Let’s revisit the ubiquitous 20-spot

August 06, 2002 8:46 AM
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Some keno players are enthusisiastic about 20 spot specials, that ubiquitous ticket invented by Tony Delise some 20 years ago. As a player I don’t share that enthusiasm but it’s not really all that bad a ticket. It’s just not for me. It is, in my opinion, the most popular special keno ticket ever invented.

A main attraction on the ticket is the 0 out of 20. At roughly 850-1, this pays $500 at most places, but you can find some that pay a grand. A few of these, not all, shave a little off the middle to compensate, so watch for this. All this for a five dollar wager. Well I have to admit it tempts me.

The ticket also pays off very frequently, about once every 2.5 games, if I recall. The vast majority of these are pushes, or free playbacks, or at the most 2 or 3 to one. That’s the rub. In truth, it is exceedingly difficult to hit a big winner on this ticket.

A few years ago, however I ran simulations of many millions of dollars worth of keno play, and the 20 spot ”” for the player ”” turned out to be one of the very best tickets to play. It outscored every ticket except for the 12 spot. So go figure.

One curiosity for players is, "Why is the price so high? Why does it cost $5 when every other ticket is only a buck?" I believe the answer to this question is rooted both in keno tradition and in the acquired knowledge and skill of the keno managers of the last 50 years.

In the old time Keno games there was the 10 spot. The operators were satisfied with the results of the draw; I doubt if they knew ”” or cared for ”” the mathematics behind it. The only way to produce a rational pay schedule for an eight spot or a nine spot was to prorate the acceptable pays on the ten spot; and this, due to the limits of the decimal monetary system, resulted in ticket prices that were quite high for these "special" tickets. A tradition was started whereby any ticket above a 10 spot required double the normal wager, and that tradition is still adhered to today in many keno games.

From a manager’s point of view, a ticket with a lot of numbers on it takes more time to write, and mistakes are far more likely. Time is money.