Keno patterns and other inkblot tests

Jan 19, 2010 5:02 PM

I almost laughed out loud when I read an e-mail from a reader last week, who penned a 1,000-word dissertation on how my "belief" in keno patterns was just a "cognitive" reinforcement of what I am expecting to see on the video keno screen.

"The brain … will impose patterns to make sense of what it perceives," Marc wrote.

Thank you for the Freudian analysis, Dr. Marc, but I assure you my keno patterns aren’t born from some diagnostic Rorschach, inkblot test; they are a result of observation and having played thousands of keno games.

Marc stipulates further, based on probability and statistics, that long term success playing keno patterns is not possible, because "You are not going to be able to provide a solid mathematical or observational evidence to support that conclusion."

Let me point out that I’ve never suggested following any pattern would guarantee hitting a jackpot. In fact, I noted in last week’s column: "I use these patterns, and a few others, simply because they’re easy to mark and easy to remember. You can probably find, or create, any other pattern you want and get similar results."

Obviously, the odds of hitting any given group of numbers, whether part of a pattern or not, is the same as hitting any other cluster of numbers.

Marc adds that my column should have only one mission: "I will keep writing in the hopes that either you or your publisher will see to it that keno players get the kind of true, helpful advice, such as the payback percentages of various pay tables, that they deserve."

I think Marc’s last two comments are telling. He relies only on "solid mathematical" evidence and "payback percentages" as guides for playing video keno.

Coupled with previous comments he has sent to me – casinos can only change the amount of keno payoffs but not the frequency of payouts, and the drop-off in W-2G jackpots, if there is one, is NOT a reflection of tighter machines – it’s pretty clear where Marc is coming from.

Marc apparently is an advocate, or perhaps an apologist or even a lackey of the casinos and/or the machine manufacturers.

That would explain why, even though he admits he is not a regular video keno player, he would have everyone believe keno machines function as they are supposed to function, and winning is just a matter of finding the best pay tables.

First of all, I often times mention the payback percentages, and how they vary from casino to casino, and even from machine to machine. In fact, there’s a list of a standard, 92 percent pay table in our Gaming Tutorial section.

But, as I’ve pointed out many times, a lower return, such as getting 330-for-one instead of 400-for-one for catching 6-out-of-7 means the machine has a higher "breakage" factor. That is, with everything else being equal (which it never is!), you will need to put more money in a machine for a fixed amount of play.

Secondly, whether a machine has a 92 percent or 89 percent or 97 percent payback percentage has very little bearing on what your play result will be. Those numbers are long term, usually based on the life of the machine, and they can and will vary wildly for any individual play.

In the short term – say, 20 minutes to 3 hours – the return may swing from 10 percent to 600 percent.

Bottom line here is, all I can do is describe what I do when I play video keno. I get responses from readers who also are dedicated players, and I’m happy to relay their experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.

But I don’t think any player simply wants to hear the "company line" of what the pay tables are supposed to pay, along with the locations of "full-pay" machines.

Rorschach tests notwithstanding, we still rely on our cognitive skills, even while playing keno.