I often meet keno players who say they’ve enjoyed the game for years, both live keno and video keno, and that they’ve always done well playing the 4-, 5- and 6-spot cards.
Of course, I’ve always leaned toward the higher cards — the 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-spot cards — because of the potential for hitting a lottery-like jackpots.
And, while catching a solid 7-spot, 8-spot or 9-spot occurs very infrequently, there are plenty of "lesser" jackpots that pay well and are well within reach.
That’s not to say I discourage playing the smaller cards. As a matter of fact, I point out in my book that the 5-spot card has perhaps the best "value" for any ticket. The reason? On most keno machines, the solid 5-spot pays off at 810-1 for four coins bet.
This is much better than the royal flush’s payoff (800-1) with five coins bet, but the odds of hitting a solid five are only 1550-1! Remember, the odds of hitting a royal are about 41,000-1, so this difference can be interpreted to mean that for every royal you hit, you should hit 26 solid five spots!
Obviously, the five and six spots offer great value, and playing those games will result in some nice — and relatively frequent — jackpots. For myself, I play the higher numbers in hopes of eventually hitting the top line payoff, but also because there are the minor awards, or consolation prizes, that pop up frequently enough to keep things interesting.
And, because I’m frequently playing on a progressive bank of machines, the rewards can be huge. Unfortunately, they don’t have monster progressives for five- and six-spot games, not yet anyway. That’s another reason I favor the higher cards — you can’t find progressives for 5- and 6-spot cards.
In playing video keno, no matter how many spots you choose, it’s important to differentiate the game from live keno. There’s an old adage that states you should pick your numbers then "wait for them to come to you." Coupled with that is the advice to never "chase" your numbers.
That’s probably good advice in the keno lounge, but it’s never worked for me at the machine. I could play the same numbers over and over until the cows come home and have nothing — except an empty wallet — to show for it. In fact, as an experiment, I’ve tried to play the same numbers, and it’s like blood letting: you slowly watch the life slip out of your veins, until you’re ready to yell, "Stop the bleeding!"
I’ve found that sticking with the same numbers without switching is a loser. Which would seem to make sense, if you keep in mind that the keno game is devised by an engineer. Can you imagine IGT sending out a game in which all it took to win the big jackpot was a little bit of patience and deep pockets? No way.
When I started playing about 15 years ago, I exclusively played the upright, two-screen IGT Fortune keno machines. These were the old warhorses that plodded along, dumping out coins on every payout, and waking the dead with their jackpot ringer that was reminiscent of the doorbells in the 1950s. Most of those old machines have been retired, but you can still find a few orphans.
You have to be careful, though, because some of the Golden Oldies have been retrofitted with different computer chips that have reduced the payouts. I made that painful discovery several years ago. Some of the other keno machines that have paid off are the Keno Plus games from Bally and IGT’s Game King. In recent months, I’ve taken a fancy to Game King’s suite of games, but you should play whatever feels good to you. And make sure you’re not being short-changed with the paytable. More about that next week.
(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)