Slot vs. keno game

Dec 27, 2005 12:07 AM

Of all the questions that I receive from video keno players, this is probably numero uno: Why is it that, when I change from a group or pattern of numbers that I’ve been playing for nearly forever, that they invariably fill in shortly after I’ve moved somewhere else?

The easy answer is simple: the machine is rigged.

Well, maybe rigged is a little strong.

But I’ve been told — by people who seem to know what they’re saying — that the keno machine works similarly to a stepper slot. That is, a computer chip determines the outcome, and the machine lines up the reels to reflect that outcome.

In the case of a slot machine, the magnetically operated reels are "directed" to stop in the precise order that is determined by some sort of computer chip or program.

In other words, the computer chip or program randomly determines an outcome (two cherries, one seven, all blanks, two bars, etc.) and then "sets" the reels to reflect that outcome.

Anyone who has played keno for a length of time would probably agree that such a scenario could also explain how video keno works. Like I noted at the onset, players often complain that they’ve played the same group or cluster of numbers for hours, then after moving off the numbers the machine fills in all of them!

This would seem to defy normal probabilities. But if the keno screen were just an output device for a computer program similar to a slot program, it would make perfect sense.

One of the most technical explanations of how a video keno game works was delivered to me from a reader who claims to have received the information from a former technician of a major slot manufacturer.

Now, I don’t endorse this explanation or suggest that it is a true reflection of how keno machines work. But I thought it might prove interesting, if not worthwhile, to our readers. Here is the explanation, in the reader’s own words:

These machines are designed and programmed to do one thing. Pay the house a certain pre-determined percentage of every dollar gambled, and I have been assured that if the machine has not registered enough intake of money to enable it to pay out a major jackpot, it will not hit no matter how many times or how often you re-set your numbers. These machines have a three-phase program written into them.

Phase one ”¦ there isn’t enough money to pay a jackpot. This is when the machine will somehow manage to miss your numbers most of the time, hitting small pays just often enough to keep the "it’s due" type of player feeding it.

Phase two is the real kicker. When the machine has enough money to pay out a jackpot without hurting the house "hold" it actually switches over to a second program that is truly run via a random number generator. At this point the machine is actually running an honest RNG program, and your numbers may or may not hit depending on just how plain lucky you are. This is when your true odds of hitting a jackpot based on the number of spots picked come into play. The more numbers picked, the longer the odds. (One note here: Almost all these machines except those connected to a progressive jackpot, pay the same maximum jackpot for an eight, nine or ten spot. So why play a 10 spot when an 8 spot pays the same and your odds of hitting one are exponentially better?)

The third phase programmed into the game is the one you hope you’re lucky enough to have running when you put your money in and pick your numbers. Everyone from the Gaming Control Board to the manufacturer will deny this even under the pain of death, but just remember it is a computer and it can be programmed to do anything you want it to do. And it is the only way that a machine manufacturer can guarantee the house that they will make their percentage in profit. When these machines switch over to the third tier of the program, it reads that the machine is holding far in excess of what it is programmed to earn for the house, usually from 15 percent to 18 percent. It’s just way too close to the maximum 25 percent hold mandated by state gaming regulations. Now it doesn’t matter what numbers you pick, they are going to hit!

Interesting, wouldn’t you say? Beyond that, I don’t have a clue whether this is an accurate explanation of a video keno game.

The only thing I can add, based on countless hours of play, is that my big hits come at the start of a machine’s cycle, based on "re-setting" the machine by cashing out and starting again.

Maybe there’s a correlation.

Good luck to everyone in the upcoming year.