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Playing for the 9-spot

Oct 14, 2003 3:23 AM

While recently playing Four Card Keno at the El Cortez, the person sitting next to me asked what I was playing, since the entire 30- and 40-rows were blackened.

In fact, I was playing two overlapping nine-spots on each line (see illustration). Over the course of the next couple of hours, I hit several 7-of-9 jackpots, then finally an 8-of-9 jackpot.

The woman, who was watching with considerable interest, engaged me in a discussion of the pros and cons of playing 10-spots, 9-spots, 6-spots and so forth.

When the dust settled, I contended that the 9-spot was a good choice for the keno player, especially when playing Four Card Keno, or even the new 30-card (Multi-Card) keno.

Not that there’s anything wrong with playing the other spots. For players who are content to play for modest jackpots without a lot of outlay, then the 5- and 6-spot games are ideal.

These games offer a good chance of hitting a decent payoff (about $800 and $1,600 for a solid five or six, respectively, for four quarters bet). They also have enough "lower level" payoffs ”” 4-out-of-5, 4-out-of-6, 5-out-of-6, etc. ”” to ensure there is a return of coin so players aren’t simply feeding the machine.

The 7- and 8-spot games also offer good odds, especially for catching the "consolation" jackpot, which is 6-out-of-7 in the 7-spot game (which pays $400 for four quarters at odds of about 1300-1), and 7-out-of-8 in the 8-spot game (a payoff of $1,652 for four quarters at odds of about 6200-1).

Of course, the big attraction of the 7- and 8-spot, as well as the higher-number games, is the chance of hitting a lottery-like jackpot. And, isn’t that what most of us want!

Toward that end, the 9-spot game offers the best of both worlds. It offers the chance of hitting a huge payoff (for catching either 8 or all 9 numbers), but also holds out a decent "consolation" payoff with a 7-out-of-9 jackpot.

The 7-out-of-9 jackpot pays a very respectable $335 (for four quarters bet) at odds of about 1690-1. While the 6-out-of-7 jackpot of $400 has a smaller house edge (the odds are about 1365-1), the opportunity to hit the 8-out-of-9 jackpot might make the nine spot slightly more attractive than the seven spot.

While it’s always possible to hit a solid 9 spot, most players should realistically hope to hit the 8-out-of-9 award. This one pays $4,700 for four quarters with odds of about 30,000-1.

Note that the odds of hitting the $4,700 jackpot is about 25 percent less than hitting a royal flush on a poker machine, but the payoff is a healthy seven and a half times better!

Moreover, there are casinos around town that offer a progressive jackpot for the 9-spot game, which can range anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000. Obviously, the player’s edge increases as the jackpot climbs above the standard $10,000 payout for a solid nine (on a quarter machine).

My Cluster Keno system has been used to hit several 8-out-of-9 jackpots. The clusters or "zones" that were successful include an 8-number column coupled with a single, adjoining number; a solid three-by-three box; none of 10 on a horizontal row; and a U-shaped pattern with a single number connecting two four’s (see illustrations).

When playing Four Card Keno, there have been several patterns that have proved successful. One of them involves playing the first nine numbers and second nine numbers on a horizontal row. Once, this method actually hit two 8-out-of-9 spots on the same row!

Another method that has worked is overlapping four three-by-three boxes. This often produces twin 7-out-of-9 winners, and an occasional 8-out-of-9 jackpot.

The Four Card Keno as well as the recently-introduced 20-card keno from IGT always lends itself to experimenting. But I’ve found that the best bet is to overlap your cards. This way, when the "shared" numbers hit, there is the increased likelihood of multiple payoffs. Try it with your own numbers and let me know.

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