Playing on a budget

Oct 29, 2007 11:10 PM

I’ve recently heard from a few players who say they love playing video keno, but find the multi-card games — Four Card Keno and 20-Card Keno — a little too expensive because of the increased number of bets.

It’s true, playing those games can become expensive because of the extra cards, but players who want to gamble on the cheap don’t have to "load up" the machines.

For instance, I’m a huge advocate of Four Card Keno, but you don’t have to play all four cards to have a shot at a nice jackpot, nor do you have to bet the maximum amount either.

To test my point, last Saturday morning I ventured into one of the Station casinos with only $15, intent on playing Four Card Keno for a couple of hours (waiting for the Breeders’ Cup races to run!), with at least a fighting chance at a nice award.

Toward that end, I selected a nickel denomination, Four Card Keno game, and started off playing just two of the four cards — with one coin bet on each.

That amounted to 10¡ a bet. Granted, if I got luck and caught 8-of-9 it wouldn’t have been enough to run out and buy a new Mercedes, but 4,700 to 1 is a nice payoff nonetheless (about six times more than a royal flush!).

I decided to mark two 9-spot cards, and when I play only two cards, I usually mark either "mirror image" cards or cards that overlap.

I started with the two 9-spots that mirror each other (see illustration).

During my first few minutes I caught several 5-of-9 winners before catching a 6-of-9 payoff (44-1). You have to count on these mid-size winners in order to keep your credit meter up.

Shortly thereafter, I was luck enough to hit 7-of-9, which paid 335 nickels.

With the extra "ammunition," I decided to expand my cluster to a third card (also a 9-spot), which overlapped the first two cards (see second illustration).

Using these configurations, with one coin bet per card, I was able to play for about two hours, during which time I believe I caught about six more 7-of-9 jackpots.

Unfortunately, I never caught an 8-of-9 (that was my ultimate goal), but I still left with about $30 in profit.

Now, that may not sound like much, but if you can more than double your starting bankroll while playing on the cheap, you’ve done well.

Let me point out that my still of play does not include marking the cards, then playing continuously. As you know, I’m an advocate of "re-setting" the machine frequently, which entails cashing out and starting over every few games.

I think this has been key to coming out ahead, because many times after hitting something significant like a 7-of-9, the machine "shuts down" and won’t hit anything. At least until I cash out, go back to the main menu and start again.

Hopefully this might encourage players on a very limited budget. You can play even more cheaply by using 1¡ and 2¡ denominations, but the machines I was playing had reduced paytables for those games.

Always check to see that you’re getting the "standard" payoffs when you drop down in denomination.