When all else fails,
try‘tricking’ the machine!

Dec 2, 2003 7:59 AM

The other day I was playing video keno on some of the El Cortez’s Game King machines, which are ticket-in, ticket-out.

Specifically, I was playing Four Card Keno, and every few plays I would cash out, take the ticket and insert it back into the machine.

This seemed to have caught the attention of some of my neighbors, one of whom finally asked whether cashing out and replaying helped at all.

My answer was that it seemed to help, especially when the machine seemed to have landed in a trough in which nothing was happening.

In fact, cashing in and out is something I’ve been doing in lieu of my solid strategy of "re-setting" the machines by erasing the numbers, then re-marking the same numbers.

One of the reasons for this deviation is the impracticality of re-setting all four cards and, in the case of 20-card keno, all 20 cards.

Many video keno players found the strategy that is used in the "live" keno lounge: that is, picking their numbers, and never deviating from those numbers. Presumably, until they hit all of them or go broke trying.

That’s fine if it works; I’ve never been able to get it to work.

Instead, it’s been at the foundation of my playing strategy that I "reset" the machine constantly. The reason? It seems that most video keno jackpots are most frequently won soon after the machine is "reset."

By "reset," I mean the numbers from the previous game are erased, and new numbers are marked ”” even though the new ones may be exactly the same numbers as before!

I’ve alluded to this before when I noted that video keno is different from live keno, in which players often mark their card and wait for the numbers to come in.

By contract, I’ve found the live-game strategy has seldom, if ever, worked for me. In fact, I have tried to play the same numbers over and over, and not re-betting, but the only results have been a long string of losing games.

I don’t necessarily reset the numbers after every game, but I seldom play the same numbers for more than three games before I re-set the machine. Also, keep in mind that most times after re-setting the machine, I will mark the same numbers.

Let me give you an example. If I’m playing the solid eight numbers in the "nine column," I may play the numbers for two or three games, then erase and mark the same column of numbers. For some reason, this sometimes leads to hitting, say, a seven out of eight jackpot, more frequently than when simply sitting on the same numbers, game after game.

As for technical support for this phenomenon, I can’t give it to you. But keep in mind that the keno program was designed by an engineer who is charged with the task of creating a machine that makes money for the casino. It’s not likely they would ever create a keno game that would pay a jackpot just because you put in "enough" quarters.

In fact, I’ve noticed in recent months, that some keno games go into a losing spiral the more you play the same numbers. Maybe others have noticed that, on some occasions, the numbers continue to be "bad," that is, return little or nothing at all, no matter how long you play them. I’ve found that re-setting the machine is the only way to "stop the bleeding."

Experienced keno players may scoff at such a theory, but they should have something else that works for them. In any case, I think that being consistent is the key.

It’s important to be consistent. Blackjack and video poker players have their basic strategies, and experienced craps players typically bet a certain way and seldom deviate. By following your system, whatever that happens to be, you give yourself a chance to keep up with, if not overcome, the odds of the game. In order to make the odds work for you, it’s best to be consistent and follow your system. Of course, the system has to have merit!

The other aspect of my keno play involves playing numbers in zones or clusters. Anyone who has played video keno has seen how numbers form certain patterns. For instance, there are eight rows of ten numbers on a keno screen, and if you play long enough, you’ll see that most of the eight rows eventually hit seven or even eight of the ten numbers.

In addition, there are ten columns of eight numbers, and during the same session you might note that several columns line up seven of the eight. Occasionally, all eight will fill up. The key is being there when they do ”” and re-setting the machine is one of the components of a methodology to do so.

Other clusters that I’ve found have paid off include sold eight boxes, two by four boxes, either above or below the center line, and three-by-three boxes of nine numbers, again marked above or below the center line.

Of course, there’s more to winning than simply playing a box, a row, a column, an "L" or a "T" pattern. We’ll examine more specific examples next time, as well as explain how to play the various clusters, in conjunction with re-setting the machine.

(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.)