Even though video poker is the most popular slot game in Las Vegas, there’s a loyal and significant legion of video keno players who are devoted to their beloved game.
And even though the game doesn’t require the playing strategy that poker requires, keno provides hours of gaming excitement, with a chance to cash some healthy jackpots along the way.
Recognizing the popularity of the game, manufacturers like IGT have come out with innovative variations of "regular" keno, such as Four Card Keno, Multi-Card Keno, Caveman Keno, Power Ball Keno, and many more games.
But sometimes it pays to get back to the basics. So, it’s with more than a sense of nostalgia that video keno players should check out the older IGT Fortune keno machines. These classic games have three- and four-coin maximum bets and dumping hoppers, and offer one of the better chances to win.
For newcomers in town, these machines are found mostly at the downtown properties such as the El Cortez, Western Hotel, Plaza, Las Vegas Club and Gold Spike. There are also a few circulating around some of the "locals" casinos such as Palace Station, Gold Coast, Nevada Palace and the Skyline.
Unlike the newer models, these classics weren’t designed to accumulate credits, although some have been retrofitted with the software to do so. Instead, they dump coins after every payout. It may seem tedious to re-insert coins after every payoff, but that’s part of the allure of these war horses.
Another charming element of these venerable machines is the jackpot bell. For those who are fortunate to hit something, the bell goes off like a doorbell from the a 1950s track home, sort of a sickly ringing sound that’s enough to make your molars rattle. But a jackpot is a jackpot, so who’s complaining?
Moreover, the video keno payouts are significantly greater than their video poker counterparts. For instance, the top award for hitting 10-out-of-10 spots on a 25-cent keno machine pays $10,000 (with maximum four coins bet), but the "smaller" payoffs are actually better deals.
For example, hitting seven out of seven numbers pays an incredible $7,000 with four coins bet, a significantly better reward than the $1,000 paid by a video poker machine with five coins bet for a royal fush. With odds nearly the same (about 40,000-1), you can see you have a much better payoff with the keno jackpot (7,000-1) than with the poker jackpot (800-1).
And you don’t have to hit the top jackpot to make money. Using the 10-out-of-10 example, the odds of hitting all numbers are huge (somewhere in the range of 9,000,000 to one!). But with odds of about 7,400-1, the chances of hitting eight-out-of-10 are five times more likely than hitting a royal, but the payoffs are identical. Yet keno requires only four coins (as opposed to five) to hit the top prize. Such a deal!
Overall, it might be difficult to track down these old timers. And some people won’t like the labor of shoveling coins in and scooping them out of the tray, and many will miss the sound and graphics of more modern machines.
But for keno purists, such an effort is a labor of love. Hitting those jackpots will also take some of the toil out of the task!
(L.J. Zahm is the author of "Cluster Keno: Using the Zone Method to Win at Video Keno." For information, write to Cluster Keno, P.O. Box 46303, Las Vegas, NV 89114.)