Zoning in on a solid-7

Jul 15, 2003 2:42 AM

In last week’s column, I talked about the cluster of numbers that have proved very successful with a player who frequents the downtown casinos, mostly the Jackie Gaughan properties like the El Cortez and the Western Hotel.

This player ”” we’ll call him Jerry ”” had a unique set of numbers that he spreads over four cards while playing Four Card Keno. And he pretty much plays them exclusively; that is, he seldom deviates from the cluster.

As many of you know, the foundation of my play is the idea of narrowing the playing field, hopefully, making it easier to catch the numbers I’ve marked.

To do that, I’ve identified blocks of numbers, or specific zones, in which I mark my card or cards, then wait for the keno game to spit out numbers that will fall into my "cluster."

As noted in my book and previous articles, some of the zones that I’ve used while playing Four Card Keno include 3-by-4 boxes (12 numbers), in which I would mark, say, four different 7-spots.

Or, I’ve had some success marking overlapping 9-spots on two complete rows (of 10 numbers), and overlapping 8-spots in adjacent columns (of eight numbers).

In the previous two examples, I have a total of 20 and 16 numbers, respectively, out of a possible 80 numbers "working."

Jerry’s cluster, if you didn’t catch last week’s issue, has a total of 24 numbers covered, making it likely that he will have plenty of "hits," though they may not necessarily result in jackpots.

Another strategy that I often try is marking four cards that overlap, thus covering fewer numbers but increasing the chances of multiple payoffs.

One cluster involves marking four 7-spot cards, all on the same row (of 10 numbers).

The reason I decided to play this zone is simple. As anyone who has played video keno (especially the 10-spot game) will agree, it’s not uncommon for a single row, at some point in your session, to have seven, or even eight numbers, hit.

And if you play for any length of time, you’ll notice that eventually, practically every row will have those seven or even eight (or even nine!) numbers fill in the row.

So I tried experimenting with marking several cards, all on the same row. For instance, I would mark all 10 numbers for one card, mark the "inside" eight numbers (from the 2-column to the 9-column) for another card, the "outside" eight numbers (1-4 and 7-0 columns) for another 8-spot, and finally a 6-spot using the first two, middle two and last two numbers.

The cluster worked reasonably well, but as you would expect, because there are only a total of 10 numbers marked, the frequency at which the hits would come was less than when marking larger clusters.

After trying various clusters, I found one that has consistently paid off. It involves playing four 7-spots on the same row (see illustration).

By playing this cluster in Four Card Keno, you are ensured of a fair amount of hits because you only need three numbers while playing 7-spots. Plus, because the cards overlap, you’ll find that hitting three numbers often results in a return on more than one card.

More important, you should probably hit a lot of 5-of-7’s, which are important in keeping your credits up while waiting for something juicier to hit.

At a recent session playing this configuration at a downtown casino, I hit numerous 6-of-7 "mini-jackpots" before the machine finally cooperated and hit 7-of-7.

Most of the time, this configuration will provide for at least one if not more 6-of-7’s. If it seems the machine won’t pay beyond that, it might be prudent to change machines or change clusters.

Remember, it always takes luck to hit something like a 7-for-7 jackpot, whose odds are about 40,000-1. But by using this system, you’ve at least put yourself in the neighborhood for hitting it. The rest is up to the machine!

(L.J. Zahm is the author of "Cluster Keno: Using the Zone Method to Win at Video Poker." For a copy, send $19.95 to Cluster Keno, P.O. Box 46303, Las Vegas, NV 89114)