An assault on progressives

Mar 25, 2003 4:01 AM

A reader recently wrote in, asking about all the progressive video keno jackpots around town. She wanted to know whether they were worth pursuing.

In the past, I’ve tried to hit progressives, and have been successful hitting only a solid 8-spot. The progressives usually are set up for 8-, 9- and 10-spot tickets. The 10-spot tickets must be difficult to hit because they often go for years before someone hits one!

For instance, the downtown Gaughan properties, the El Cortez and Western, both have 10-spot progressives that have gone unclaimed for perhaps as many as five or six years. There’s also a progressive at The Orleans which keeps climbing, in excess of $200,000 (quarter machines), that hasn’t been hit since the machines were turned on.

Casino personnel say the problem is that many players bet less than the maximum four coins required to win the progressive, and that several 10-for-10 winners captured only the minimum prize and not the progressive.

Some players speculate that when a machine hits 10 out of 10, it will take a long time before it hits it again, considering the odds are nearly nine million to one of catching all 10 spots.

Because the odds are so high on the 10-spot progressive, I usually don’t spend much time or money chasing them. But I will play for an 8-spot or 9-spot progressive, as well as other high-paying tickets.

Of course, half the excitement of playing video keno is the lottery-like payoffs. Equally important, the payoffs look closer to the actual odds than, say, video poker payoffs. For instance, the odds of hitting a royal are about 42,000-1. 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 7000-1. 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, but bottom line for me is this: why would you chase an 800-1 jackpot when you can pursue a 7000-1 prize with about the same chances of hitting it?

Admittedly, hitting a solid seven is not an everyday occurrence, and it’s even possible to play for weeks and weeks and never hit one. You have to remember, when you’re dealing with large odds, especially when they get into the thousands or tens of thousands, it may take awhile to beat the odds. But you don’t have to hit the top award to make money playing keno.

Hitting the minor jackpots, or consolation prizes as I used to call them, is important, because they are the ones that can keep you going, or even make you money, until you can land the big one.

Here are a few examples: The 8-spot has a nice payoff for hitting seven out of eight numbers ”” $1,652 for four quarters bet. And with odds of 6200-1, the chances of catching seven of eight is nearly seven times greater than hitting a royal flush.

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.

So far, I’ve never hit a solid 9-spot, but have cashed quite a few eight of nine jackpots at $4,700 (for four quarters bet). 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 4700-1 (as opposed to the royal’s 800-1). The 9-spot also offers a seven of nine payout of $335 and, with odds of 1690-1, can often be hit at a sitting.

The 10-spot offers similar consolation jackpots: catching eight of 10 is attractive with a payoff of $1,000, but because the odds are about 7300-1, it doesn’t offer the value of hitting a seven of eight, whose odds are actually less (6200-1) while the payoff is actually more ($1,652).