Sometime’s math’s painfully honest -- in video keno

Apr 28, 2009 5:05 PM
Cluster Keno by L. J. Zahm |

Last week, we were discussing the paltry pay tables on some of the "gimmicky" video keno games, such as Cleopatra Keno, Power Keno and Diamond Keno. Although we compared the payoffs, we weren’t able to come up with a comparison of the machines’ hold or payback percentages.

Thankfully, a math whiz came to the rescue and did the math for me. The results were at once disappointing and perplexing.

For instance, Cleopatra Keno’s pay table, without benefit of the bonus mode, returns a meager 46.5 percent to a player who’s marked a 7-spot card. This is about half the return on a standard keno machine’s 7-spot card. The return on a 9-spot card is about 49 percent.

When the Cleopatra game goes into its bonus round, the payoffs are doubled for 12 free spins. This results in a doubling of the payback percentages – 93 percent for the 7-spot and 98 percent for the 9-spot.

Unfortunately, the returns that "prop up" the payback percentages are virtually all on the low end – catching 4-out-of-9 pays 8-for-1 instead of 1-for-1, and 4-out-of-7 pays 6-for-1 instead of 2-for-1.

The problem remains – even in the bonus round – the upper-tier awards are painfully low. Thus, catching 6-out-of-7 pays only 190-for-1 instead of 400-for-1, and 7-out-of-9 returns just 130-for-1 instead of the standard 335-for-1.

It’s even worse for the usually lucrative jackpots: 8-out-of-9 pays only 400-for-1 instead of 4,700-for-1, while hitting 7-out-of-7 pays just 1,000-for-1 rather than 7,000-for-1.

Obviously, you won’t get rich – or even a W-2G – if you hit the jackpot on these "bonus" machines. Instead, the most you can expect is to sit for a longer while because of the "bottom heavy" pay tables.

Just how a keno game can get by with a 49 percent pay table is bewildering to me. Nevada gaming regulations stipulate that any machine in the state must return at least 75 percent to the player.

If the higher payouts for the smaller number of hits is enough to qualify the machine, then so be it. The payoffs are still too low, compared to the standard keno machines.

Incidentally those "standard" payoffs have, up until now, extended to multi-card keno games, such as Four Card Keno and 20-card Keno. But lately, I’ve noticed that some games, especially 20-card-keno, have surfaced with some smaller payoffs.

For instance, on some machines 6-out-of-7 pays only 315-for-1 instead of 400-for-1, and 7-out-of-9 pays only 300-for-1 instead of 335-for-1.

The top jackpots, however, are usually intact: 7,000-for-1 for hitting a solid 7-spot, and 4,700-for-1 for catching 8-out-of-9.

Let’s hope they don’t take those jackpots away. If they do, they might find that we dedicated keno players may stop playing the game entirely and move on to something like Kitty Glitter, Wolf Run or some other type of slot.

Those, I suppose, are the least painful alternatives.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: LJ Zahm