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Last Updated: January 20, 2016
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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.
Following are the rules for basic keno:
- 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.
- The number of picks the player may make depends on the game itself. Usually the range is 2 to 10 or 1 to 15.
- The game will randomly choose 20 out of 80 balls.
- 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.
The following return tables are from the Station Casinos $1 live keno game. The bottom right cell in each total shows the total return, which ranges from 61% to 75%.
Station Casinos — Pick 1
Station Casinos — Pick 2
Station Casinos — Pick 3
Station Casinos — Pick 4
Station Casinos — Pick 5
Station Casinos — Pick 6
Station Casinos — Pick 7
Station Casinos — Pick 8
Station Casinos — Pick 9
Station Casinos — Pick 10
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.
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.
Get your keno fix right here on my practice game.
Click the image below for my keno calculator. Then choose your number of picks, put in the pay table, and you'll have all the odds instantly.
- Keno appendix 1. An analysis of the top/bottom/left/right as as well as edge tickets as played at the Las Vegas Hilton.
- Keno appendix 2. An analysis of Caveman Keno as played on IGT's Game King.
- Keno appendix 3. Probabilities and returns for basic keno at the Atlantic CityTropicana.
- Keno appendix 4. Progressive keno games at the Boyd and Station casinos.
- Keno appendix 5. Nevada numbers, a progressive lottery game at some of the NevadaPark Place casinos.
- Keno appendix 6. Power Keno.
- Keno appendix 7 Super Keno.
- Keno appendix 8. Top Bottom Keno.
- Keno appendix 9. High/Low/Middle Keno: Keno game seen at the Lisboa in Macau.
- Keno appendix 10. Extra Draw Keno.
- Keno appendix 11Jumbo Keno Progressive game at the Station Casinos.
- Keno appendix 12. Triple Trouble Keno.
- Keno appendix 13. Fremont "Super Eight."
- Keno appendix 14. Laughlin keno survey.
- Keno props Miscellaneous keno bets.
- Cleopatra Keno
- Triple Power Keno
- Jackpot Party Keno
- Keno Calculator
- Caveman Keno Plus
- Keno Exacta
- Triple Diamond Keno
- Keno Draw Poker
- Las Vegas live keno survey
- San Diego video keno survey
- 40-Ball Keno
- Klub Keno
- Bonus Spot Keno
Keno games by U1 Gaming
- Balloon Game Keno
- Circus Keno
- Count Your Chicks
- Critter Country Keno
- Crossroads Keno
- Fire Power Keno
- Golden Hits
- Liberty Stars
- Redneck Keno
- Super Spot Keno
- Thunder Power
- German translation of this keno page.
Written by: Michael Shackleford