Four Card Keno to the rescue!

Aug 31, 2004 7:18 AM

After reading the article on the Eureka Casino in last week’s GamingToday, I couldn’t wait to get over there to play video keno.

It had been a couple of years since I played at the Eureka, but my interest was piqued after reading about the variety of Multi-Card Keno games the casino had available.

More important, I learned that the games were available in a 25¡ denomination. This would be a first for me, playing 20-card keno for quarters. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve even seen a 25¡ Multi-Card Keno game.

Anyone who has followed this column may recall the string of huge jackpots that were chronicled several months ago — in excess of $11,000 in two cases — all while playing nickel Multi-Card Keno!

Needless to say, I had visions of sugarplums dancing in my pin-like head all week as I saved my lunch money and anticipated the whopping hand-paid jackpots I’d be hitting on the quarter machines at the Eureka.

When I arrived at the casino on Saturday night, I quickly honed in on the IGT Game King machines that contained Multi-Card Keno. The only problem was there were no Multi-Card Games.

I schlepped from one machine to another, often times climbing over the playing customers as I desperately tried to find the prized Multi-Card machines.

After my futile search, I corralled a slot attendant and asked what happened to the Multi-Card games. His response was that the games had been "taken down" under orders from regulators because of a "glitch" in the game.

He added that he thought the game would be returned to service after the required checks were made. He must have been moved by my relentless sobbing because he tried to console me by claiming that all of the Multi-Card Keno games in town were also being tested by regulators. (I later visited the Gold Coast and found the Multi-Card games intact.)

Left with nothing to do on a Saturday night, I found a nice Game King machine, fired up a Four Card Keno game and gave the Eureka a run for their money.

And what a run it was! When the dust cleared a couple of hours later, I had hit 7-out-of-8, 8-out-of-9 and about a half dozen 6-out-of-7 jackpots. Playing just one quarter per card, the result was a net win of about $1,500.

Here’s how it happened: I started out playing four sets of 7-spot cards (see chart). I believe I hit about four 6-of-7 jackpots (at about $100 each) before I switched to playing four 8-spot cards. The latter consisted of the adjacent "3" and "4" columns, plus the cross-over patterns consisting of the top 3 column coupled with the bottom 4 column and the bottom 3 column paired with the top 4 column.

It didn’t take long before I hit 7-of-8 numbers for a jackpot of about $400.

But the best was yet to come, and it landed in one of my favorite cluster patterns (see second chart): Two 9-spot cards that use the "1" and "2" columns, plus two 7-spot cards that nearly overlap the 9-spot tickets.

This is always a prolific pattern because I nearly always catch a 7-of-9 and/or a 6-of-7. But the keno gods were in a good mood Saturday night as I caught an 8-of-9 jackpot (4,700 quarters) when seven numbers in the "1" column hit along with the single in the "2" column.

In the past, I’ve seen this pattern produce both an 8-of-9 and 7-of-7 jackpot simultaneously. Not a bad payoff, indeed.

Here’s just a little reminder about why playing the 7-, 8- and 9-spot cards can be lucrative. The 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 video poker payoffs.

For instance, the odds of hitting a royal on a jacks or better and a deuces wild machine are about 42,000-1. However, the standard payoff is only 800-1 or $1,000 on a quarter machine. A comparable video keno jackpot (in terms of odds) would be hitting 7-out-of-7 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!).

Moving along, the 8-spot has a nice payoff for hitting seven out of eight numbers — $1,652 for four quarters bet. And with odds of 6200-1, the chances of catching seven of eight is nearly seven times greater than hitting a royal flush.

Another way of looking at it: for every royal flush that’s hit, there will be six hand-pay jackpots for hitting 7-of-8 numbers on a keno machine.

Incidentally, the odds of hitting a solid eight are about 230,000-1, but they’re not insurmountable. At a downtown casino, I hit the first two 8-spot progressives (on nickel machines!) for payoffs of $6,400 and $7,900 at the El Cortez, and have subsequently hit a few solid eights, but most of my most recent wins have come on Four Card and Multi-Card keno games.

Finally, I like the 9-spot because hitting 8-of-9 pays $4,700 (with four coins bet). The odds of hitting eight numbers are about 30,600-1, about 25% lower than the odds for a royal flush. But the payoff is a superior 4700-1 (as opposed to the royal’s 800-1).

(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.)