Put luck on your side

Jun 19, 2007 1:42 AM

A few days ago I got lucky and caught 8-out-of-8 while playing Four Card Keno at Palace Station. The jackpot paid 10,000 to 1, a nice return for a couple of hours work.

One of the nearby players noted that sitting there all morning and playing the same numbers finally paid off.

Well, yes and no.

It’s true I had been playing for nearly three hours, and I usually play the same patterns (clusters) on the Four Card Keno machine.

But I don’t think it’s accurate to think that the numbers simply finally "came around" to the spots on which I was resting.

Winning that way is the method of the live keno player — they like to advise, "Don’t chase the numbers, let them come to you."

Good advice, I would expect.

But my jackpot came within only three games of my having "re-set" the machine, something I’ve advised players for years.

For whatever reason, my major scores have come within the first few plays (usually less than five games) of having re-set the machine.

By "re-set" I mean cash out and start again, or simply return to the main menu and then return to the game you were playing.

Re-setting can involve re-drawing your clusters or it may not.

But for whatever reason, my biggest jackpots have virtually always come close to the start of a new session.

If any computer or video keno geniuses know the reason, please let me know!

Of course, these kinds of payoffs are admittedly rare, considering the odds of catching 8-of-8 numbers is about 230,000-to-1, more than five times higher than catching 7-of-7, which is about equivalent to catching a natural royal flush in video poker.

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 returns 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 5,000-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, we all like to shoot for the top award. But, as noted above, you can do very well, thank you, with the consolation payoffs.