Winning by consolation

Apr 10, 2007 1:59 AM

A couple of weeks ago, a lucky player at Arizona Charlie’s caught 8-out-of-8 on a Four Card Keno machine for a whopping $80,000.

In order to do this, she had to bet $2 per ticket, and she overlapped all four tickets on the first eight numbers on the game’s bottom row.

Just why she played that pattern for such a large sum is a mystery to me, but it paid off for her in a big way.

Of course, these kinds of payoffs are admittedly rare, considering the odds of catching 8-of-8 numbers is about 230,000-to-1.

Nevertheless, it’s reassuring to know that lightning can strike, especially when sometimes it may seem like the numbers have an aversion to landing on your ticket.

Big jackpots are sweet, but most of the day-to-day return for video keno players are the "lesser" payoffs that provide smaller profits and funds with which to continue playing.

These are the 6-of-8, 6-of-7, 7-of-9, 7-of-10 payoffs and so forth.

I believe they correspond to the minor jackpots paid on video poker machines that give those players a solid return while waiting and hoping for the elusive royal flush (which occurs at odds of about 40,000-to-1).

Keep in mind that, while video poker is touted as a much more mathematically prudent game to play, it’s payoffs can be suspect, compared to some keno payoffs.

For instance, the aforementioned royal flush at 40,000-to-1 usually pays a paltry 800-1 ($1,000 for five quarters bet on a quarter machine).

A comparable video keno ticket would be a 7-spot, which has odds of about 40,900-to-1 for catching all seven numbers. But the keno payoff is 7000-to-1, more than eight times higher than the royal payoff!

Another way to illustrate the more attractive keno jackpots is to take a 5-spot, which pays a top jackpot of 810-to-1, virtually the same as the poker’s royal flush. But the odds of hitting 5-for-5 are only 1550-to-1, which means the comparable keno jackpot occurs 25 times more frequently than the royal!

The higher payoffs at significantly lower odds has not gone unnoticed by players, who in the last five years have made video keno the second most popular game behind video poker in many "locals-oriented" casinos such as Palace Station, Gold Coast, Arizona Charlie’s, Terrible’s, El Cortez and The Orleans.

The keno jackpots also out-pay the poker jackpots for hands in the "meat-and-potatoes" range, that is, in the achievable, every day jackpots.

For instance, the 7- and 8-spot games offer good returns for catching the "consolation" jackpot, which is 6-out-of-7 in the 7-spot game (which pays $400 for four quarters at odds of about 1300-1), and 7-out-of-8 in the 8-spot game (a payoff of $1,652 for four quarters at odds of about 6200-1).

The video poker equivalent of the "consolation" jackpots are the four deuces in Deuces Wild, four aces in Bonus Poker and five-of-a-kind in Joker Poker.

But examine the odds versus payoffs for these awards and you’ll see that the player is really getting the worst of it.

For instance, the odds are about 5000-to-1 to catch either four deuces or four aces. But the deuces pay only 200-1 ($1,000 for five quarters) while the four aces pay only 80-1 ($400 for five dollars bet).

The Joker Poker’s five-of-a-kind, which has odds about double the odds to catch four deuces, pays the same: 200-1 or $1,000 for five quarters bet.

Actually, the 9-spot game offers the best of both worlds — nice payoffs for the "big" jackpots as well as the consolation payoffs.

For instance, the 7-out-of-9 jackpot pays a very respectable $335 (for four quarters bet) at odds of about 1690-1. And the 8-out-of-9 award, which pays a juicy $4,700 for four quarters bet has odds of about 30,000-1.

Note that the odds of hitting the $4,700 jackpot is about 25 percent less than hitting a royal flush on a poker machine, but the payoff is a healthy seven and a half times better!

Of course, like the woman at Arizona Charlie’s, we all shoot for the top award. But, as noted above, you can do very well, thank you, with the consolation payoffs as well.