How to determine which version of video keno is best for you

May 3, 2011 6:00 AM

Most of the articles and advice written about video keno, including those articles written by myself, focus on the original version of the game or on multiple card versions of the original. So which new keno game that features bonus rounds, payout multipliers, extra draws or even a combination of these features is best to play?

My buddy asked me this question last week when he visited a new casino somewhere in the Midwest and was confronted with a bunch of weird keno games he’d never seen before. I realized then how many new video keno versions had actually sprung up in just the past few years, and how nearly impossible it is for anyone to keep up with the pace.

For example, at Stetson’s we now have over 30 varieties of video keno from three different manufacturers, and we’re only a small, locals-oriented casino. Some of the bigger destination resorts have even more (though not many, actually – we have the biggest variety in Henderson even though we’re a small place) and the number of variations on the game keeps growing.

Not to worry. Even though it’s impossible for me or anyone else to compare all of the different versions of the game and give a concrete answer as to which one is best, I can give you enough information so you should be able to determine which version might be best for you to play.

The comparison of classic keno paytables between casinos is the best way to tell which casino has their keno games set looser. If a casino sets their original version of video keno to payback a certain percentage, they’ll typically set the other versions of keno similarly.

If you’re familiar enough with the classic keno paytables (use the five-out-of-five payout to judge as I’ve explained before) then you can get a pretty good idea of how comparatively loose or tight the other versions of the game in the same casino are set. If their classic keno pays 810 or 838 for five-out-of-five, then it’s pretty safe to assume most of the other varieties of keno in that casino are set pretty darn loose. If five-out-of-five pays less than 800 though, you might want to change more than just keno games before you start playing.

Since they’ll usually all be set within one or two percentage points of the classic game, the deciding factor on which game you play after you’ve picked a casino should be volatility. Do you want play time, or do you want real big-time payout potential for moderate hits? Any keno game pays huge on 10-out-of-10, but some variations can give 10-spot type payouts on much easier hits when done in a bonus round, with a multiplier, or even both.

As an example of volatility, jacks or better video poker gives play time by paying double and triple on two pair and three-of-a-kind respectively, but only pays a max of 25 credits per credit bet on any four-of-a-kind. Some bonus versions of video poker can pay up to 400 or even 800 credits per credit bet for certain four-of-a-kinds, but they reduce payouts for two pair and other hands that hit far more frequently than four-of-a-kinds, and therefore they significantly reduce your average play time.

Since these big bonus versions of video poker are far more volatile, you’ll likely either win big or go broke quickly. You’re less likely to go broke quickly on a less volatile game, but you’re also less likely to win big. The same can be said for video keno, with the original classic being the jacks-or-better (the least volatile) of keno games.

To determine just how volatile a particular version of keno is, you need to look at the lower non-bonus payouts and see just how much lower they are. You must also determine what you need to do to qualify for the bonus round, payout multiplier or extra draws and use a little common sense to figure out how often you might hit what you need to kick in the bonus.

Generally speaking, the more a bonus pays (the higher the multiplier or the more extra draws you get, etc.) the more difficult it is to hit. Check the bonus structure and see if it’s moderate or big-time, knowing that the bigger the awards, the fewer opportunities you’ll likely have to hit them.

Once you’ve done a little homework, sit down and try playing a new version of video keno. There’s no reason to be intimidated. You likely won’t be playing at a significantly different payback percentage than you would if you played your regular game anyway, so give it a shot. If you’re lucky enough to hit the bonus on a more volatile version of keno, you might find yourself with more money than you know what to do with – without having to hit a 10-spot to do it!

(Editor’s Note: Brad Fredella is general manager of Stetson’s Saloon and Casino in Henderson, Nevada.)