Mix up your play

Jul 2, 2007 1:37 AM

Recently while playing Four Card Keno, a player seated next to me asked about the numbers I had marked.

On his machine, he marked four 8-spots, utilizing 32 numbers on the board.

I had marked four 7-spots, but used only 16 numbers on the board because the tickets overlapped each other.

He seemed to feel that overlapping cut down on my chances to catch numbers. Maybe so, but there’s a method to the madness.

My overlapping of numbers stems from this phenomenon, which I’ve observed since I began playing keno: When you play regular keno (one ticket), it seems the numbers invariably fell on a section of your pattern, with a few other numbers landing close by.

Thus, if I were playing a column of eight numbers, I would also mark the adjoining column as well as the two cross-over patterns (top four with bottom four) and/or the two-by-four boxes (top four with adjoining top four).

Of course, no matter what I mark, it’s key to continually "re-set" the machine by cashing out and starting over. I liken it to re-booting a computer. It seems all my biggest jackpots have come shortly after re-setting the machine.

Here are ways that I vary the re-setting. When playing a standard video keno machine, I normally re-set the game every three or four plays. That is, I bet then erase the numbers and then re-mark the same numbers.

In Four Card Keno, I usually re-set after the same number of games, but it’s a little tedious with the four cards.

Lately, however, I’ve been trying an alternative to re-setting: cashing out and putting the money back in and playing the same numbers.

The ticket-in, ticket-out machines make this practice very simply and I have recorded some positive results.

The fellow that was asking me about the keno game seemed to be new at the game, another cross-over from video poker.

Which seems to be a trend. I’ve noticed more and more men playing keno, many of whom were on a hiatus from video poker.

I’m encouraged by their interest in video keno. The game for a long while has traditionally been perceived as the casino’s stepchild ”” a slow-moving, nickel-and-dime game for low-stakes gamblers and penny-pinching tourists.

Nevertheless the game has remained popular with players who don’t want to spend a lot , but want a shot at a significant payoff.

How significant? For a bet as small as 20 cents, video keno payoffs can run into the thousands of dollars. Of course, the odds are often huge, but if you spend any time in the casino, you’ll see the jackpots being won.

As an example, I used to play the nickel progressive keno machines at the El Cortez. Maximum coins is four (20 cents), but the payoffs run into the tens of thousand for the 9-spot and 10-spot games, and typically in the $6,000 to $8,000 for hitting a solid 8-spot.

In fact, I hit the first two 8-spot progressives (about three months apart) for payoffs just under $8,000 each! The winning sessions (which are documented in my book) usually included buy-ins of $30 to $40 in nickels (at the time, I plugged the coins in rather than insert bills ”” call it old fashioned, but it seemed to work).

Because keno machines allow players to bet many games in a short period, players can cut into the typically astronomical odds. Moreover, if you don’t want to spend a lot, players can play for as little as a penny a game, so players can also "last" significantly longer with a given bankroll.

What are the odds of hitting? Surprising to most players, keno odds are comparable to video poker odds, while the payoffs are actually significantly higher.

For instance, the top jackpot on a poker machine is a royal flush, which usually pays 800-to-1 ($1,000 for five quarters bet). The odds of hitting a royal are about 40,100-to-1 on a jacks-or-better machine and slightly higher on a joker machine (the extra card increases the odds).

Of course, keno payoffs vary with the number of spots picked. But using a 7-spot ticket as an example, the odds of hitting 7-for-7 are about 40,900, nearly the same as the royal flush. But the keno payoff is 7000-to-1, more than eight times higher than the royal payoff!

Because keno machines allow players to bet many games in a short period of time, players can cut into the typically astronomical odds. Moreover, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, players can play for as little as a penny a game, so players can also "last" significantly longer with a given bankroll, thus increasing the chances of hitting a jackpot.

What are the odds of hitting? Surprising to most players, keno odds are comparable to video poker odds, while the payoffs are actually significantly higher.

For instance, the top jackpot on a poker machine is a royal flush, which usually pays 800-to-1 ($1,000 for five quarters bet). The odds of hitting a royal are about 40,100-to-1 on a jacks-or-better machine and slightly higher on a joker machine (the extra card increases the odds).

Of course, keno payoffs vary with the number of spots picked. But using a 7-spot ticket as a comparable example, the odds of hitting 7-for-7 are about 40,900, nearly the same as the royal flush. 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 keno jackpots also out-pay the poker jackpots for hands other than the royal flush.

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, El Cortez and The Orleans.

Manufacturers, in keeping with the demand for better products, have introduced more versatile keno machines that are easier to use and more enjoyable to play. Check them out. They’re not only fun, but offer a chance to hit it big!