When is a machine ‘ready’ to hit?

Mar 15, 2005 5:36 AM

One of the questions frequently asked by readers is the issue of "reading" a machine. Specifically, can an experienced player tell when a machine is "ready" to hit or, conversely, if a machine is in a "dead" cycle in which all the play in the world is for naught.

Quite frankly, it seems as if the latter is far more common — there are times when a machine seems like it is bound and determined to take your money, no matter what the so-called payback percentage may be.

If you are to believe the proponents of gaming machines, there is supposed to be a finite possibility of winning on every play. That’s the theory, anyway.

But, according to some who claim they have insider information, machines aren’t necessarily programmed to behave within the bounds of statistical probability. That is, they may follow a cycle that is strictly designed to return a certain percentage to the owner no matter what.

As far as predicting when a video keno machine might be ready to hit, I have to confess I have no formula, even after zillions of hours of play.

I can say, however, that I’ve hit jackpots more often than not when a machine is in one of two modes: the hit frequency is running high, that is, there are plenty of catches that tend to keep your credits at a high level; and the hit frequency is so low that it practically defies belief, if not the simple laws of statistics.

I’ll give examples of both.

As many of you know, I like to play the 8-spot ticket, either in a standard keno game or one of the multi-card games, such as Four Card Keno and Multi-Card Keno (up to 20 cards can be played at once.)

The goal, obviously, is to catch all eight numbers for a solid 8-spot jackpot, but, realistically, I’m always shooting for the 7-out-of-8 "consolation" jackpot, which is still worth a respectable $1,650 with four quarters bet.

It seems that on the times I’ve caught 7-of-8, the machine behaved in either of the two ways I’ve pointed out — there are several 6-of-8 hits as well as many 5-of-8 hits before the numbers fall into the right pattern; or the machine is so uncooperative that virtually every game lands at 3-of-8, 2-of-8, 3-of-8, and so forth.

The problem with playing a machine that behaves badly is that your bankroll is diminishing quickly and you don’t want to have to constantly feed money in hopes of getting it all back in one fell swoop.

Remember, the whole point of playing video keno is you’re looking for a big jackpot with a minimum of investment. If you have to shovel $1,000 into a machine in hopes of catching a $1,650 jackpot, then you’re money might be better spent pursuing other casino games with a better probability of winning.

Keep in mind that the odds of hitting the keno jackpots are high. The jackpots occur relatively infrequently, simply because the odds are high.

For instance, the odds of hitting 7-of-8 is about 6,200-1. Although that number is relatively low compared to hitting a royal flush (about 41,000-1), it is still a large statistic to overcome.

I’ve found that, for whatever reason, you can cut down on those odds by re-setting the machine. I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth noting again.

If you’re playing a machine that is in one of those downward cycles, it could be helpful to cash out and start again. And I mean you might want to try this very frequently — after three or four games that don’t show signs of "loosening up."

I can’t explain why this seems to sometimes work. But, have you ever noticed how all the published jackpot winners — Megabucks, Wheel of Fortune and others — claim they made their big score after only a few minutes and/or a few games of play?

Is it possible a "cold" machine or one that has just started a new cycle is more prone to hitting? Who knows. All we can do is keep trying and enjoying the jackpots we do hit!

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