Single-card keno requires more patience

Nov 10, 2009 5:07 PM
Cluster Keno by L. J. Zahm |

Bigger payoffs a trade-off for infrequent hits

In recent weeks, I’ve been playing a lot of "regular" video keno, that is, the single-game keno as opposed to multi-card games like Four Card Keno and Multi-Card Keno (20-card keno).

Of course, there’s a trade-off when you move to single game keno from multi-card games. And it was apparent right from the start – there’s a lot less action, aka hits and payoffs, playing straight keno as opposed to multi-card keno.

That’s the trade-off: you give up the frequent hits in hopes of hitting a bigger jackpot for the same amount of investment.

For example, I’ve been playing keno machines with a 10¢ denomination, which takes eight coins (80¢) for a maximum bet. As you can see from the accompanying pay table, catching 8-of-9 pays a nice amount.

Compared to multi-card keno, an 80¢ maximum bet will buy you 20 cards at four coins (1¢) per card. In the event you catch 8-of-9, the payoff is only slightly more than $250.

Of course, while you’re waiting to catch 8-of-9, you will most likely be hitting a lot more intermediate awards, which can often keep you going.

Conversely, on a straight keno machine, you can go through a bankroll relatively quickly because the hits can be few and far in-between.

Since I’ve been pursuing single-game keno lately, I’ve only been able to catch 7-of-8 on a machine, which is still a nice payoff. I’ve yet to catch that elusive 8-of-9 over the last three weeks.

As noted, the 8-spot has a nice payoff for hitting seven out of eight numbers — $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 royal flush on a poker machine.

Another way of looking at it: for every royal flush that’s hit, there will be six hand-pay jackpots for hitting seven of eight on a keno machine! While playing an 8-spot, hitting six of eight numbers, which have odds of about 422-1, results in a $98 payoff with four quarters bet. Those odds are close to what the odds are to hit a natural four of a kind, which pays less than half as much on a jacks or better machine.

Incidentally, the odds of hitting a solid eight are about 230,000-1, but they’re not insurmountable.

I also play a lot of nine- and 10-spot keno. Quite frankly, I’ve only hit a solid nine spot once (on a quarter Four Card Keno machine), but have cashed some eight of nine jackpots at $4,700 for four quarters.

The odds of hitting eight numbers are about 30,600-1, which are about 25% lower than the odds for a royal, but the payoff is still a superior 4,700-1 (as opposed to the royal’s 800-1). The nine-spot also offers a seven of nine payout of $335 and, with odds of 1,690-1, can often be hit during a session.

The 10-spot offers similar attractions: catching eight of 10 is attractive with a payoff of $1,000, but because the odds are about 7,300-1, it doesn’t offer the value of hitting a seven of eight, whose odds are actually less (6,200-1) while the payoff is actually more ($1,652).

Although I seldom play them on a single-game machine, the five and six spots offer great value, and playing those games steadily will result in some nice – and relatively frequent – jackpots.

In fact, the five spot probably offers the best value of any keno game: The payoff of 810-1 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 interpolated to mean that for every royal, you should hit 26 solid five spots!

For myself, I play the higher number in hopes of eventually hitting the top line payoff. And, because I’m frequently doing so on a progressive bank of machines, those rewards can be huge. Unfortunately, they don’t have monster progressives for five- and six-spot games, not yet anyway.

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