Does playing smaller video keno tickets help?

Mar 31, 2009 5:07 PM
Cluster Keno by L. J. Zahm |

Lately, I’ve heard rumblings from video keno players around town (Las Vegas) that it has become increasingly difficult to hit a jackpot.

By "jackpot" I mean a significant award, such as catching 7-out-of-7 or 8-out-of-9 – a jackpot that would be comparable to hitting a royal flush on a poker machine.

I don’t know whether it’s more difficult, although I must confess the W2-Gs aren’t piling up like they did in previous campaigns.

I suppose it’s possible the machines are tighter than in the past, but a review of Nevada gaming statistics reveals nothing to indicate the casinos are earning significantly more from their slot machines, except for the high hold percentage of penny machines.

Perhaps these things run in cycles, like a lot of games of chance.

In any case, what a lot of players are doing – myself included – is lowering expectations by trying to hit smaller jackpots, say, by marking 5-spot and 6-spot cards.

Keep in mind that the odds of catching 7-of-7 is a healthy 41,000-to-1, so hitting a solid seven is not an everyday occurrence, and it’s even possible to play for weeks and weeks and never hit one.

Which brings us to the "smaller" tickets and their more manageable odds.

Before we look at those, first consider the 8-spot, not that you should have an expectation of catching a solid eight, whose odds are a heart-stopping 230,000-to-1. But the "consolation" payoff for catching 7-of-8 is not unreasonable – it has a nice payoff of $1,652 for four quarters bet. And with odds of 6,200-1, the chances of catching seven of eight is nearly seven times greater than hitting a solid 7-spot.

Another way of looking at it: for every 7-spot that’s hit, there will be six W2-G jackpots for hitting seven of eight on a keno machine!

The jackpot for hitting a solid 6-spot is about the same as for catching 7-of-8 … about $1,600 dollars for four quarters bet. But at odds of about 7,700-to-1, it’s about 20 percent more difficult to hit a solid 6-spot than 7-of-8.

That’s why I’ve never been a big fan of the 6-spot, coupled with the possibility that when you’re playing an 8-spot, there’s always the chance, albeit remote, that you catch all eight numbers for a lottery-like score. (This happened to me last week, while playing 8-spots on a 20-card keno machine.)

Now we come to the 5-spot, which many long-time players consider the best value among the various keno cards. Here’s why: The payoff of 810-1 for catching 5-of-5 is better than the royal flush’s payoff (800-1), but the odds of hitting a solid five are only 1,550-1!

Remember, the odds of hitting a royal are about 41,000-1, so this difference can be interpreted to mean that for every royal, you should hit 26 solid five spots!

I’ve been experimenting with mixing some 5-spots and 7-spots (along with 8-spots) on the multi-card games, such as Four Card Keno and 20-card keno.

Of course, when you play only 5-spots on Four Card Keno, your effective return for hitting all five on one card drops from 810-1 to about 200-1. Nonetheless, walking out of the casino a winner is always the goal.