Playing keno on a short (really short) bankroll

Sep 19, 2005 11:41 PM

I know what the best tickets are to play if you have a reasonable playing bankroll (at least a hundred dollars), and I have demonstrated these over the last few years in this column.

Five-spots, eight-spots and 12-spots are my favorites. This is beyond confutation. But what if your bankroll is constrained to $10? What is the optimum ticket to play with a short bankroll?

Once again, we’ll use the six-spot as our benchmark, because it alone accounts for more than one quarter of the keno action in the state of Nevada. Our benchmark six-spot pays $1 for three hits out of six, $3 for four, $100 for five, and $1,480 for a solid six. This ticket has a house percentage of 28.41% and is widely available to play throughout Nevada.

I wrote a computer model which consisted of a million players, each with a $10 bankroll, playing a $1 six-spot, for a total of 10 million games of keno. After 10 million games, the average return for each player was $7.15, out of an initial bankroll of $10, which is about what we’d expect.


3 out of 6 -- 1,297,963

4 out of 6 -- 285,275

5 out of 6 -- 30,939

6 out of 6 -- 1,289


A total of 33,135 players hit $10 or more, thus breaking even or better. There were 32,147 who hit $100 or more, thus increasing their bankroll by a coefficient of 10. Also, 1,289 players hit $1,000 or more, thus increasing their bankroll by a factor of a hundred. No players won $10,000 or more.

It is apparent that if we play a six-spot with a short bankroll of $10 that we’ll have one chance in 30.18 of breaking even or better. These odds don’t look very attractive to me.

To be equitable, the $10 bankroll is arbitrary, and the pay-outs on a six-spot are not structured very well for a $10 pay out threshold. This is because even if you hit three four-out-of-sixes you will still hit only $9 on most standard pay tables.

It is instructive to note that out of our million players, 178,157 played $10 worth of keno and got skunked and didn’t win even a dollar back.

Still, as I stated above, the six-spot is the most popular keno ticket, accounting for more than 25% of all dollar action, and I have the feeling that many players with a $10 bankroll play a six-spot, if for no other reason, out of habit. There might be better tickets to play!

On a scale of one to five spikes, with five being the highest, Keno Lil rates the six-spot played on a short bankroll two spikes:

Well, that’s it for now. Good luck! I’ll see you in line!