Ultimate Guide to Video Keno

Video Keno has a relatively short history. But its predecessor Keno has been around for quite a while in one form or another. These days, most casinos have them in the same machine as video poker and slots at the bar or on the casino floor. So let’s look at your Ultimate Guide to Video Keno

The odds are much better in Video Keno than live Keno. However, the rate of play on a machine is much faster. Like those governed by state gaming commissions, legitimate keno games are fair. Every ball has a 1 in 80 chance of being drawn each game. The most significant difference between Video Keno and regular Keno is how the numbers are drawn. Instead of actual balls, the machines use an RNG or Random Number Generator. These computer chips randomly select 20 numbers. 

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A Brief History – Ultimate Guide to Video Keno

Keno and Video Keno are simple games of luck where the player chooses numbers and hopes he matches those randomly drawn by a hopper or the machine’s Random Number Generator. Lotteries have been around for thousands of years, and Keno and Video Keno are much like lottery games.

Keno is said to originate in China over 3,000 years ago. Cheung Leung, the emperor of the Hans dynasty, invented this game to finance his army and keep his crown alive. Rather than taxing the inhabitants directly, he invented this game. Legend has it that the funds raised from Keno helped finance the construction of the famous and prestigious Great Wall of China.

Old Chinese Keno Ticket

However, the Keno of that time differed from the version we know today. In those days:

  • Chinese symbols used were characters of a Confucius poem rather than numbers.
  • The game grid was made up of 120 characters, divided into subdivisions of 8.
  • The player who managed to guess a whole subdivision, or a combination, won the game.
  • The chances of winning were, therefore, much lower than in the current version.

The Colonies and Their Lotteries

When some of the first colonists settled in America during the early 1600s, they brought the well-established lottery custom from England. The early American lotteries had many functions: to entertain, to make a profit, to sell land, and to raise money for churches, schools, and new homes.

A United States lottery ticket from 1776.
PHAS/UIG/Getty Images

But much like Cheung Leung (remember him above), lotteries helped the colonists’ military effort and bailed out all 13 original colonies by lowering the cost of the war effort. Lotteries continue to be a primary source of revenue for all six New England states.

Appears in 1800’s in North America

Keno also arrived in North America due to the expansion of railroads. Chinese immigrant workers brought the game with them, referred to as the “Chinese lottery.” As a result, Keno began to evolve quickly. Numbers had replaced the Chinese symbols, and the grids were reduced to 80 squares, where you had to make predictions on a line to win.

Because of their association with gambling, betting, and other activities thought to be immoral, lotteries became illegal in the United States in 1894. Not until the early 1960s would American lotteries be reestablished as legal and often state-sponsored events.


Today’s Video Keno Machines

Player Beware

According to this Ultimate Guide to Video Keno, one strategy to keep in mind is always to steer clear of systems, formulas, and other keno strategies peddled online or by experts at your local casino. Dozens of services that supposedly offer proven methods for cracking Keno’s code have popped up, allowing players to choose specific numbers that appear more often in certain situations. Of course, this can’t possibly be true given the randomization of the 80 possible numbers, but people still fall for the trick. Nonetheless, please don’t give in to temptation, and never forget that Video keno and Keno are still games of chance at their core.

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Your Odds and Systems

Your odds of hitting any number are always the same 80:1. Every ball is a single event. The odds get worse (increase) due to the volatility of how many of the ten numbers you pick and the 20 chances you have, and you’re 4:1 to hit on any of your “single” selected numbers.

Trying to lower the house edge is the key. Brad Fredella of Gaming Today suggests 5 to 7 spots played. “[This] usually [gives] the highest return within each set… It’s mathematically advantageous to do so.”

Also, check the pay tables and compare machines. Then, play the machine returning the most. An easy way to do this is to look at 5-of-5. In other words, you are playing five spots and hitting all five. Generally speaking, the more credits you’ll get for hitting 5-of-5 on any non-bonus version of video keno (Caveman, Cleopatra, Triple Power, etc.), the better the odds for the player.

Here is the math behind Brad’s suggestion:

The 6-spot game has the lowest possible house, no bonus games, plain Keno.

Video Keno vs. Regular Keno

According to our friend John Grochowski, the Casino Answer Man, “Payback percentages usually are higher on video keno, but whether you’re getting a better deal depends on how much you wager and how fast you play.”

The most significant difference is the pace of each. Video keno brings much faster play than live Keno. In the keno lounges in Las Vegas, the pace is leisurely. Six drawings per hour is a moderate pace. Live Keno in lottery markets run by states can be faster. Compare that with a video keno machine, where a casual play can bring 500 draws an hour.

Are The Odds in Video Keno Worse Than Slot Machines?

As we see above, video keno presents a case for generally having much lower odds than penny slots. But other factors – bonuses, paytables, etc., show that that’s not necessarily true. For example, Mike Shackleford did a study in Las Vegas in 2017. His calculations found that the average keno pay tables paid 89.97% on the Strip and 91.34% Downtown. Both are higher than most penny-slots on the casino floor.

The Pay Tables – Video Keno Is A Gambling Alternative

Pay Tables on Video Keno games are similar to Video Poker paytables, only more challenging to read. And there are more pay tables than Video Poker. In addition, pay tables can change depending on how many spots are played. Michael Shackleford, the “Wizard of Odds,” lists 25 pages of video keno pay tables in Gambling 102, a new publication at Las Vegas Advisor. He includes pay table charts for Caveman Keno 8X, 10x and, Cleopatra Keno, Extra Draw Keno, Power Keno, and Triple Power Keno. All told and totaled, the eminent Mr. Shackleford lists 290 paytables for video keno.

More From John Grochowski

As often in the past, I am asking our friend John Grochowski – the Casino Answerman – to shed some light on his experience and give a few suggestions.

“Today, video keno is a lot more flexible. I don’t write about it often, but it has a loyal niche following. When they sit down at keno machines today, they can touch screens to choose among nearly a dozen offerings.

John Grochowski

Here are a few suggested games that are a step up from the video originals:

2-4-6 Way and 3-6-9 Way Keno:

These aren’t as flexible as marking a way-ticket on a live keno game and defining your grouping, but they do give video players an option to spice up a straight ticket.

In 2-4-6 Way Keno, you pick three groups of two numbers. Those are then played in combinations so that you have three two-number ways, four-number ways, and one six-number Way going simultaneously.

I pick the two-number sets 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6. Each of those sets is its two-number Way. 1-2 is then grouped with 3-4 for one four-number Way, 1-2 with 5-6 for a second, and 3-4 with 5-6 for a third. All six numbers, of course, make up your six-number Way. The bottom line is that you have seven combinations working at once.

Ultimate Guide to Video Keno

Play is the same with 3-6-9 Way Keno, except you’re picking three three-number sets instead of two-number sets. So again, you wind up with seven ways – three with three numbers, three with six, and one with all nine numbers.

Bonus and Multi-Card Keno Games

Cleopatra Keno:

Ultimate Guide to Video Keno
Cleo Keno, single card game

The lettering and colors in the logo are the same as in IGT’s long-popular Cleopatra slot machine, but the play is pure Keno. The twist is that if the last number drawn is marked as part of a winning combination, you get 12 free plays with double payoffs.

If you’ve marked a 6-spot with 29 as one of your numbers, enough of your numbers are drawn to give you a winner, and the last of the 20 numbers drawn is 29, you go to bonus play. However, no bonus for you if the draw has been missing your other numbers and your 29 is part of a losing screen.

Caveman Keno:

This was one of the first Keno bonusing games, and it remains popular today. You can mark anywhere from two to 10 numbers. The game then generates three different numbers and assigns them to dinosaur eggs. If the egg numbers are drawn, the eggs hatch.

Those hatchings become vital if you have a winner on your selected numbers. If the 20 numbers chosen include zero or one egg, you get your regular winnings from the paytable. But if two egg numbers are drawn, your winnings are multiplied by four, and if all three egg numbers are selected, your winnings are multiplied by eight. A big winner can grow to Apatosaurus size in a hurry.

In Caveman Plus Keno’s variation, two or three hatchings bring three more numbers. Those can increase your winnings in two ways. First, if they match one of the numbers you chose, you move up a notch on the paytable. And if you’ve started with two eggs hatching and one of the extra numbers hatches the third egg, your multiplier increases from four to eight times.

Multi-Card Video Keno

Four Card Keno and later 20-Card Keno – revolutionized Video Keno, much like Triple Play and Five Play machines revolutionized video poker.

I now enjoy playing Four-Card Cleopatra Keno at $.25. I strategically layer my numbers so that it is possible to get more than one card in the bonus. Sometimes I play five spots per card, sometimes 7, or sometimes I mix them up. Here’s a recent win with a seven-spot covered – $125.

Summary – Ultimate Guide to Video Keno

If you’re looking for a casual game of regular casino keno, Foxwoods is the only New England casino to offer it. However, video Keno is a gambling alternative you may enjoy and lengthen your session. Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut offer Video Keno at their casinos. Unfortunately, players cannot find video Keno in Massachusetts due to an agreement with the Mass Lottery.

With the average house edge of 30 percent, it’s usually the worst bet in most casinos. But, video keno can still be an enjoyable experience. When playing games with a poor house edge, the best strategy is to use discretion. Please spend a few bucks, play a few tickets, and move on when it becomes no fun. Remember, Embrace the Math, not the Myth.

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