November 21, 2019

Keno Strategy

What can you do to win more at Keno?

Let’s say straight away, Keno is, like any lottery, basically a guessing game. Winning keno numbers are selected completely at random. So the bottom line is that no keno strategy is ever going to be really successful at predicting what will come out.

Having said that, there are some things you can do to edge the odds in your favour. In short, our top tips for winning at keno are as follows:

CasinoReef an online casino portal has also laid out some useful information in this article about online keno including pay out table details and keno odds.

Look for the best payout schedules

By analysing the payout table you can find out before you play what the expected payback over time will be. Not a clue how to do that? Well luckily, we’ve done it for you – at least if you want to play online!

If you’re playing keno online the pay schedule is determined largely by what type of gaming software the casino runs on. And we’ve worked out the expected payouts on all the main software brands and listed for you which casinos run on each type.

Play the right number of spots

How many keno numbers should you pick? Most keno games allow you to choose 1 to 15 spots (numbers). You might also find special games that allow a lot more numbers to be chosen.

The numbers of spots you pick doesn’t affect the cost of your bet.

The more you pick the better your chances that at least some of them will be drawn out. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a better chance of winning because you will need to catch more of them before you win anything. For instance, if you pick a 6-spot, in most casinos you wouldn’t win anything unless at least 3 of them were drawn.

So it’s a balancing act between selecting enough numbers to give you a reasonable chance of catching a few, but not so many that you have to catch lots before you get a payout.

Regular players tend to opt for between 4 and 8 numbers. If you choose less than 4 spots, the payout schedules mean that it isn’t worth it – the payouts are relatively low and the house has too large an advantage.

If you choose more than 9 spots, the odds of all your numbers actually getting picked are so small that it’s hardly worth even trying. In the extreme case, the odds of getting 15 catches out of 15 spots are about 428 BILLION to 1!

If you play a high number of spots, some casinos pay out if none of them come up, but you’d need to check their schedule to make sure of this.

If you’re a Jackpot hunter: On any pay schedule the BIGGEST jackpot is on maximum spots. But sadly, the more spots you pick, the more remote your chances of winning.

Play several ‘ways’

You can increase your chances of some kind of win from the set of numbers you have selected by betting on a variety of ‘ways’. If, for instance, you have selected 8 numbers as an 8-spot, you could at the same time group them as two 4-spots. You would then have 3 separate wagers on the same set of numbers. If all 8 came up you would collect 3 lots of winnings (But of course if none of them came up you would lose all three stakes!)

You should note that these multi-bet options are usually only available in live, offline keno. But we’ve found one site where you can bet several ways on the same keno draw.

Set a good wager level

How much to wager? Well it depends on such factors as what you can afford, how much the casino will allow, the details of the payout schedule.

Choose lucky numbers!

Everyone has their own superstitions and favoured methods of picking numbers. How about trying some of these:

  • try our picker.
  • family birthdays or ages (although this is likely to slant your picks towards
  • smaller numbers)
  • telephone numbers or street address numbers
  • a particular layout of numbers on the card
  • a ‘psychic feeling’ – just close your eyes and see what comes to mind
  • a ‘quick pick’ where the computer picks your numbers for you at random

Statistically it really shouldn’t make any difference how you pick your keno numbers – but who knows?

How to Play Keno Online

In case you’re new to online gaming, here are a few pointers on how to get going with online casinos.

Registering with a casino and accessing the games is very simple and takes literally a few minutes. The process is basically the same for all casinos:

  • Choose a casino
  • If there is a choice, decide whether you want to play the Download or Non-Download web version and click on the appropriate button.
  • You will be asked to register by providing some simple details – your name, email address, a password and so on. You generally get the option of registering as a ‘fun’ player or ‘real’ player – that is, a free player or cash player. The games are exactly the same except that in a free game you can’t pocket your winnings! If you elect to play for real, you will be asked for additional information.
  • If you are playing the non-download, web-based version you will then enter the casino and be asked to type in your name and password again.
  • If you have chosen to play the Download version, the download process usually takes only a couple of minutes. The basic download usually includes the casino structure (the casino floor or lobby, banking facilities and help files) and a few of the games. When download is completed you will be taken automatically into the casino where you will need to enter your name and password.
  • If you want to play for cash you will need to deposit some money in the casino’s bank system. The casino will take you through the process of making a deposit. (NB It is usually this first deposit that triggers your sign up bonuses).
  • To play keno you simply need to select it from the menu of games. If you’re playing the download game, the first time you select Keno it may need to add the game to your basic casino structure. This happens automatically and takes just a few seconds. After that the game is available immediately.
  • Note that once you download, you will still need to be online when you want to play for real money. You may be able to access free games offline. Whenever you open the casino software it will ask you to click a button that automatically takes you online and links you to the website.
  • To play the keno game itself, follow the on-screen instructions. It’s a simple case of deciding how much you want to wager, picking your numbers and starting the draw. At the end of the draw the game will calculate how much you have won and credit it to your account immediately.

Other games

Keno Glossary

Your Guide to Keno Jargon and Terminology

  • Bet – The amount of money wagered in any one game by a player.
  • Cage – holds the Keno balls before they are drawn.
  • Call – The actual act of calling the Keno numbers as they are drawn, usually over an intercom.
  • Caller – The casino employee who calls out the numbers as they are drawn.
  • Catch – when one of your numbers is drawn. ‘Catch 3’ means 3 of your numbers have been drawn.
  • Combination Ticket – A single ticket with several different Keno wagers on it.
  • Computer Ticket – A Keno ticket generated by a computer from the player’s handwritten ticket.
  • Draw – When the 20 winning numbers are pulled out at random.
  • Draw Sheet – A sheet produced by the casino showing the numbers drawn from the previous game. Has holes punched in it to make it easy to check your ticket.
  • Group – Set of numbers that the player has circled to show they are to be seen as an individual way on the ticket (see ‘Way’).
  • Hit – When a drawn number matches one of your numbers.
  • House – The casino, or whoever else is running the game.
  • House Edge – The percent of all wagers the house expects to win over time.
  • Jackpot – The prize paid in a progressive game (see ‘Progressive’)
  • Keno Balls – Numbered 1-80, used to make the draw. Similar to bingo balls or ping pong balls.
  • Keno Board – The electronic displays that show the numbers as they are drawn.
  • Keno Counter – The counter where players place their bets and collect their winnings.
  • Keno Lounge – The area in a casino devoted to Keno.
  • Keno Runners – staff who go throughout the casino collecting Keno wagers, and paying winners.
  • Keno Writers – The Keno counter staff who take bets, produce tickets, and pay the winners.
  • Limit – maximum amount a casino will pay out to all the winners in total during any one game.
  • Live Keno – Keno with live draws played by multiple players, ie not video Keno.
  • Net Win – The player’s winnings after deducting the cost of the ticket.
  • Odds – The mathematical probability of an outcome.
  • Payout Table or Schedule – The chart showing what each type of win pays.
  • Progressive – A Keno game where the top prize (the Jackpot) increases until it is won.
  • Quick Pick – A ticket with numbers chosen at random for the player by a Keno computer.
  • Race – A single Keno game.
  • Random Number Generator – A computer program used to randomly select numbers for a Keno game. Rate – The price paid for each separate wager on a ticket.
  • Split Ticket – Two or more groups of numbers played as separate wagers on the same ticket.
  • Spots – the numbers chosen by a player.
  • Straight Ticket – The standard or basic ticket sold by a casino.
  • Ticket – The Keno ticket with a grid of 80 numbers where the player marks their selections.
  • Video Keno – Keno played by an individual player on a computerized machine.
  • Wager – The amount of money bet.
  • Way – One of the bets on a keno ticket that shows more than one bet.
  • Way Ticket – A keno ticket with more than one bet on the same game.
  • Winning Numbers – The 20 numbers drawn in the Keno game.

Keno History

Where do pigeons, the Great Wall of China and the Wild West come together? Why in keno of course! Get your keno history lesson here.

Keno’s Chinese Origins

Keno is one of the oldest games in the world, and is believed to have first been played in China over 2000 years ago.

The game was reputedly invented by a man named Cheung Leung as a money spinning venture. He needed to raise money to fund his army and then rebuild his city following a destructive war. The success of this idea soon meant that the game spread throughout China and it was even used to fund building work on part of the Great Wall of China.

In these early games, announcements of the draw were carried to surrounding villages using white pigeons – and so the game was originally known as the ‘white pigeon’ game. As you’ll see, the name has been changed several times since then, mostly to get round legal or taxation issues.

Keno as we now know it uses the numbers 1-80, but the original Chinese version of the game used 120 characters, and players could choose just 10 to bet on. Those characters were from a poem called “The Thousand Character Classic”, which was used to teach reading and writing to children. The numbers of characters used reduced from 120 to 90 over time.

Keno Spreads to America

The game was brought to America in the 19th century by early Chinese immigrants and was played in the ‘wild west’ by workers on the Old West railroad. At first Keno was illegal in America, but it was nonetheless widely played, especially around big cities like San Francisco. However, English speaking Americans had difficulty with the Chinese characters. So in order to widen the appeal of the game, in the early 20th Century keno operators replaced the 90 Chinese characters with Arabic numbers and reduced the size of the draw down to the current 80.

Omaha, Nebraska was for a long time the keno capital of the U.S. But when gambling was banned in Nebraska, Nevada took over the game.

Until the 1930’s the game was still known as the Chinese lottery. The problem was that lotteries were at that time illegal, even though many other forms of gambling had been legalised. So in an effort to get round the gambling laws, casino operators in 1930’s Nevada disguised it as a bingo-type game and changed the name to Race Horse Keno – bingo and horse race betting were both legal! That explains why many keno operations still call their games “races”.

When the U.S. Government started to tax off track betting, the name was changed again, this time to just Keno.

In the 1960’s the keno payout limit in Nevada was $25k. In 1979 it was increased to $50k. In the late 1980’s the cap was eliminated, and casinos can now set their own limits.

Other changes to the game have involved the introduction of tickets that allow several different bets – ‘ways’ – on the same ticket, and a wide variety of special games that are offered in individual casinos. Find out more about keno tickets.

Keno in Australia

Keno didn’t reach Australia until as late as the 1970’s, when it first began to be played in Tasmanian casinos.

Keno Payout Schedules

The prize tables in keno can look a bit complicated. Here’s our quick tips on what to look out for in keno pay schedules.

Each casino has its own system of payouts, which you will find set out in the Keno brochures or payout schedules around the casino or, if you’re playing Video keno you’ll find a payout table on each machine. An example is shown below.

The term ‘spot’ refers to how many numbers you have marked on your ticket. The term ‘catch’ refers to how many of your chosen numbers match what the house draws.

The table shows what you will win for a 1 coin stake. You need to multiply these amounts by the amount you are wagering. So in the example below, if you make a $2 bet, pick 4 spots and catch 3 of them you will win $12 (that is, $2 x 6).

This schedule does not pay out if you don’t match any numbers. But in some cases if you mark a lot of numbers the casino pays off if you catch 0.

Note that in Keno you do not get your stake back if you win.

Example keno pay table

example keno payout schedule

This is the payout schedule for online casinos running on Microgaming software. If you like the look of it, here’s where to find Microgaming casinos.

In a live casino keno game, where lots of players are gambling on the same draw, the most the house can pay out for any one draw is generally $50,000. If there are too many winners they will each get a proportionate share of this sum.