Think big, but accept small!

Jun 1, 2004 2:48 AM

Thanks to all the readers who take the time to send or email their comments. It’s nice to know there are other video keno junkies out there!

This past week, I heard from a Las Vegas player who, like myself, likes to play at the older downtown properties. She has been playing Four Card Keno, which seems to have really caught on, just as the Triple and Five Play poker has swept the video poker world.

In any event, the reader, Cynthia, says she has been following the Cluster Keno method outlined in my book and has hit some nice jackpots (8-of-9, 8-of-10, to name a couple), but lately she’s been coming up short.

"It seems all I can hit are six out of seven, seven out of nine — it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve hit a seven out of seven or an eight out of nine ”¦ what am I doing wrong?" she writes.

Actually, you’re doing nothing wrong! You have to remember that the odds of hitting seven out of seven are still about 40,000-to-1, and the odds of catching eight out of nine are about 30,000-to-1. Those are big numbers to overcome, even if you’re playing four cards on one keno game.

As many of you know, we’ve chronicled the successes of several players who have won big playing the Cluster Keno way. Earlier this year, we had a player at the El Cortez ring up $25,000 in video keno jackpots over a 72-hour period. They consisted of several 7-of-7 and 8-of-9 catches.

Perhaps we can become spoiled and expect to hit those with regularity. But luck is still the key element of gambling. It always will be.

My suggestion to Cynthia is this: keep playing your normal method and use the mid-range jackpots (6-of-7, 5-of-5, 7-of-9, etc.) as a foundation to keep playing.

The mistake is sometimes made to play off all your credits after you’ve hit one of these payoffs, in hopes of cashing in on the larger score. The problem is you’ll end up losing what you’ve gained and leave the casino frustrated. That’s no fun.

Another suggestion is to shoot for some smaller jackpots. If you haven’t been able to hit the solid seven for awhile, drop down to a six- or a five-spot. I’ve experienced the same lull and have had success dropping down. There’s nothing wrong winning two or three hundred, even though you had hoped to hit the thousand or two.

Know your pay table!

I received another note last week that was disturbing in that it told of video keno machines that had drastically altered pay tables. Until I have a chance to investigate, I won’t mention the casino involved or the type of machine cited.

But here is the account, which hopefully may alert readers to the possibility that video keno pay tables may vary from casino to casino, even if they are on the same machine.

"My friend loves to play keno machines ”¦ and she has hit 7 of 8 few times, which pays close to $400 with one coin.

"Early one morning we were at (another casino) where she decided to play keno. Over the past few weeks she has invested over $500. She started with $20 and a short time later, almost out of credits, she hit 7 of 8 while playing two quarters per card. Expecting a payout of close to $800 the machine only paid $125 on two quarters.

"To make it short, the payout on quarters is $125 for 7 of 8 and $175 for 8 of 8 with two coins bet. But the amazing part is the payout on hitting 10 of 10 with two quarters is $200!

"We had the technician and slot manager over and they all said the payout is on the machine and it is up to the customers to choose which machine they want to play.

"Not happy with their explanation, we asked for gaming agent. After a couple of hours a young lady showed up. Her response was basically the same: the casino has the right to post any pay scale as long as it was paying the proper percentage. I asked her wasn’t it a little strange that a jackpot of 8 of 8 and 10 of 10 only pays couple hundred dollars? Their reasoning is that on the payback on 5 of 8 pays more than other machines and that justifies the lower jackpot.

"They already made it clear that my friend will not be compensated for the lower payout. How would you feel if you hit 7 of 8 or 8 of 8 and expecting a big jackpot instead settle for couple hundred dollars?"

I’d feel horrible. The odds of hitting 8 out of 8 is about 230,000 to 1, and to be paid a paltry $175 for two quarters (a payoff of only 350-1) is borderline criminal.

All I can say is be sure to check the pay tables before playing. I’ve never seen a keno machine with such a poor table. But I’ve seen machines in general, usually in oddball places such as motel lounges and the like, where the machines have drastically altered pay tables.

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