Basics of Keno
by Henry Tamburin
Keno is a relaxing casino game that offers the player an opportunity to win $50,000 and more for a modest bet of about a buck. It is also an easy game to play. In this article I'll explain the basics of how to play and tell you a story about how one player was able to beat the casinos at keno.
All bets in keno are made on a keno ticket. These tickets contain 80 numbered squares numbered sequentially from 1 to 80. Keno tickets are readily available in keno lounges and other approved areas of a casino hotel such as restaurants. Players mark from 1 to 15 numbers that they want to play by marking an "X" on the keno ticket for each number(s) with a crayon (the latter are located with the keno tickets). The casino will randomly select by computer 20 of the 80 numbers. If enough numbers have been correctly picked by the player, the player wins. Payoffs vary depending upon the number of numbers you selected, how many match the numbers randomly selected by the casino, and how much you paid for your ticket. The payoffs may also vary from one casino to another so it is real important you consult the casino's keno rate card before you play.
Beside indicating which numbers you want to play on your keno ticket, you must also indicate the amount of the bet. This is done by writing the amount of the bet on the top right corner of the keno ticket in the box labeled "MARK PRICE HERE". It is not necessary to use dollar signs- thus if you wish to wager one dollar on a keno ticket it would suffice to write 1 (likewise a 70 cent ticket could be written .70). Also you need to write the number of numbers (or what casino players call "spots") in the right hand margin of the keno ticket. For example if you selected 6 numbers on your ticket you write "6" in the margin.
To recap, a completed keno ticket contains your numbers "X"'d out with a crayon, the amount you want to bet clearly indicated in the "MARK PRICE HERE" box, and the number of spots written in the margin.
In casino jargon, a five spot ticket means a ticket with five numbers being played. The rate card will indicate for a five spot ticket the minimum numbers needed to win. For example, for a five spot ticket you need to "catch" (more casino jargon) at least three numbers for a payoff. If you catch four numbers on a five spot ticket, the payoff increases. Catch all five numbers, and you will receive the maximum payoff for a five spot ticket.
Once you completed your keno ticket, you give it to a casino employee known as a keno writer or (keno runner) with the amount of your bet. The keno writer will input the information you wrote on your ticket into the keno computer system and give you back your ticket with the same numbers you have chosen , the dollar amount of the game, and total numbers played plus some additional information. This includes the date and time the ticket was issued, the keno work station number, the game that the ticket is valid for, and a special code number. The ticket must also state the time limit for the validity of a winning ticket (this is important- if you don't cash in your winning ticket within the time frame printed on the ticket it is worthless!).
Twenty numbers will be randomly selected by the computer and each number will appear as lighted numbers on keno screens. As each number is selected, it will light up on the keno screen so it easy to follow the progress of the game and determine if any of your numbers match the winning numbers. If you caught enough numbers for a payoff as summarized on the rate card, simply give your winning ticket to a keno writer and he/she will validate the ticket and return with your winnings. A tip for the keno writer is warranted for his/her services.
Selecting one to 15 numbers is known as playing a straight ticket. There are slightly more complicated ways to bet in keno. A split ticket for example allows aplayer to bet on two or more combinations of numbers in one game. Combination tickets allow the player to combine groups of numbers in all sorts of ways. Way tickets combine at least three groups of equal numbers in several ways as straight ticket combinations. And finally a king ticket is one in which one number is circled by itself and used in combination with other circled groups of numbers on one ticket. A summary of how to make these different bets is at the end of this article.
One other item requires mentioning before you start to play keno. If you hit a big $50,000 prize in the same game as another player, the jackpot is split (in reality the likelihood of this happening is very slim).
The regulations do not allow Atlantic City casinos more than a 30 percent advantage in keno. Typically the casinos edge is 20 to 30 percent which makes this game very tough to beat over the long run. But over the short run anything is possible as the following story explains.
Last year a keno player pulled off an incredible feat in a Montreal casino. He correctly selected 19 out of 20 keno numbers in a single game. The odds, by the way, of doing this is 1 in 2,946,096,780,000,000 - as close to impossible as you can get. To put it another way, if you were to play keno 24 hours a day for an entire year, according to the odds, you'd expect to correctly pick 19 out of 20 numbers about once out of every 93 million years!
The lucky player who hit the 19 numbers won $200,000. If this was you or I, we would have most likely taken the winnings, left the casino, and had one hell of a party. But not this lucky player. He played the next game and -you guessed it- picked another 19 out of 20 numbers for another $200 grand win!
If you are interested, the odds of selecting 19 out of 20 numbers in successive keno games is 1 in 8,679 octillion. Quite a feat for a casino game with a 20 to 30 percent casino edge! Well if this hasn't amazed you, how about this. Our big winner played a third consecutive keno game and again did the near impossible by selecting another 19 out of 20 numbers.
By now you are probably thinking what the casino security folks were thinking - namely, something ain't kosher here. After shutting down the keno game and conducting an investigation they couldn't find anything wrong so they paid the lucky player the $600 grand. This time he left with his winnings.
It turns out our lucky player didn't quite use just luck to select the winning numbers. You see he was a computer whiz who recorded the winning keno numbers over a four month period and then studied the sequence of winning numbers on his computer. He noticed that certain numbers and combinations of numbers were being selected by the casinos keno computer more frequently then what you would expect from a completely random process. This was especially the case after the computer was shut down in the evening when the casino closed and restarted in the morning when the casino opened. In essence he knew from the past sequence and pattern of winning numbers what numbers the computer was about to pick! These of course are the ones he played.
Do not get any ideas about duplicate this feat. Casinos now make sure their keno computers cantain special programs to eliminate the exact repeat of previous winning numbers like what happened in Canada.
Someone once told me that if something is possible in a casino it will eventually happen. Never did I think that anyone would be able to win three consecutive keno games with odds of a zillion to 1. I should have listened to my friend.
Split Ticket. Allows a player to write two or more straight tickets at one time on one ticket. A player marks two or more groups of numbers separate from each other. The common method of separating the two groups of numbers is to either circle each group or drawing a line between them. A player who circles two groups of five numbers on one ticket indicates this in the margin by writing the fraction 2/5.
Way Ticket. This is a keno ticket marked with at least three equal groups of numbers and each group is combined with the other groups, to form several straight ticket combinations. For example a player marking and circling the group 1,2,3,4,5 and the group 31,32,33,34,35- and finally the group 71,72,73 74 75 means he is betting on each group plus the combination of the first and second group (making a 10 spot group) plus the combination of the first and third group (another 10 spot) and finally the second and third group ( another 10 spot group). A player marking his ticket in this manner writes in the margin 3/10 ( three groupings of 10 numbers).
Combination Ticket. This is a ticket in which the player selects at least two groups of any number of spots and selects how the groups are to be combined to form multiple tickets within one ticket. Thus for example a player can mark three groups of four spots and circle each group. By writing in the margin 3/8 and also 1/12 you indicate that you want to combine the three eight spot with one twelve spot. This is a simple combination ticket of three eight spots and one twelve spots.
King Ticket. With this ticket, one number is circled by itself and used in combination with other circled groups. For example if a player circled the number 7 and two and three group of numbers, the game can be played as a 3 spot ( king plus two spot), 4 spot ( king and 3 spot), 5 spot (2 spot and 3 spot), and a 6 spot ( king plus 2 and 3 spot). You would write in the margin the fractions 1/3. 1/4, 1/5, and 1/6.
Muti Race Ticket. This is a keno ticket wagered for more than one game. All of the games covered by the ticket must be consecutive and must be wagered at the same amount.
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