Yes, you can hit a pot

May 16, 2005 2:51 AM

One of the obvious attractions of playing video keno is the lure of huge jackpots. But, as one reader points out, the top awards don’t come easily, nor do they come often.

Here’s what Carolyn said in a recent note: "Is it possible to win $10,000 on video keno? I have never seen anyone hit the top $10,000 payout. Have you heard of anyone getting so lucky?"

Thanks, Carolyn, for the note. And the answers to both of your questions is a resounding "Yes!"

But let’s qualify those answers. What Carolyn is probably seeing is the $10,000 top award on 8-spot, 9-spot and 10-spot quarter keno machines.

Those 25¡ machines will pay $10,000 if you hit a solid card with four quarters bet. But the odds to hit one of those cards are extremely high, thus the frequency of hitting is understandably small.

For instance, the odds of catching 8-out-of-8 numbers is about 230,000-1. Keep in mind that the odds of catching a royal flush in poker is "only" about 40,000-1. So, statistically speaking you would expect to catch all 8 spots in the span it takes to hit six royal flushes!

It gets worse for the 9-spot and 10-spot games. The odds of filling a solid 9-spot card is 1,330,687-to-1, and about 8.9 million-to-1 for hitting all 10 spots. Thus, you can expect to hit one solid 9-spot for every 33 royals you line up, and one solid 10-spot for every 222 royals!

I would expect the chairs would become a little uncomfortable waiting to beat those kinds of odds.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. It’s possible — and I see it done, day in and day out — to win large jackpots without winning the top prize. That’s because the "lesser" jackpots in video keno are so substantial, that you can win big without defying prohibitive odds.

Let’s look at some examples. The 9-spot card is popular with players because they can hit a "royal flush-size" jackpot, about $1,100, by catching 8-out-of-9 numbers at odds of only 30,000-to-1, about 25 percent less than the royal’s odds. More important, the cost is only one quarter rather than poker’s normal five-quarter bet.

If you do the math, you can see how these jackpots can easily approach $10,000 by upping the ante a bit. Using the same 9-spot example, a four-quarter bet produces a $4,700 jackpot for catching 8 numbers, and a $2 bet will return a healthy $9,400. Video poker players eat your hearts out!

Players have another great shot at the big bucks when they play 7-spot cards. Catching all 7 numbers, whose odds (41,000-1) are about the same as hitting a royal flush, pays a whopping 7,000-1 (the royal flush pays only 800-1!).

Once again, you don’t need a slide rule to figure that a dollar bet would win $7,000, a $2 bet returns $14,000 and so forth.

Do players actually hit these jackpots? These and more are hit every day in Las Vegas casinos. Of course, any gambling is based on luck, but if you know what you’re trying to hit and play in that direction, you have a reasonable chance of catching a big one.

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