Shrink the keno board

Dec 5, 2005 2:54 AM

I was reading with interest Linda Jo’s treatise on how she marks her video keno screen with certain clusters that include more than one pattern.

Oddly enough this sounds a lot like a strategy I’ve employed on the live keno board.

Specifically, this strategy of playing keno is the strategy of sector play.

Here’s how it works. The keno board is divided into sectors, and numbers are picked to play within each sector. The most common use of this strategy involves the four corners, or quadrants, of the board.

Take a keno ticket and line off the four quadrants. Do this by drawing a line horizontally across the ticket between the "30" row and the "40" row. Then draw a line vertically down the center of the ticket between the "5" column and the "6" column.

The result will give you four 20-spot "mini-tickets" to play, upper left, upper right, lower right and lower left.

Once you have selected which quadrants you wish to play, in this case the four corners, you must decide on which of two ways to apply the strategy.

Some players play the quadrants in a balanced fashion. In other words, if they want to play $12 per game on 6-spots, they will play three one dollar 6-spots in each quadrant.

Some players play the quadrants in an unbalanced manner. These players might ignore one or more of the quadrants, for example, playing all twelve 6-spots in the upper left quadrant.

Both of these strategies assume that, sooner or later, the keno draw of 20 numbers will come up in an unbalanced manner, thus increasing your chances of winning. It is true that the average draw will put five numbers in each quadrant, but a 5-5-5-5 draw is by no means the most common draw. Indeed, a draw such as 6-5-5-4 that is slightly unbalanced is far more common. Unbalanced draws that put seven, eight or nine numbers into one quadrant are not that unusual.

Let’s assume that you are playing a 5-spot ticket in one of the 20-spot quadrants. The following chart will show you the change in the odds against hitting the 5-spot associated with the number of hits in that quadrant. Remember that the odds against hitting a 5-spot on a regular keno ticket are approximately 1550 to one.


Number of hits Chance of hitting

in quadrant a solid 5-spot

5 1 in 15,504.00

6 1 in 2,584.00

7 1 in 738.29

8 1 in 276.86

9 1 in 123.04

10 1 in 61.52

11 in 33.56

12 1 in 19.58

13 1 in 12.05

14 1 in 7.74

15 1 in 5.16

16 1 in 3.55

17 1 in 2.51

18 1 in 1.81

19 1 in 1.33

20 1 in 1.00


Although some of these occurrences are rare, or even very rare, it would not be unusual to see a nine or even a ten in one corner of the board during an evening’s keno play. You can see that the effect on your 5-spot odds can be quite dramatic if this happens.

On a scale of one to five spikes, with five being the highest, I give sector play as a strategy a rating of 3½ spikes:

This is because although the sector strategy increases your chances of winning, it also proportionately increases your cost of playing.

The odds against the catch above, 8-5-4-3, IF the order of the quadrants are unimportant, are 13.655 for one against, which puts it in a very common category. This is the figure that would be used by a balanced quadrant player. IF the order is important, the 8-5-4-3 has to fall in exactly the same quadrants as illustrated, then the odds for one against are 327.732 for one.

The player who plays the quadrants in a balanced fashion has the advantage of not having to pick which quadrant will receive the most hits. The player who plays in an unbalanced fashion will have much more chance of winning, IF he picks the right quadrant. Well, you pays your money and you takes your chances!

That’s it for this week. Good luck! I’ll see you in line!