Clustering on the cheap

April 08, 2008 7:00 PM
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Cluster Keno by L. J. Zahm | One of the benefits of playing with a rewards (slot club) card is that you occasionally earn "free play" on the machines.

Because the amount awarded isn’t usually very much ($10, $25 or more on rare occasions), players often drop down in denomination when using their award.

One method I’ve found helpful when playing on a short bankroll is playing with fewer coins in.

For instance, I’m a huge advocate of Four Card Keno, but you don’t have to play all four cards to have a shot at a nice jackpot, nor do you have to bet the maximum amount either.

To illustrate point, I recently ventured into one of the Station casinos with only $20 in extra play credit, intent on playing Four Card Keno for a couple of hours, with at least a fighting chance at a nice award.

Toward that end, I selected a nickel denomination, Four Card Keno game, and started off playing just two of the four cards – with one coin bet on each.

That amounted to 10˘ a bet. Granted, if I got lucky and caught 8-of-9 it wouldn’t have been enough to run out and buy a new Mercedes, but 4,700 to 1 is a nice payoff nonetheless (about six times more than a royal flush!).

I decided to mark two 9-spot cards, and when I play only two cards, I usually mark either "mirror image" cards or cards that overlap.

I started with the two 9-spots that mirror each other (the 8-spot box above the center line with an attached orphan).

During my first few minutes I caught several 5-of-9 winners before catching a 6-of-9 payoff (44-1). You have to count on these mid-size winners in order to keep your credit meter up.

Shortly thereafter, I was lucky enough to hit 7-of-9, which paid 335 nickels.

With the extra "ammunition," I decided to expand my cluster to a third card (also a 9-spot), which overlapped the first two cards.

Using these configurations, with one coin bet per card, I was able to play for about two hours, during which time I believe I caught about six more 7-of-9 jackpots.

Unfortunately, I never caught an 8-of-9 (that was my ultimate goal), but I still left with about $30 in profit.

Now, that may not sound like much, but if you can increase your starting bankroll while playing on the cheap, you’ve done well.

Let me point out that my style of play does not include marking the cards, then playing continuously. As you know, I’m an advocate of "re-setting" the machine frequently, which entails cashing out and starting over every few games.

I think this has been key to coming out ahead, because many times after hitting something significant like a 7-of-9, the machine "shuts down" and won’t hit anything. At least until I cash out, go back to the main menu and start again.

Hopefully this might encourage players on a very limited budget. You can play even more cheaply by using 1˘ and 2˘ denominations, but the machines I was playing had reduced paytables for those games.

Always check to see that you’re getting the "standard" payoffs when you drop down in denomination.