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Last Updated: January 20, 2016

Keno

Introduction

Keno is a simple game of luck, much like most lottery games, where the player chooses numbers and hope as many as possible match those randomly drawn by a hopper or machine.

There are two formats for playing keno: live and video. In live keno, the player uses a crayon and paper to indicate his picks. Every few minutes numbers will be a live draw from a hopper filled with numbered balls. In video keno, the player touches a screen, sometimes using a wand, to pick numbers and the machine does the draw randomly.

Like most games of pure luck, the odds in keno are pretty poor. Keep reading to learn more about the rules and how much you can expect to lose on the game.

Rules



Following are the rules for basic keno:

  1. The player makes a wager and indicates which numbers he wishes to pick. The picks are made on a slip of paper in live keno and by touching the screen in video keno. The range of numbers the player may pick from is 1 to 80.
  2. The number of picks the player may make depends on the game itself. Usually the range is 2 to 10 or 1 to 15.
  3. The game will randomly choose 20 out of 80 balls.
  4. If the game chooses a number the player chose that is known as a "catch." The player is paid according to the number of balls he catchs.

Examples



Following are some common video keno pay tables. The bottom row shows the expected return.

Pay Table 1

Catch Pick 1 Pick 2 Pick 3 Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6 Pick 7 Pick 8 Pick 9 Pick 10
0 - - - - - - - - - -
1 3 - - - - - - - - -
2 15 2 2 - - - - - -
3 48 5 3 3 1 - - -
4 100 13 4 2 2 1 -
5 838 75 22 13 6 5
6 1,660 422 100 44 24
7 7,000 1,670 362 146
8 10,000 4,700 1,000
9 10,000 4,500
10 10,000
Return 75.00% 90.19% 94.35% 94.78% 94.95% 94.99% 94.92% 94.90% 93.60% 93.20%


Pay Table 2

Catch Pick 1 Pick 2 Pick 3 Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6 Pick 7 Pick 8 Pick 9 Pick 10
0 - - - - - - - - - -
1 3 - - - - - - - - -
2 15 2 2 - - - - - -
3 46 5 3 3 1 - - -
4 91 12 4 2 2 1 -
5 810 70 21 12 6 5
6 1,600 400 98 44 24
7 7,000 1,652 335 142
8 10,000 4,700 1,000
9 10,000 4,500
10 10,000
Return 75.00% 90.19% 91.58% 92.03% 91.93% 92.67% 92.44% 92.31% 92.00% 92.55%


Pay Table 3

Catch Pick 1 Pick 2 Pick 3 Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6 Pick 7 Pick 8 Pick 9 Pick 10
0 - - - - - - - - - -
1 3 - - - - - - - - -
2 15 2 2 - - - - - -
3 43 5 3 3 1 - - -
4 77 12 4 2 2 1 -
5 750 55 21 12 6 5
6 1,600 335 98 40 21
7 7,000 1,450 300 142
8 10,000 4,700 1,000
9 9,000 4,000
10 10,000
Return 75.00% 90.19% 87.41% 87.74% 88.06% 88.02% 87.68% 89.07% 87.57% 88.80%


Pay Table 4

Catch Pick 1 Pick 2 Pick 3 Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6 Pick 7 Pick 8 Pick 9 Pick 10
0 - 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 - - - - - - - -
2 5 2 1 - - - -
3 11 5 3 2 1 1
4 40 10 5 2 2
5 400 49 22 10
6 1,000 275 40
7 2,500 500
8 5,000
9
10
Return 86.08% 84.66% 85.97% 85.79% 84.96% 85.33% 84.57%


Surveys



In 2001 I did a survey of every live keno casino game in Las Vegas. The returns ranged from 65% to 80%. In other words, the house edge was 20% to 35%, making live keno among the worst bets you can make in Las Vegas.

In 2012 I did a similar survey of live keno in Laughlin, which showed a range of return of 50% to 74%.

In 2008 I did a survey of video keno in San Diego. The returns ranged from 84% to 95%. While the odds are much better in video keno than live keno, keep in mind that the rate of play on a machine is about 50 times faster. Assuming the same bet size per game, you can expect to lose more per hour playing video keno.

Advice



If you must play keno, the only skill is choosing where to play to play and then how many numbers to choose. It makes no difference which numbers who actually choose. Contrary to popular myth, legitimate keno games, like those in Las Vegas, are fair and every ball has a 1 in 80 chance of being drawn each game. To determine the odds of any keno game you can use my keno calculator. Just put in the pay table and you will see how much you can expect to get back every bet.

However, I tend to think anybody who would take the trouble to analyze the game is probably not playing it in the first place. The odds in video keno are about as bad as slot machines. If you want to lose a lot less money gambling I would highly recommend converting to video poker. For live keno players, I would suggest converting to bingo.

Practice Game



Get your keno fix right here on my practice game.

Calculators



We have calculators to determine the payback for any pay table for the following keno games:





Scouting Guide



For a printer-friendly document showing keno pay tables and returns for several major keno games please see my Keno Scouting Guide (PDF). Perfect for printing and taking to the casino to find the best game and pay table available.





Keno games by U1 Gaming




Written by: Michael Shackleford

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