Don't flinch at video keno's 92% payout

April 22, 2008 7:00 PM
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Cluster Keno by L. J. Zahm | Last week I received a note from one of our readers, Dan, who asked about the 92 percent average payback on a video keno machine, as well as some other keno-related issues.

The 92 percent return represents an average, based on a "standard" keno pay table. The standard payouts are the most widely-used in the industry, thus, they should be consistent whether youíre playing on an IGT, Bally or other type of keno game.

Iíve reproduced a chart of the standard payouts for the most popular keno tickets, along with the odds for hitting the award.

Standard
Keno Payouts
10-SPOT
8-SPOT
Catch
Payout
Odds
Catch
Payout
Odds
10
10k
8.9m
8
10k
230k
9
4500
163k
7
1652
6232
8
1000
7384
6
98
422
7
142
620
5
12
54
6
24
87
4
2
12
5
5
19
7-SPOT
9-SPOT
Catch
Payout
Odds
Catch
Payout
Odds
7
7000
41k
9
10k
1.3m
6
400
1365
8
4700
36k
5
21
115
7
335
1690
4
2
19
6
44
174
3
1
5.7
5
6
31
4
1
8.7
6-SPOT
Catch
Payout
Odds
6
1600
7752
5
70
323
4
4
35
3
3
7.7

Based on these payouts, the overall return on the keno game is about 92 percent. That number will drop if the pay table is reduced, as I noted sometimes happens with the pay tables on Four Card Keno and Multi-Card Keno games.

Even on these lower pay tables, the top award is usually left alone. For instance, the lower payouts typically occur on the intermediate payoffs, such as the 5-of-7, 6-of-7, 6-of-8, 6-of-9 and 7-of-9 jackpots. The highest jackpot is usually left untouched, such as 7,000-1 on 7-of-7 and 10,000-1 on 8-of-8 and higher.

Lately, Iíve noticed that some casinos will lower the payback on 6-of-7 from the standard 400-1 to about 300- or 335-1. Also, Iíve seen the standard 335-to-1 paid for catching 7-of-9 cut to 300-1 or less.

Most often, the lower pay scales are being used on the lower denominations, say, penny and two-penny games. Usually, the higher denomination games, such as nickel, dime, quarter or dollar are left alone.

The bottom line is you should be aware of what youíre playing for.

Let me also address the 92 percent overall payout. Video poker players may scoff at the percentage, since their machines often return 97 percent or higher.

But that just means that video keno has a higher "breakage" factor. That is, the rate of return will eat into your bankroll faster than a video poker machine.

But that doesnít deter me from trying to hit a jackpot that is a much better deal than the video poker jackpot, which is the royal flush.

As Iíve pointed out many times, the keno equivalent to a royal Ė odds-wise Ė is the solid 7-spot, which pays a whopping 7,000 to 1. Most royals only pay 800-1.

Dan also asked about the random nature of a keno machine. Hopefully, the results are random, though Iíve heard some strange theories about how the game operates.

One theory (from someone who supposedly worked for a manufacturer) states that any machineís payout is based on how much money has been taken in by the machine.

Thus, a machine could be ripe for an award if it has raked in enough money, or it has virtually no chance of hitting if it hasnít taken in enough money.

I hope this isnít the case, because that would mean there are times you are playing without a legitimate chance of winning.

Then it would no longer be a "game of chance."

That would defeat the whole purpose of the casino, wouldnít it?

If anyone has a more precise explanation, please let me know.