The basics of Cluster Keno

Aug 6, 2002 6:53 AM

Editor’s Note: This is the second in GamingToday’s exclusive series of articles on video keno. Expert L.J. Zahm this week reveals the foundation of his winning system, which is chronicled in an upcoming book, "Cluster Keno: Using the Zone System to Win at Video Keno." The series continues in a question and answer format, which will give Zahm the widest possible latitude in presenting his story.


GT: How does your system, Cluster Keno, work?

L.J.: There are several aspects to Cluster Keno, but I would like to start with one underlying premise that has remained a foundation of my play strategy for years. And that is that video keno jackpots are most frequently won soon after the machine is "reset."

By "reset," I mean that the numbers from the previous game are erased, and new numbers are marked — even though the new numbers may be exactly the same numbers that were played before!

I alluded to this last week when I noted that video keno is different than live keno, where players often mark their card and wait for the numbers to come in. I’ve found the live-game strategy has seldom, if ever, worked for me. In fact, I have tried to play the same numbers over and over, and not re-betting, but the only results have been a long string of losing games.


GT: So, your strategy calls for re-setting the machine after every play?

L.J.: Not necessarily after every game, but I seldom play the same numbers for more than three games before I re-set the machine. Also, keep in mind that most times after re-setting the machine, I will mark the same numbers.

Let me give you an example. If I’m playing the solid eight numbers in the "nine column," I may play the numbers for two or three games, then erase and mark the same column of numbers. For some reason, this sometimes leads to hitting, say, a seven out of eight jackpot, more frequently than when simply sitting on the same numbers, game after game.


GT: Why would there be more likelihood of hitting a jackpot on the first few plays of a game than on the tenth play or even the hundredth play?

L.J.: I couldn’t tell you. But keep in mind that the keno program was designed by an engineer who is charged with the task of creating a machine that makes money for the casino. It’s not likely they would ever create a keno game that would pay a jackpot just because you put in "enough" quarters.

In fact, I’ve noticed in recent months, that some keno games go into a losing spiral the more you play the same numbers. Maybe others have noticed that, on some occasions, the numbers continue to be "bad," that is, return little or nothing at all, no matter how long you play them. I’ve found that re-setting the machine is the only way to "stop the bleeding."


GT: Do you ever deviate from your strategy?

L.J.: Not usually, unless I’m experimenting with another system. It’s important to be consistent. Blackjack and video poker players have their basic strategies, and experienced craps players typically bet a certain way and seldom deviate. By following your system, whatever that happens to be, you give yourself a chance to keep up with, if not overcome, the odds of the game. In order to make the odds work for you, it’s best to be consistent and follow your system. Of course, the system has to have merit!

GT: Your system has merit?

L.J.: It’s worked for me over the years. I would say the system has merit, especially if this stack of W-2s is any kind of barometer.


GT: Explain about the cluster or zone strategy in your system.

L.J.: Anyone who has played video keno has seen how numbers form certain patterns. For instance, there are eight rows of ten numbers on a keno screen, and if you play long enough, you’ll see that most of the eight rows eventually hit seven or even eight of the ten numbers.

In addition, there are ten columns of eight numbers, and during the same session you might note that several columns line up seven of the eight. Occasionally, all eight will fill up. The key is being there when they do ”” and re-setting the machine is one of the components of a methodology to do so.

Other clusters that I’ve found have paid off include sold eight boxes, two by four boxes, either above or below the center line, and three-by-three boxes of nine numbers, again marked above or below the center line.

Of course, there’s more to winning than simply playing a box, a row, a column, an "L" or a "T" pattern. But I’ll be able to give you more specific examples next time, as well as explain how to play the various clusters, in conjunction with re-setting the machine.

(Next week: L.J. Zahm explains how to play specific clusters of numbers, and how those clusters have multiplied payoffs in a new game from IGT, called Four Card Keno, in which players can mark up to four keno cards during the same game.)