Multi-card keno still good

October 16, 2007 12:44 AM
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When IGT’s Multi-Card Keno machine (20-card keno) first hit the Vegas casinos a few years ago, they were an instant hit with keno fanatics.

And why shouldn’t they be? They gave keno players their "version" of the popular multi-game video poker machines that were sweeping the casinos.

Unfortunately, since then there has surfaced a number of machines that offer smaller payouts, and some without even the 20-game option (some offer only four or eight games).

Nonetheless, I still like to play them, assuming I can find the ones with full-pay tables and 20-game capability.

If you’ve never seen the machines, they’re found on Game King models, which feature a brightly-lit yellow and orange façade, unlike the traditional royal blue belly glass found on other Game King machines.

Because they’re packaged with other video games, Multi-Card keno is available in multi-denominations, from 1 and 2 cents up to $5, although I’ve never seen one that high. Of course, even though there are 20 cards available, it’s not necessary that the player bet all 20. You can play any amount of cards, with up to four coins bet per card.

Obviously, playing all 20 cards with four coins bet can become expensive. Even a nickel player is risking $4 a game by playing the maximum number of cards with maximum coins bet. Thus, depending on your bankroll, it might be prudent to bet fewer than all 20 cards, or reduce the size of the bet.

A note about dropping down in denomination: Check the pay table to make sure you’re getting the full payoff. Some machines have a lower pay table at the lower denominations (usually for penny games).

For instance, one machine I found paid only 1,065 credits for hitting 6-of-7 with three coins bet, when the same bet would have paid 1,266 credits on a "standard" machine.

I’ve also seen lower payoffs for 7-of-8 and 7-of-9 awards. These lower payoffs increase your "breakage," that is, your cost for playing the game. Correspondingly, they decrease the amount returned to the player.

Most of these keno machines return about 92 percent at full pay, so you can’t really afford to have your payback cut back.

The game is played much like Four Card Keno. The player makes a bet, say, one coin for each of 20 cards, then marks each card. But with 20 cards, he is marking cards that will be labeled A through T.

If you have a system of marking cards, as I do with my Cluster Keno system, it will take awhile to mark every single card. That’s why it might be more efficient to play less than 20 cards.

The game, however, has a "quick pick" option that allows the machine to randomly pick numbers for all the cards or just individual cards.

Once you’ve picked your numbers (or allowed the machine to do it), you hit the start button and (hopefully!) watch all the numbers drop into your clusters.

Even though I’ve only had a couple of chances to play the new game, I’ve found it to be technically superior to the old keno games. The screen is bright and colorful, all the information (there’s plenty of it, especially with 20 cards) is easily read, and the sound effects are crisp and pleasing.

During my first session, I played one of my popular 7-spot clusters, but because it took so long to mark the numbers, I never varied from the first pattern I marked.

As a result, I hit about five 6-of-7 jackpots, but could never hit the elusive 7-of-7 jackpot.

Nevertheless, playing 20 cards is exciting and you can experiment with other patterns and configurations. Let me know if you find something that works consistently.