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Six Rules for How to Win at Online Keno

| February 26, 2019 12:00 am PDT
Winning at Online Keno

Among the more sophisticated gamblers, keno enjoys a reputation rivaled only by Big Wheel for having the worst odds, as well as requiring the least amount of skill.

Those callous sophisticates seem to think keno requires no real skill.

It is purely luck, much like Big Wheel, for instance, or winning a seat in Congress.

These gamblers, for all their smug sophistication, are dead wrong. Keno not only requires great skill, but it also requires supreme focus and infinite patience.

The fact that none of these is employed while actually playing keno is beside the point. Allow me to explain.

Can You Really Win at Online Keno?

Some might argue (and they’d win, too) that there is only one rule for winning keno: be lucky.

Fair enough, but this would be an extremely short article if we just ended with that.

No, let’s get more in tune with the universe here, release our seventh chakra, as it were. Maybe even get woke to the Zen of keno.

Everyone asks the wrong question: “Is keno right for me?” But no one seems to ask the more relevant question: “Am I right for keno?”

Keno is an incredibly boring game. So if you need constant action and frequent panic attacks, you are not right for keno. Try craps.

This game wants—no, NEEDS a player who is happy with his or her own company, who is quite satisfied to sit quietly, maintaining a thousand-yard stare for hours…

It needs someone who is overjoyed that they finally added an Autoplay button to the options so that you don’t have to keep pressing that damn-fool Bet button over and over like a chicken dancing for the next feed pellet. And just between you and me, the chicken would stop dancing quickly if no feed pellets materialized.

Guess that’s what separates us from the chickens.

Rule #1: Patience. Get Some.

The odds against winning anything substantial with keno are astronomical. The house edge in online keno (depending on the casino) runs anywhere from 20% to 35% (for comparison, the house edge for video poker is typically in the 1% to 2% range, and in some cases can actually be in the negative).

“But the payout is huge for ten out of ten,” you cry. Oh, really? Let’s see if that’s so. The usual payout for catching ten numbers out of ten selected (the usual maximum numbers you can select on a video keno machine) is 10,000 of whatever you bet.

For the purpose of this article, I’m just going to call it a token. That way, you can imagine whatever denomination you want is “the token,” and we can maintain the polite fiction that I’m not talking about nickels.

Okay, back to that amazing 10,000-token win you just received. You bet one token, you got back 10,000. Lucky you. Would it cause you any alarm to know that the odds of catching ten out of ten are nearly nine million to one? How many games of online keno do you play in an hour? In four hours?

Assuming ten out of ten would definitely hit in nine million plays (which is not correct; read about gambler’s fallacy for details), you would have to play online keno constantly on autoplay at the fastest setting for more than six years to win that 10,000 tokens.

You would need to invest nearly 10 million tokens to win that 10,000 tokens in return.

Still think it’s a huge win? Having some doubts, are we?

Sure, you might also hit that ten out of ten your first play ever at a video keno machine. And it’d be just my luck to be the guy sitting next to you when it happened.

Rule #2: Stop Playing Convenience Store Keno

If you live in or have driven through a state where gambling is legal, you’ve probably seen that tiny row of slot and keno machines in convenience stores and service stations. You may have even thrown a buck or two their way.

Why?

Something you may not be aware of but should certainly keep in mind is that small businesses cannot afford the massive payoffs they would be liable to make should any of the machines they have register a jackpot—certainly not at the same pay tables offered by the big casinos.

Online keno can (and sometimes does) operate under the same philosophy. But jiggering around with the random number generators is illegal. Besides, rewriting the computer code behind the keno screen in any way is both complicated AND illegal. What to do?

The solution is simple. Pay tables CAN be modified easily—and legally. So that’s exactly what the small businesses (and some online casinos) do. Well, the companies leasing them the machines or the software are the ones who actually do the pay table adjustments.

You’ll notice the pay tables are typically the same as those the big casinos offer, except for maybe the payout for hitting five out of nine or maybe for hitting six out of ten. All the other payouts match the big casino payouts. What gives?

Well, six out of ten will hit a hell of a lot more often than ten out of ten. Think of all the money the machine DOESN’T have to pay you on all those six-out-of-ten wins.

Now we know how Fred’s One-Stop Service Station and Video Keno Lounge can afford to pay out that ten out of ten win that may happen once every six or seven years. By the way, as long as you’re there, try the sushi.

Rule #3: Don’t Double Down on Stupid

Since luck is all you have to work with while playing keno (that, and time, which is the only part of the process you actually have control over), it would be foolish to continue to lose money and not change what you are doing.

So eventually, you must realize that you are simply not lucky today and need to try something else. So stop playing keno.

Go outside. Breathe some fresh air. Yell at the clouds. That always works for me.

Rule #4: Have “Death Before Gambler’s Fallacy” Tattooed on Your Forearm

I mentioned the gambler’s fallacy earlier, but it’s important enough to understand that I’m giving it its own rule.

According to Wikipedia, the gambler’s fallacy “is the mistaken belief that, if something happens more frequently than normal during a given period, it will happen less frequently in the future[.]”

What this means as far as keno is concerned is simply this: Just because your selected numbers have not won significantly for the past three hours you’ve been playing, it does NOT mean that it is more likely to hit a significant win in the near future.

That bears repeating in different words. The odds that your ten-spot card will catch all ten spots during your first play are roughly one chance in 8.9 million. After you’ve played that card for three hours, guess what your odds are for catching that ten out of ten with your next play?

If you guessed anything but “one in 8.9 million,” you haven’t been paying attention.

Rule #5: In All Things, Reason

Fear, anger, joy—these are all emotions most mammals feel. It is Reason alone that separates Man from the tastier animals. We enjoy the benefits of our ability to reason every day—every minute, in fact.

So why do we abandon our one superpower to the feeling that a particular keno machine is “ready to hit!”? Perhaps this rule should have been part of the gambler’s fallacy rule, but this is a horse that refuses to die, however much we beat it.

RNGs (random number generators) have NO memory.

These RNGs have but one job, and that is to select numbers at random. They are very good at it. Exceptionally good, in fact.

When the Terminator comes back from the future to hunt us down, I’m pretty sure it will be in the form of a huge RNG.

Rule #6: Be Lucky

Bet you saw that one coming. I read somewhere that “the race is not always to the swift,” then a bunch of blah-blah I skipped over, and then this nugget of wisdom: “but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Time and chance. They go together. It’s in the Bible. You could look it up.

Naturally, the only way you can be lucky (at keno or any other game of chance) is to give yourself enough time to win. Unless you have unlimited money, this means you need to limit your bets when you are losing and increase them when you are winning. This is known as progressive betting.

Progressive is not an infallible system, and comes with some inherent risks. Wins can often come in clusters, though, so bumping up your bets when that happens can be worthwhile.

Just be prepared—and willing—to lower them again should the clustering I mentioned fail to appear.

An Embarrassment of Riches

A friend of mine told me long ago that of all the gambling options available in Vegas, it was just his luck that his game turned out to be bingo. At the time, I felt pity for him, and just a touch of superiority as well.

Shortly after that, I discovered video keno. I was killing time, as it often happens, while waiting for my wife to show up so that we could go to dinner.

I had a quarter in a video keno machine, with ten numbers I had selected at random with the handy penlike stabby gizmo attached to the machine by a flexible metallic thingie that would make the pens in most bank lobbies green with envy.

I fed quarters into the machine without success for a long time—and then, suddenly, the machine hit eight out of ten. I had just won $250 on a quarter bet.

I had found my game. And it wasn’t even as cool as bingo.

Speaking of embarrassment, anyone who has won a hand-pay while playing video keno at a brick-and-mortar casino has probably experienced the “embarrassment of riches” personally.

Nothing like sitting at a big wood-and-metal box listening to it play carnival music (as loud as it is cheesy) for 10-15 minutes while you sit, red-faced, waiting for the various functionaries to appear with your winnings.

It was worse when hand-pays were for wins as small as seven out of ten (142 tokens! W00t!) because they happened much more often. Nowadays, hand-pays are restricted to payouts over $1200 (in Vegas, at least), because IRS.

If there is no other reason to love keno at online casinos, it is the ability to avoid that ten minutes of cheesy music “fame.”

As a veteran video keno player, I have learned to value the small victories. I hope you can, too.

J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at GamblingSites.com. He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

More Posts by J.W. Contact J.W.

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