Beware the overlap

Jul 10, 2006 6:28 AM

Sometimes, things happen that make you wonder whether or not you’re really playing a keno game.

The most obvious, which I’m sure has happened to many of you, is when you play a group of numbers for hours on end, finally give in to moving your selections, only to see those once-cherished numbers rush into the space you just vacated.

Now, how can this happen? Is it just bad timing, misfortune or a ghastly coincidence?

Or could it be something more rational, though something we video keno players don’t want to admit: That the "keno" game we love is simply an output device designed to display what some cryptic computer program decides far from the pretty graphics and stereo sound.

I know it’s hard to attribute "behavior" to a supposedly random keno game. Of course, any combination, trend or pattern (or lack thereof) is possible.

But sometimes, the machine just doesn’t act like a keno game.

Another strange occurrence that I’ve recently experienced has been while playing Four Card Keno. Sometimes, I put all my eggs in one basket, that is, mark several overlapping patterns over a specified group of numbers.

For instance, one of my favorite plays is to mark two 7-spot cards over eight numbers, and another two 7-spot cards over an adjacent group of eight numbers (see illustration).

As you can see, this pattern uses the "outside" eight numbers of a given 10-number row.

This has been a productive pattern, often creating several 6-of-7 hits and an occasional solid 7-spot.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially frisky (or greedy?), I may narrow the field by marking my second group of 7-spots on the same line as the first, usually using the "inside" eight numbers.

Lately, when I’ve made that move — from two rows of 7-spots to just one row — the game seems to immediately go into a brain freeze, in which numbers all-of-a-sudden can’t find my row!

I’ve tried to track whether the machine in fact begins to defy the laws of probability by examining the hit frequencies, as delineated in the accompanying chart for 16 numbers.

What I’ve found is that when I’ve doubled up my 7-spots on a given row — after having played two rows — the keno program almost "shuts down" on the now overloaded row.

I’ve also found that, by going back to playing two sets of 7-spots on the two previous rows, the game will once again go back to a "normal" or in my case generous mode and begin to drop numbers into the rows in a more "reasonable" manner.

I’m not sure what this says of the randomness of a given keno game. It’s disturbing to change your configurations, only to find that your numbers have inexplicably gone dry.

I suppose the message here is to spread the numbers out, even though you lose the chance of a huge multiple-jackpot score.

Of course, any score is better than none.

Which proves that greed, as always, has its drawbacks.