Keno strategy hits the spots!

Oct 7, 2003 2:30 AM

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write or call in with questions about video keno. It might be helpful to answer some of them in this column, as others might have encountered the same situations or seek the same answers.

First, a reader in Wisconsin wants to know about my strategy of "re-setting" the machine while playing Four Card Keno.

In my book, "Cluster Keno," I point out I’ve had some success hitting nice jackpots after re-setting the numbers, that is, erasing what I have already played, and marking new numbers. This strategy often entails marking the same numbers I just played, but the important part seems to be the re-setting of the machine ”” erasing and remarking.

For some reason, this method seems to work much better than the ancient strategy of "waiting for the numbers to come to you." Believe me, I’ve tried this ”” playing the same numbers, game after game, watching as my credits slowly drop to zero!

If the machine doesn’t seem "interested" in the numbers I’ve marked, I reset more frequently. For instance, I may reset the numbers every three to five games.

I don’t have a specific sequence or order; it’s mostly random.

I’m also asked about the IGT Fortune machines, what they look like and where they can be found.

Unfortunately, the original Fortune machines are becoming a rarity in Las Vegas. They can still be found at some of the downtown casinos, such as the El Cortez, Plaza, and Western.

You might also find some in the "neighborhood" casinos, including Arizona Charlie’s, Gold Coast and a few of the older Henderson casinos, such as the Nevada Palace.

The machines feature the two-screen front: a top screen for the payoffs and the bottom screen for the keno board. They are available in nickel and quarter denominations, and accept up to four coins. If I can find a photo I’ll slip it into the column.

The question arises about the casino switching its computer chip, meaning the chip that controls the machine’s payout.

I understand, though I’m not an expert, that a casino can change the "board" that contains the main, EPROM chip, thus altering the machine’s hit frequency.

This seems to fly in the face of the theory that the only way to change a video keno machine’s (as well as a video poker machine) payback is to change its pay table.

But, from personal experience, it seems like a casino can change the chip and alter the return. Here’s why I think so: Years ago, while playing in one of my favorite downtown casinos, I arrived one morning to find all the chairs pulled away from the machines, whose doors were open, exposing the inner workings.

I asked the floor person what was going on, and she told me they were changing all the boards in the keno machines.

From that point on, it seemed like the payoffs dropped dramatically. It wasn’t long before the machines were removed completely and replaced with more modern video slot machines. My assumption is that people grew tired of losing on those altered keno machines and simply stopped playing them; as I did.

One of the most frequently asked questions is how many spots to mark. That is, is it better to play six spots, seven spots, eight spots or more.

Of course, the answer is it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re content to play a small amount, say a few dollars, and hope to hit a small payoff, say $50 or $100, then you play the five-spots on the nickel machine, because the hit frequency of five-spots is actually pretty good.

But if you’re like me and most other video keno players, you want to use your toothpick for a shot at the lumberyard. After all, that’s the fun of playing video keno: putting in a dollar knowing there’s a finite chance you’ll catch a whopper, such as $10,000 or more.

Toward that end, I usually play 7-, 8- and 9-spot keno games. In addition to providing the statistical chance to hit a jackpot that’s five to ten times greater than a royal flush, there are intermediate jackpots (such as 6-of-7, 7-of-8, 8-of-9) that provide great incentive but at a fraction of the odds of catching the top award.

I hope these tidbits help. And thanks to the readers for their interest and participation.

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