Try 4 card for an edge!

Dec 16, 2003 2:25 AM

In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of ink written about Multi Card Keno, also known as 20-card keno because it allows players to bet up to 20 cards in one video keno game.

But it might be a good time to remind ourselves about Four Card Keno, which in many ways offers better value than 20-card keno.

The better value stems from the fact that you’re not marking a lot of "losing cards" which tend to eat up the payoffs, at least, until you hit a major jackpot.

Equally important, Four Card Keno lends itself to my Cluster method of playing video keno.

I guess you could say that Four Card Keno can be construed as video keno’s answer to the immensely popular multi-hand video poker, such as Triple Play, five-hand, 10-hand poker and more.

Its concept is very simple: players can play up to four different keno cards on the same keno game. That is, you can mark one to four cards (you don’t have to play all four), picking any number of spots on each card. Then the game proceeds as in regular keno, with 20 numbers being drawn.

The obvious advantage is that you can cover a lot more numbers than with one card. Equally, the disadvantage is that you’re betting four cards instead of one, and the costs can mount.

Four Card Keno is available in various denominations, from 5 cents up to a dollar, and I’ve found that the multi-denominational machines offer the best chances to win, because you can move from one denomination to another by simply touching the screen.

Being able to mark four cards lends itself to using the cluster method. Many long time video keno players will probably agree that numbers always seem to land right next to their chosen numbers, almost as if they had "eyes" and knew how to just miss! Well, by playing numbers in clusters that are in close proximity to each other, you are often able to catch those numbers and hit a jackpot.

Here are a couple of examples (I have many more listed in my book): A 10-spot player often bets the entire horizontal row, which is fine. But you can get a lot more mileage out of playing two 10-spot rows on top of each other (such as the 20’s and 30’s rows), as well as the two 10-spot cards made up of 21-25, 36-40 numbers and the 31-35, 26-30 numbers. This way you have an overlap, in which you can sometimes hit, say two seven out of 10, or even two eight out of 10 jackpots.

Similarly, I like to play two solid eight columns (vertical), such as the 3 and 4 columns, coupled with the two 8-spot cards made up of the 3, 13, 23, 33, 44, 54, 64, 74 and the 4, 14, 24, 34, 43, 53, 63, 73 numbers. Again, you have overlap, opening the possibility of "doubling up" on a six out of eight or even seven out of eight jackpot.

I am sometimes asked about payback percentage, mainly from players who are used to comparing video poker machines.

Virtually all of the keno machines I play, as well as the actual keno games, have payback percentages in the 92 percent range. For instance, the 7-spot keno returns 92.44 percent, while the 8-spot returns 92.31 percent, the 9-spot 92 percent and the 10-spot 92.55 percent.

But these aren’t the important numbers. What I base my play on are these stats: The odds of hitting 7 out of 7 spots is actually less than the odds of hitting a royal flush, but the payoff (7000-1) is substantially higher then the royal’s award (800-1).

Here’s another: for every royal flush you hit on a poker machine (with a payoff of $1000 on a quarter machine), the video keno machine will hit at least six 7-out-of-8 jackpots (with a payoff of $1,652 each on a quarter machine!).

Payback percentage isn’t the key number. It’s the odds of what you’re trying to win that counts.

Once again, don’t be turned off by the "hold" percentage. The keno payoffs are enticing because some of them are in the realm of lottery payoffs, and equally important they are closer to the actual odds than the poker payoffs.

Let’s use the royal flush as an example. The odds of hitting a royal on a jacks or better and a deuces wild machine are about 42,000-1 (they’re slightly higher on a joker machine because of the 53rd card). However, the standard payoff is only 800-1 or $1,000 on a quarter machine. A comparable video keno jackpot would be hitting seven out of seven numbers, with a probability of about 41,000-1. Yet the keno payoff is a healthy 7000-1. On a quarter machine that means $7,000 for a bet of four coins (a single coin returns $1,750!). Obviously, there’s a lot more math involved when you take the entire game into consideration, and factor in the various hits, but bottom line for me is this: why would you chase an 800-1 jackpot when you can pursue a 7000-1 prize with about the same probability of hitting it?

Admittedly, hitting either a royal flush or a solid seven is not an everyday occurrence, and it’s even possible to play for weeks and weeks and never hit either one. You have to remember, when you’re dealing with large odds, especially when they get into the thousands or tens of thousands, it may take awhile to beat the odds. That’s why I usually play the higher number keno games, eight-, nine- and 10-spot keno, because they offer more opportunities to hit minor jackpots, while offering the always-present chance of hitting the Big One.

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