How to ‘cure’ a sleeping machine

Mar 22, 2004 10:07 PM

As I pointed out last week, there are several aspects to Cluster Keno, but I would like to start with one underlying premise that has remained a foundation of my play strategy for years. And that is that video keno jackpots are most frequently won soon after the machine is "reset."

By "reset," I mean that the numbers from the previous game are erased, and new numbers are marked — even though the new numbers may be exactly the same numbers that were played before!

I alluded to this previously when I noted that video keno is different than live keno, where players often mark their card and wait for the numbers to come in. I’ve found the live-game strategy has seldom, if ever, worked for me. In fact, I have tried to play the same game over and over, not touching the numbers, not re-betting, but the only results have been a long string of losing games.

I first noticed this phenomenon while playing at the El Cortez. Much to my surprise, I would hit jackpots on machines that were located on either side of a machine I was playing, often times, while waiting for a hand-pay jackpot on the center machine! At the same casino, I hit a pair of nickel keno progressives by essentially playing the same numbers over and over, but resetting the machine every two or three plays.

Note that I don’t think it is necessary to 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 many times after re-setting the machine, I will mark the same numbers.

With the advent of multi-card keno games, such as Four Card Keno and Multi-Card Keno ( aka 20-card keno), it is often tedious to reset the game when you have up to 20 different keno cards involved.

But the new games, in most instances, also feature ticket-in, ticket-out technology, which lets the player cash out and immediately insert the ticket voucher and continue playing. I’ve found that this cashing out/cashing in process works in a similar manner to the traditional resetting of the machine.

I have, in fact, used this method to change the course of machine that, for whatever reason, has fallen into a slump. You probably know the symptoms: every hand falls short of a payback, and the numbers seem to have an aversion to the ones you’ve selected. In fact, it can be very frustrating when every hand gives you just three hits when you’ve marked 9-spots, in which the minimum hit to get your bet back is four spots.

For some reason, constantly cashing out and cashing back in again, even after just a few plays each time, often results in jump-starting the machine, or at least, curing it of its temporary lull.

Now let me give you an example of how resetting the machine in the regular way has worked. 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.

Because I don’t have any knowledge of how a keno machine operates, or what the computer program consists of, I couldn’t tell you why this seems to work. 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 more and more 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."

Of course, changing your method of play, that is, experimenting, is always worthwhile. But at the same time, 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.

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