Wins energize video keno

Mar 11, 2008 6:00 PM

Cluster Keno by L. J. Zahm | A few weeks ago, I was waiting to be paid off (and signed off on a W2-G), when I struck up a conversation with a chap who was playing video poker seated next to me.

While the jackpot I had hit was impressive (more than four times the elusive royal flush he was hoping for!), he mentioned he couldn’t quite "get into" playing video keno because it was so "boring."

I had to laugh, and thought to myself, "You hapless, geek, how can winning ever be boring?"

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting down video poker, though I think the top payoffs aren’t worth the effort. In fact, when I moved to town, video poker was my game of choice in the casino.

I started out playing Deuces Wild poker because of the somewhat reasonable possibility of hitting the Four Deuces every now and then. The "mini jackpot" of 1,000 coins seemed like a nice consolation prize, considering hitting the Royal Flush was such an infrequent event.

Using the same kind of thinking, I moved on to Joker Poker, in which there was about the same odds of hitting the Five of A Kind, also for 1,000 coins. Plus the joker ensured a lot more four of a kinds, which would help fill those buckets with quarters.

While playing Joker Poker, I had a fair amount of success, hitting a few progressive royal jackpots on the machines at the El Cortez.

It wasn’t long, though, before I began experimenting with video keno, also at the El Cortez, although I also played at places like Stupak’s Vegas World, the Stardust, Silver City Casino, Arizona Charlie’s, the California Hotel, to name a few.

What caught my attention about video keno was the somewhat astounding jackpots that you’d see on those old two-screen keno machines, with the payoffs on the top screen and the game layout on the bottom.

Now, the game itself had very little appeal – what could be more boring than marking your numbers and then waiting through the "beep, beep, beep" of the machine as it sang out its numbers. But because the payoffs looked appealing, I did some research and found that video keno was a game worth pursuing.

The keno payoffs looked enticing because some of them are in the realm of lottery payoffs. Equally important, they simply looked closer to the actual odds than the poker payoffs. Let’s use the royal flush as an example. The odds of hitting a royal on a Jacks or Better and a Deuces Wild machine are about 42,000-1. They’re slightly higher on a joker machine because of the 53rd card. However, the standard payoff is only 800-1 or $1,000 on a quarter machine. A comparable video keno jackpot (in terms of odds) would be hitting seven out of seven numbers, with a probability of about 41,000-1. Yet the keno payoff is a healthy 7,000-1. On a quarter machine that means $7,000 for a bet of four coins (a single coin returns $1,750!).

Obviously, there’s a lot more math involved when you take the entire game into consideration, and factor in the various hits. Bottom line: Why chase an 800-1 jackpot when you can pursue a 7,000-1 prize with about the same chances of hitting? The answer was easy.

Admittedly, hitting either a royal flush or a solid seven is not an everyday occurrence. It’s even possible to play for weeks and never hit either. When you’re dealing with large odds, especially when they get into the thousands or tens of thousands, it may take awhile to beat them.