No controversy with video keno payback

Aug 29, 2005 12:59 AM

I’ve been watching with interest the debate going on between the video poker factions who are disputing the significance of a machine’s payback percentage.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed that otherwise intelligent individuals would actually believe that by playing a machine with a high or even greater-than 100% return, they are virtually guaranteed that they will win money.

I’ve even heard something as silly as "With a 99.5 percent machine you need luck, but with a 100.7 percent machine you don’t need luck ”¦ or you just don’t need to be unlucky."

That statement was obviously made by someone who doesn’t play slots, whether it’s video poker, keno or Megabucks. That’s a mathematician who can’t see beyond the model theory, permutations and differential equations. The person is, frankly, a math geek who doesn’t understand gambling.

There’s no doubt that most of us play video keno because of the possibility we can beat the odds — and the machine’s negative house advantage — and hit a significant jackpot

It’s the old win a "lumberyard with a toothpick" mentality that draws us to playing for those lottery-like payoffs. And we hit them regularly, if not every day.

But winning at video keno doesn’t always mean you’ve hit your 7-out-of-7 or 8-out-of-8 jackpots and collected several thousand dollars. As I’ve pointed out many times before, when you play the higher-number keno cards, say, 8-spot, 9-spot and 10-spot keno, you can walk away with a nice profit even if you don’t catch all of your numbers and defy odds of tens of thousands to one.

For instance, if you’re playing quarters, catching 7-out-of-9 pays a handsome \$335 (with four coins bet) while catching 6-out-of-8 rewards players with about \$99. Hitting 7-out-of-10 isn’t bad, either, paying \$142 for only four coins bet.

Another reachable goal is catching 6-out-of-7, which pays \$400 for four quarters bet.

Of course, the challenge is always to hit the top prize, but that doesn’t happen every day. During the times that it doesn’t occur, it can be profitable to play for these "consolation" type of jackpots.

One of our video poker writers talks about his "win and leave" approach, in which he plays until he wins a select amount, \$40, then leaves the casino and goes to another casino to start the process all over again.

I like the concept, and thought I would try a similar approach to see if I couldn’t ring up a few "small" jackpots en route to a profitable day at the casino.

My approach, however, was to play a certain kind of game, in this case Four Card Keno, then after hitting my goal, simply move to another similar machine in the same casino. I couldn’t see the point of picking up and driving to another place.

I decided to set a goal of winning \$50 (net) from each machine, that is, \$50 profit over and above what I put into the machine. I call this my "hit and run" strategy!

I chose Four Card Keno, because it increases the likelihood of hitting an intermediate jackpot, and picked a locals casino on the west side of town.

The Game King machines that house Four Card Keno offer a variety of denominations, from a penny up to a dollar. I selected quarters and played just one quarter per card; thus I was betting a dollar per game.

I also decided to play 9-spots and 7-spots because with one quarter bet, catching 7-out-of-9 pays a respectable \$83.75, and catching 6-out-of-7 rewards you with a tidy \$100.

I often play at odd hours, such as late night or early morning. This gives me the opportunity of picking my machines without a lot of competition from other players.

Also, it’s nice to relax, without playing elbow-to-elbow with your neighbor, and without the need to inhale other folks’ cigarette smoke.

It also makes it easier to slide from one machine to the next. These Game Kings are usually clustered in groups or carousels of eight to 12 machines.

I started by clustering four 9-spot cards and played until I caught enough 7-out-of-9 pots to reach my goal (or better by hitting the 8- or 9-out-of-9 jackpots!).

On the evening that I experimented with this approach, I never hit anything higher than 7-out-of-9, but was fairly consistent in hitting enough of them to cash out about half a dozen times (each time with a profit of from \$50 to \$120).

The clusters I used included the overlapping 9-spots on two adjacent rows (see illustration).

I also experimented with a few 7-spots, also on two adjacent rows, and caught a few 6-out-of-7 payoffs, enough of them to pique my interest to try a session with them on another day.

I enjoyed playing this way, which I shall call a hit and run approach, and think it can give the player a realistic goal all the while you’re shooting for the "big one."

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