or even 7-of-9, you’ve probably come out ahead, which isn’t a bad thing! Don’t expect the lottery payoffs to automatically jump up just because you’re trying a new system!

I’ve also had several requests to review the playing strategy behind the actual choosing of keno clusters, especially on the Four Card Keno machines.

There are several components to playing Cluster Keno, but I would like to start with one underlying premise that has remained a foundation of my play strategy for years. And that is that video keno jackpots are most frequently won soon after the machine is "reset."

I was reminded of this fact most recently while sitting in my son’s dentist office, where the receptionist was describing how she sat down at a keno machine and, within five games, hit 8-out-of-8 on a quarter machine for an $8,000 jackpot.

By reset I mean that the numbers from the previous game are erased, and new numbers are marked — even though the new numbers may be exactly the same numbers that were played before!

I alluded to this before when I noted that video keno is different that live keno, where players often mark their card and wait for the numbers to come in. I’ve found the live-game strategy has seldom, if ever, worked for me. In fact, I have tried to play the same game over and over, not touching the numbers, not re-betting, but the only results have been a long string of losing games.

I first noticed this phenomenon while playing at the El Cortez. Much to my surprise, I would hit jackpots on machines that were located on either side of a machine I was playing, often times, while waiting for a hand-pay jackpot on the center machine! At the same casino, I hit a pair of nickel keno progressives by essentially playing the same numbers over and over, but resetting the machine every two or three plays.

Now, I’m not suggesting you have to reset the machine after every game. But I seldom play the same numbers for more than three games before I re-set the machine. Also, keep in mind that most times after re-setting the machine, I will mark the same numbers.

Let me give you an example. If I’m playing the solid eight numbers in the "nine column," I may play the numbers for two or three games, then erase and mark the same column of numbers. For some reason, this sometimes leads to hitting, say, a seven out of eight jackpot, more frequently than when simply sitting on the same numbers, game after game.

Just why it seems the machine is more likely to hit after a reset, rather than after playing the same game over and over and over, is beyond my knowledge. But keep in mind that the keno program was designed by an engineer who is charged with the task of creating a machine that makes money for the casino. It’s not likely they would ever create a keno game that would pay a jackpot just because you put in "enough" quarters.

In fact, I’ve noticed in recent months, that some keno games go into a losing spiral the more you play the same numbers. Maybe others have noticed that, on some occasions, the numbers continue to be "bad," that is, return little or nothing at all, no matter how long you play them. I’ve found that re-setting the machine is the only way to "stop the bleeding."

As mentioned before, I think it’s important to be consistent. Blackjack and video poker players have their basic strategies, and experienced craps players typically bet a certain way and seldom deviate. By following your system, whatever that happens to be, you give yourself a chance to keep up with, if not overcome, the odds of the game. In order to make the odds work for you, it’s best to be consistent and follow your system.

(L.J. Zahm is the author of Cluster Keno: Using the Zone Method to Win at Video Keno. The book is distributed at the Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.)