When in doubt,
back to basics

Apr 1, 2003 4:55 AM

Regular "live" keno moves at the rate of about 12 games an hour. One of the attractions of video keno is you can play so many more games in a short period of time. And, remember, keno is a numbers game (literally!), so the more games, the more chances to win.

The modern video keno machines usually have only one screen, comparable to the lower screen of the older two-screen version. The payoffs are displayed when you touch the box marked "paytables." Video keno payoffs will vary from casino to casino and sometimes from machine to machine, so it’s always a good idea to be sure you’re playing a machine that will give you the maximum payoff for your coins.

Both versions have colorful screens. Some individual machines have interesting sound effects followed by a loud ringing sound when a jackpot is hit. This is to call attention to the fact that someone has won and to encourage others to play.

Video keno is very easy to play. First, drop in one to four coins (there are nickel, quarter and dollar machines) or, more likely, insert a bill into the acceptor slot, and make your bet, which is usually maximum coins.

Next, press the erase button to clear the screen. Then, touch the screen to mark your numbers, either with the attached light pen, or with your fingers, depending on the type of machine you’re playing.

You may pick from one to 10 numbers. Now you’re ready to play: Press the "start" button. The computer will pick 20 numbers at random and they will light up. Hopefully the numbers you picked will be among those 20.

After each game you may continue with the same numbers or erase them and choose new ones. Earlier versions of the game, such as the IGT Fortune machines, would drop your winnings into the coin tray after every game. The newer machines store your winnings in the form of credits, which you can collect at the conclusion of each game.

Some machines will hold up to 1,000 credits, but some top off at 400. If you exceed these amounts, the machine will drop the difference. If the bell starts ringing, take a deep breath. It’ll be a few minutes before a "floor person" comes around to hand-pay your jackpot.

In addition to individual keno machines, there are machines that are linked together to offer a progressive payoff. These take a portion of the money played on each machine and add it to a progressive jackpot. To win the progressive jackpot, you must play the maximum number of coins and mark the required number of spots. I have seen progressives for eight, nine and ten spots.

There are a lot of misconceptions about keno in general and about video keno in particular. One is that the casino can tighten or loosen the screws on a machine to affect the payoff. Not so! Each machine is equipped with a computer chip that has a certain percentage of "hold" built in. This ensures that over the long haul the casino will retain a set percentage of profit from the operation of that machine. The gaming regulators (in Nevada) must approve each chip and its "hold" cannot exceed the legal limit. For most video keno machines, that hold is about 7.5%.

A keno machine played at the maximum of eight games per minute with one quarter played will process $120 an hour. At 7.5%, that computes to a $9 an hour "hold." If that machine is played for 12 hours each day, in one year it will yield a profit of $39,420 to the casino.

Some people play slower than others and some play more coins than others, but in the long run the percentages will hold up. For the casino it’s a "no-brainer." No casino would jeopardize its license by tampering with machines already set to pay them the percentage they want.

Admittedly, anyone can sit down at a video keno machine and ring up a jackpot. But to consistently win significant jackpots over a period of time must be the result of some pattern or methodology that, for whatever reason, produces winners.

All I can do is delineate what happened at the keno machines when a certain style of play was used. That’s all I can do. Hopefully, it can work for you as well!