Keno is played on a ticket that looks like a bingo card, which you obtain at the keno parlor, restaurant tabletops or from keno runners. A player selects from one to 15 numbers out of a possible 80, and marks them on the ticket. The marks are called “spots” and the number of spots determine how much you will be trying to win.
The operator of the game turns on a machine that randomly selects 20 numbered balls out of the 80 and calls out the numbers. If your numbers match most or all of the numbers selected, you win a payoff based on how many spots you marked, how many spots you hit or “catch,” and how much you bet.
Most casinos offer keno at the rate of $1 per ticket. Some hotels in downtown Las Vegas offer lower prices while some Strip resorts have a $2 minimum. Typical payoffs and their probability odds are shown in accompanying chart.
You may use the chart to help you decide how many numbers to play. For example, note that the chance of hitting 5-out-of-5 is slightly better than hitting 7-out-of-9, yet the payoff for 5/5 is more than double.
If you have a winning ticket, you must cash it before the next game begins. Failure to do so voids your winning ticket. The only exception to this rule is multi-race tickets, which are explained below.
Multi-race tickets allow you to bet more than one game on your keno ticket. This way you can play several consecutive games of keno without having to resubmit each ticket. Some casinos allow you to play as many as 1000 games in advance. If you win a game on a multi-race ticket, you must cash your ticket after the final game is called.
For instance, if you play a 10-game ticket and you have a winner on the third game, you may cash your ticket only after the 10th game is called.
The most common keno ticket played is the straight ticket, on which a player marks from one to 15 numbers and bets $1 or a multiple of $1. Little thinking and planning is necessary to play a straight ticket.
Seasoned players often play a “Way” ticket. It is called a way ticket because you place your numbers in groups that give you various combinations or “ways” of winning. With way tickets you can have more numbers working for you and you don’t have to catch all of them to hit a good payoff.
Basically, a way ticket consists of three or more groups of equal numbers. Each group of numbers is circled and they are counted in different combinations, which increase the possibility of winning.
For instance, suppose you wanted to play 12 numbers. If you marked the numbers on a straight $1 ticket and caught 8 of them, you’d win $250. Now let’s see what happens when you mark the same 12 numbers on a way ticket.
Because all way tickets require three or more groups of equal numbers, we will divide the 12 numbers into three groups of four. We could have also divided the 12 into four groups of three or six groups of two. The choice is yours. We do this on the ticket by marking the numbers, as we did on the straight ticket, then circling the three groups.
What we now have is something different from the original 12-spot straight ticket. Counting two groups of numbers at a time, we now have three groups of eight numbers, or the equivalent of three 8-spot tickets.
Because you now have three chances of winning, the cost of the ticket is three times a straight ticket, or $3, but the potential payoffs, as you will soon discover, far outweigh the additional cost.
Now if your same eight numbers hit, you are paid on the 8-out-of-8 payoff scale, or a whopping $25,000, instead of the $250 the 8 out of 12 ticket would have paid.
This system of betting way tickets may sound complicated, but all casinos that offer the game supply booklets and schedules that can help you mark your tickets. Also, payoffs will vary from casino to casino. So, if you plan to play a lot of keno, compare the casinos’ payoff schedules and play where you get a better payoff.