Play the numbers!

Dec 12, 2006 12:17 AM

Often times, when playing keno I will strike up a conversation with the player or players seated next to me, especially when the machine seems to "behave" in a somewhat strange manner.

Specifically, we all begin to theorize how the machine works when the outcomes — hits and misses — seem to defy all laws of probability.

I’m sure my fellow players have hit stretches in which the machine will simply avoid their numbers as if they were written out of the game program.

And maybe they have been, according to some experts who claim to have knowledge of how the video keno game works.

Of course, as players, we can only speculate. Last weekend, an elderly gent seated near me said trying to understand how the keno program worked was like trying to understand his wife’s thought process.

I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or slap the old guy.

One of the more plausible explanations of how a video keno game works was offered to me from a former technician of a major slot manufacturer.

Now, I can’t verify whether all he says is fact, but I’ve noticed the machine sometimes behaves as he describes.

First, he said the machines are designed and programmed to do one thing: Pay the house a certain pre-determined percentage of every dollar gambled, and 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 what you do.

I know many players don’t believe or don’t want to believe this is possible, and will even cite Nevada gaming law, which prohibits a machine from having a sub program that bases its outcome on how much money has been played into the machine.

Now, I’m no expert on gaming law, but I was once told by a slot supervisor or a major Strip hotel that a specific progressive machine would hit when the meter reached approximately $21,000 (it had a start amount of $10,000).

That would seem to refute any such prohibition.

Secondly, the technician said the machines have a three-phase program written into them.

During the first phase, there hasn’t been enough money played into the machine 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 player interested.

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 how lucky you are. This is when your true odds of hitting a jackpot based on the number of spots picked come into play.

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 stuff, wouldn’t you say? Beyond that, I don’t have a clue whether or not this is an accurate explanation of a video keno program. But, I do sometimes experience some of the traits described.

Actually, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is how you play, and I’ve found that the method of re-setting the machine — in effect, "re-booting" the keno program — seems to help in jarring the machine out of any slumps.

As we know, it’s always helpful to assist luck whenever we can.