Play by the numbers

August 28, 2007 12:21 AM


The whole point behind "clustering" your numbers when playing Four Card Keno (or 20-card keno) is that numbers seem to land in clusters. Thus, the more "real estate" you occupy with your clusters, the better chance you have of catching a nice jackpot.

But that doesn’t mean you should mark half the keno board. Quite the contrary, I’ve tended to mark cards that overlap. The rationale for this methodology came from years of playing "straight" keno, which always seemed to have numbers land next to, close to or around the ones you had marked.

The solution to that, as it has turned out, was to mark overlapping and adjacent cards, so that you have a chance to snare those stray numbers.

For instance, I might mark four 9-spot cards on a total of 16 numbers (two adjacent columns, for instance), rather than marking 36 non-overlapping numbers. (See illustration.)

As you can see, I marked four 9-spots entirely within the first two keno columns. I’ve been told this is something like putting all your eggs in one basket, but that’s okay. When the hen comes home to roost, you usually walk away with a big score.

Using these clusters I was able to catch 8-of-9, for a nice payoff of 4700-to-1.

Another reason for overlapping the cards is that you provide for the opportunity for hitting two jackpots when the shared numbers are hit.

A good example of this is playing the first nine and last nine numbers on a given row, whose two 9-spot cards share the middle eight numbers. If and when those middle eight numbers hit, you’ve caught two 8-of-9 jackpots, a nice payoff of 4700-to-1 on each!

I like playing the 9-spots because they offer a good chance of hitting a decent payoff (4,700-1 for catching 8-of-9). They also have enough "lower level" payoffs to ensure there is a return of credits so you aren’t simply feeding the machine.

Moreover, the 7-out-of-9 jackpots pay a very respectable $335 (for four quarters bet) at odds of about 1690-1.

This corresponds very well to the "mid level" jackpot available for 7-spot players. While the 6-out-of-7 jackpot of $400 has a smaller house edge (the odds are about 1365-1), the opportunity to hit the 8-out-of-9 jackpot might make the nine spot slightly more attractive than the seven spot (whose top jackpot has odds of about 40,000-to-1, while the 8-of-9 award has odds of about 30,000-to-1)..

While it’s always possible to hit a solid nine spot, most players should realistically hope to hit the 8-out-of-9 award.

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!

Moreover, there are casinos around town that offer a progressive jackpot for the 9-spot game, which can range anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000. Obviously, the player’s edge increases as the jackpot climbs above the standard $10,000 payout for a solid nine (on a quarter machine).

My Cluster Keno system has been used to hit several 8-out-of-9 jackpots. The clusters or "zones" that were successful include an eight-number column coupled with a single, adjoining number; a solid three-by-three box; nine of 10 on a horizontal row; and a U-shaped pattern with a single number connecting two four’s.

Another method that has worked is overlapping four 3-by-3 boxes. This often produces twin 7-out-of-9 winners, and an occasional 8-out-of-9 jackpot.

The Four Card Keno game from IGT always lends itself to experimenting. But I’ve found that the best bet is to overlap your cards. This way, when the "shared" numbers hit, there is the increased likelihood of multiple payoffs. Try it with your own numbers and let me know. I’m always ready to try a new (and successful!) pattern.