Just say no to deuces!

Oct 5, 2004 12:52 AM

Last week I suggested that if you want to play keno to win, you should stick to tickets of five-spots or more. The rationale for this statement is that keno is a long odds game, and therefore you should stick to long odds tickets and avoid playing short odds tickets. A long odds ticket is any ticket of five-spots or more, and a short odds ticket is any ticket of four-spots or less.

The house percentage in most Nevada keno games is 25-30 percent and ranges somewhat higher in most state lotteries. Fifty years ago one could only play 10-spot tickets, and these tickets typically had house percentages in the same range as above. As other tickets were developed, they were all based upon 10-spot payoffs. This process resulted in short odds payoffs with house percentages more appropriate for long odds wagers.

There is after all, a rationale for the casino to charge you 25 percent of your wager if you are risking a dollar to win $20,000 or more. It is because the casino is risking $20,000 to win a dollar! Since the casino is taking such a large risk, it is appropriate to charge a little bit on your wager. This charge seems much less appropriate in the case of one- or two-spots, where the casino’s risk is much less.

Another reason to stay away from short odds keno wagers is that the casino simply offers some better alternatives to wager. Instead of betting on a one-, two-, or three-spot ticket, you can make the same wager on the roulette wheel or the craps table with a much smaller house edge (less than 5 percent) for the same returns.

This raises the interesting question of deuces. Many of you play deuces with the idea that it "gives you playing money" when they hit.

Should you play deuces on your tickets, for example a six-spot with three deuces or an eight-spot with four deuces? No. You are much better off playing the straight tickets. The cost of playing deuces far outweighs the value of any increase in winnings.

Consider two keno players, Abby and Betty, who each have a bankroll of $100. Abby plays a six-spot with three groups of two at a dollar per way for four dollars per game total. Betty plays a straight six-spot for at $1 per game. After 25 games, Abby has exhausted her original bankroll, while Betty still has $75 left. Of course Abby will have hit on the average 4½ deuces in 25 games, giving her $54 dollars in "playing money."

After 13 more games Abby is down to $2, while Betty is down to $62. Abby will have averaged about 21/3 more deuces giving her $30 "playing money." After seven more games Abby once again has $2 left and Betty has $55 left. Abby will have hit one more deuce which gives her $14. After three more games Abby is broke, while Betty still has $52 left. Both players have played their six-spots 48 games, and Abby is done while Betty can continue on for another 52 games. Thus Betty actually has twice as much chance to hit her six-spot as Abby with the same bankroll, by the simple method of not playing deuces.

Yes I have simplified and rounded the math a little in the paragraph above, but the end result is true, and can be proven mathematically.

Well, that’s it for today. Good luck and maybe I’ll see you in line!