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How to Play Keno

Keno was originally derived from a hugely popular Chinese type lottery game. It has since been adapted and turned into an entertaining game which is played in the same way as the related ‘Bingo’ variants. The difference with Keno is that you get more control of the bets you place, and that the game can be run continuously. This is usually run as a low stakes games, though there are increasingly big payouts even at small venues. Many of the jackpot prizes are now linked too, meaning they can grow into significant prize pools.

This page shows you how to play Keno. I have gone through the rules and the setup of the game, based on the typical live Las Vegas venue. After that the different bets you can take are covered. At the end of the page, I have outlined the ongoing debate about the house-edge in a game and the entertainment that you derive from it.

The Game Setup In Keno

Generally, you’ll play keno in a social atmosphere while you are eating of drinking. To facilitate this, venues hire special runners. These are individuals who will collect your tickets for each game, along with your payment, and come back to you with the copy which acts as your receipt and allows you to keep track of the numbers as the game progresses.

You will mark off numbers on the original of the slip. The amount of numbers you choose and the individual bets you make are up to you, and there are a lot of ways to organize this (see below). Once the game begins, no more slips can be accepted.

20 numbers are then chosen from the 80 possible. These used to be drawn from a metal cage, with Ping-Pong balls having the numbers on them. Nowadays, this is much more likely to be facilitated electronically, the numbers will appear one at a time on one or more video screens.

You keep track of your numbers to see if you won, and will have until the start of the next game to claim any prizes. After that, you are too late and your ticket can be discarded.

This is a simple setup, and provides a lot of entertainment (not to mention some big prizes) to the people who enjoy it. No wonder that Keno is found in casinos and bingo halls up and down the country.

The Different Kinds of Bets in Keno

What is good about this game is that you not only control the stakes you bet at, you also control whether you take long-odds bets (with bigger payouts) or shorter odds bets which are more likely to pay. Here is a selection of the standard Keno bet types:

Standard Bets

Here you are simply choosing numbers that you think will come up. The amount of numbers that you choose compared to your stake makes the difference when it comes to your returns. For example, if you choose just 1 number, and this one hits, you will get paid at just under 3-to-1. If you choose 5 numbers, you’ll get a bigger payout for 4 or 5 numbers hitting, and a small payout for 3 or under. If you choose 8 numbers and all of them hit, then you can enjoy a very big payout. What I like about this game is that you can choose more numbers to increase the odds of you hitting in any one game. For example, you might choose 10 and get a smaller payout for hitting 4 or more. This keeps you involved in the game, and lowers your risks for each individual ticket.

Way Bets / Grouped Bets

Here you pick numbers and then group them by drawing a circle around them on the ticket. Essentially you are betting that all 3 of your numbers will come in for each group. You will get a nice payout for each one that does match all-3, and can increase this to 4 if you are feeling adventurous. Some players have hybrid strategy, where they will bet on a 2 a 3 and a group of 4 for the same game. These groups can overlap. If you have a lucky number, then why not include it in more than one group?

Jackpot Bets

You’ll find a lot of jackpot games for Keno players, with prizes ranging up to several hundred thousand dollars. These games are sometimes linked between different venues. What you’ll need to do to win one is to match a lot of your numbers. For example hitting 15 of the 20 possible in any one game. While this is a long-shot, it does add some excitement to the game.

House Edge in Keno Games

Keno is often criticized by the more serious gamblers as having a big house edge. While it is true that 20% or more can be taken from each ticket, you need to keep in mind that the runners have to be paid for. The other side of this argument is that this is a small bet game which allows for some very big prizes in a social environment. The house edge is what pays for your entertainment, and the chance to dream about what you would do with your big win.