Home » Casino Guide » How to Play & Win Keno

Born in China and similar to a lottery is a numbers game called Keno. Players bet on the outcome of 20 randomly drawn numbers from an 80-number pool. It’s extremely popular in most casinos.

In this article, we’ll go over both Video Keno games as well as live Keno games played on the big board. You’ll learn why sometimes those high payout amounts are sometimes worth the risk of playing. We’ll even show you some truly incredible odds. You can look like a true Keno professional if you follow our betting suggestions. Grab those crayons and a game ticket and let’s get to it.

Live Keno Basics

Keno boards will be prominently displayed in the casino, restaurant, and Keno lounge at any establishment that offers “live” games. You may find some casinos that only offer video Keno games, though, so we’ll cover those later.

Keno games actually only take place inside Keno lounges, but it’s not uncommon for players to make a trip to the restaurant for a bite to eat while playing. They aren’t stuck in the lounge for the entire game because it comes to them! Players can enter a game without visiting the lounge by talking to a Keno runner as they make their way through the casino. All you have to do is fill out a blank Keno ticket and give it to the Keno runner, along with your money. Just about any table in the restaurant will have blank cards on it.

Once they have your ticket, the Keno runner takes it to the Keno counter. There, a Keno writer issues an official ticket after your bet is accepted. The ticket indicates your bet amount and all the numbers you selected. It may take time for the official ticket to get back to you, but as long as the runner gets your bet to a counter before the game starts, you’re in!

Keno games only take about 30 seconds to call, with at least 5-minute intervals in between games. Every day, there are between 200 and 240 Keno games run by the casino. The Keno runner will cash in your ticket for you if you manage to win. If you’d rather grab your winnings yourself, you can do so at the lounge so long as you make it to the counter before the next game begins.

You can win a big return on a small investment in Keno, even if Keno does run a little more slowly than most other games. Feel free to sit back, enjoy a drink or meal, and still get some bets in. Be warned, though, the odds in a game of Keno are not really in your favor.

You can readily see how a live Keno game is run by sitting in a Keno lounge. If you’d like to try your hand at a game, grab one of the crayon markers provided by the casino and fill out a ticket. After your ticket is filled out, turn in your ticket and place your bets at the counter. There’s a ticket writer at the counter that will accept your bet and ticket, then enter your desired numbers in a computer. With all the information entered, the computer prints out an official ticket listing the date, game number, writer code, ticket code, your wagered amount, and your selected numbers. Now you’re in on the action!

When you’ve got your computer-generated ticket, always check it to make sure the numbers printed on it are the numbers you chose. You’ve got to be sure there aren’t any discrepancies, even when you turn in your bet through a Keno runner. You have to get any errors corrected on your official ticket right away because once the game starts you’ve missed your chance. If you miss out, you’ll be paid out only according to the numbers on your computer-generated ticket, not the numbers on your crayon-marked ticket. Tickets cannot be changed, nor bets taken, once the game begins.

Ping-pong balls are printed with the numbers 1 through 80 on them. During the game, 20 of these numbered balls will be drawn from an air bubble that continuously moves the balls, or from a spinning wire cage. If an air bubble is used, the balls will collect in 2 separate “goosenecks,” and the air won’t stop jostling the balls until all numbers have been drawn. The Keno boards situated throughout the casino will highlight each number as its corresponding ball is drawn.

Check your ticket to see if you’ve managed to pick the winning numbers as soon as all 20 balls are drawn. How many numbers you picked and if those numbers are actually drawn determines whether or not you’ve won. Each betting option offers a different payout, so ask a Keno runner or writer to check your ticket before the start of the next game if you’re not sure whether you won. Be sure you make it in time because you can’t claim a winning ticket after the next game starts. The only exception to this rule is a multi-game ticket, which we’ll explain later.

What to Bet

Placing a straight Keno bet is easy. All you have to do is decide how many and which numbers to pick, then marking your ticket accordingly. Here are a few tips on how to decide your bet:

  • Consider how many spots, or numbers, can be marked on a straight bet ticket. A few casinos only cover a maximum of 10 spots, but most allow up to 15. Every once in a while you can find a casino that offers a higher minimum bet for 20 spots. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask the Keno runner or writer.
  • Keep the betting limit in mind. Most of the time the minimum is $.70 to $1. For example, a $.70 minimum bet let’s you make wagers in $.70 increments: $.70, $1.40, $2.10, $2.80, $70, etc.
  • Think about the potential payout.
  • Always consider your odds of winning.

Keno instruction booklets are available that list the minimum bet and payoffs, which often differ from casino to casino. Playing one number will payout triple money in most casinos, so a $1 one-number bet will win you $3.

Using that same $1 to play numbers can get you a higher payout, but there’s a catch! In fact, there’s 5. A catch is a term used when your chosen number is drawn, and a $1 10-number bet needs at least 5 catches before you win anything at all. You’ll win more money the more numbers you catch. You can win $25,000 if you bet $1 on 10 numbers and all 10 of those numbers are drawn. You’ll get your dollar back as a “win” if you only catch 5 out of 10 numbers. For 6 out 10 numbers, you’ll get $20; 7 will grant you $140; 8 out of 10 get you $1,000 and 9 numbers pay you a cool $4,000!

Odds of Winning Keno

Chances of Hitting Are 1 in $1 Bet Usually Pays
10 out of 10 8,911,711 $25,000
9 out of 10   163,381 $  4,000
8 out of 10       7,384 $  1,000
7 out of 10          621 $    140
6 out of 10            87 $      20
8 out of 8   230,114 $25,000
7 out of 8       6,232 $  1,480
6 out of 8          423 $       90
7 out of 7     40,979 $  8,100
6 out of 7       1,366 $     400
6 out of 6       7,752 $  1,480
5 out of 6          323 $       90

You might think, considering the payouts, that covering every possible combination of 10 numbers is a safe bet. Too bad that’s not true. If you tried to bet on every 10-number combination possible in a game of Keno, you’d be betting about 40 percent more than you could possibly get in winnings. That percentage on a 10-spot ticket is the house edge. The payout schedule determines the house edge from casino to casino. Regardless of how many numbers you select on your ticket, the casino usually keeps at least 25 percent of all possible wins, with the most common being 30 percent.

Mark Your Ticket

It’s time to mark your ticket once you’ve decided on your wager and chosen your numbers. It can save you a lot of trouble if your ticket is marked correctly since there’s so little time between Keno games. Skip the pen or pencil and use one of the crayons provided by the casino to mark your numbers.

It only takes an X through your chosen number, or numbers, to mark a straight bet ticket. There’s usually an area on the ticket labeled #SPOTS/WAYS where you can write down the total number of spots you’re marking. The PRICE PER GAME section is where you write down how much you want to bet.

You also need to write down the number of games you want to play in the NUMBER OF GAMES box. Some tickets also have a TOTAL PRICE section, which is meant to be filled in with the number of games multiplied by your bet. Your Keno runner or writer can fill in the box if you’re not sure, or they’ll write it at the top of the ticket if the box isn’t there.

Before the game starts, give your ticket to the runner or writer after you’ve marked it. If you need a little help marking your ticket, ask the runner for guidance. Just be sure all your chosen numbers are correctly marked before you turn in your ticket!

The writer will print an official ticket for you once they’ve entered your marked numbers into the computer. Again, don’t forget to check the printed ticket for the correct numbers and bet amount! With your ticket in hand, all that’s left for you to do is sit back, relax, and wait while you (hopefully) start catching numbers. Hang on to that ticket.

Someone else can use it to claim your winnings if you misplace it. The Keno runner will come back after the numbers have been drawn to find out if you’re a winner. If you are, they’ll pay you the proper prize. After they’ve checked your ticket and paid you if you’ve won, they’ll ask if you’d like to try again. You have to get to the counter before the start of the next game if there’s not a runner nearby. Your payoff is lost if the next game begins before you’ve claimed your winnings and you don’t want that!

Playing a ‘Way’ Ticket

Betting options are a window to winnings: the more you have, the greater your chances of getting paid! You can increase your options by grouping numbers on a “way” ticket. With grouped numbers on a way ticket, each group of numbers can have a bet riding on the number of “ways” it can be used to win. You can usually bet at a lower minimum on way tickets, thanks to casinos lowering the limit. Here’s an example: A three-way ticket allows you to mark two groups consisting of three numbers, as well as make another group of using all six numbers marked on your ticket. You’ve got your official ticket and catch five numbers out of your chosen six! That means you’ll be paid for the five-out-of-six, three-out-of-three and two-out-three groups. That’s a lot of winnings!

The number of ways you decide to purchase determines how large your bet will be. For the biggest payout in the example we just gave, you’d have to bet on all three ways. Basically, you would have made a straight bet if you only had bet the two three-number groups, then if you only covered one way you’d get paid for just five out of six.

You’d be paid for the three out of three and two out of three ways if you’d bet each group separately. Covering all three ways is known as a combination way ticket, and it doesn’t pay out any bonuses. It’s similar to using three straight tickets to make your bets, but instead, you’re only using a single ticket.

The cost of your ticket goes up with each group and the way you pick. The ticket writer can give you more information about way tickets, their cost, and what possible combinations are available to you.

Let’s go over how marking a way ticket is done. If you’d like to bet on three three-number groups, you would mark each number with an X, then circle each group of three you want. If you want to bet each group separately, all you have to do is write “3/3” in the right margin. This will indicate to the ticket writer that you want each group of three numbers to carry a separate bet. You also have the option of combining groups differently to make a three-way ticket of six spots. You’d be betting on six-spot combinations like this:

Group 1 + Group 2
Group 1 + Group 3
Group 2 + Group 3

When you want to make this wager, you’ll need to write “3/6” in the right margin. Then write down “$.50” underneath that to show how much you want to bet on each way. Three ways of betting on six numbers would come out $1.50 in total. You’ll be paid of three out of three numbers for each group, in addition to your six out of six winnings, if you catch six numbers. If you manage to catch all nine numbers, watch out! You’ll get three three-out-of-three prizes and three six-out-of-six prizes. Now that’s a big win!

Combination Way

If you switched your ticket to a combination way ticket, you have the chance of covering that nine out of nine-way, too! In the 3/6 example we just described, all it takes to cover the nine out of nine possibilities is writing down “1/9” in the right margin under your “3/6”, plus your desired bet. Remember, though, that you must bet the same amount each way, meaning a 50-cent bet on one way is a 50-cent bet on all ways.
Splitting Your Ticket
Writing a split ticket is a way to save time, energy, and paper if you’re looking to place more than a single straight bet. You can play multiple straight bets on a single Keno ticket with a split ticket, rather than tracking multiple tickets to mark all your bets. It’s easy to do; just draw a line between each group of numbers to indicate it’s a split ticket.

You’ll have to be sure to mark the right margin with the number of bets you’re making for each number of spots. So let’s say you mark 8 spots on your ticket and then draw a line separating them into a group of 3 and a group 5, then fill in the right margin with “1/3” and “1/5”, indicating to the Keno runner and writer you wish to make one bet on each group.

Under each bet indication, you’ll also need to write down how much you want to bet, such as “70” under “1/3” for a 70-cent bet on those three numbers and “140” under “1/5” for a $1.40 on the remaining five. With your split and bets written down, the Keno runner will mark the TOTAL PRICE box with your total bet, in this case, $2.10. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions!

Multi-Game Tickets

You’ve got to be quick when playing Keno in Nevada because if you don’t claim your winnings before the next starts, they’re lost! However, most casinos to help combat this situation by providing multi-game tickets, which is all you need to play between 2 and 20 games with a single Keno ticket. Your winnings are safe until your last game is played with a multi-game ticket.

Take your ticket to the counter when your last game is finished and the writer will check to see if you’ve won by running it through the computer. You have to remain on the casino premises when you’re playing a multi-game ticket, though. Luckily you can still keep track of the games almost anywhere in the building since Keno boards are not only in the lounge but also the casino floor and restaurant.

Also, once your last game is played, the rule of picking up your winnings before the start of the next game applies again. You might even find a casino that offers 21 to 1,000 multi-game tickets if you’re looking to get out of the building for a little while. This kind of multi-game ticket only requires that you claim your winnings within a year of getting your ticket! Keep in mind, though, that you must turn in the ticket in person!

Video Keno Games

Though it’s derived from live Keno, video Keno differs in a few ways:

  • Video Keno is played on a computer-controlled machine, just like slot machines and video poker.
  • Video Keno runs faster than live Keno, taking only seconds to complete each game.
  • It costs more per hour to play video Keno because so many games fit into that time frame, but you also get more chances to win.
  • The type of machine and variation of Keno you’re playing determines the sort of payout you can expect. Some newer machines offer multi-game varieties of video Keno, which use different payout schedules, minimum bets, and bonuses.

The newest multi-game video Keno machines offer some exciting new ways to play. They usually contain basic video Keno with a progressive jackpot and variations that offer larger payouts for higher minimum bets.

Some also include superballs in their gameplay, which can quadruple your winnings if they bounce on numbers in your winning combination. Always read the instructions before you start playing. You have to educate yourself on the payouts, minimum bet, and variations so you know what to expect.

Playing Video Keno

Originally, video Keno machines only accepted coins. Most of those older machines have been outfitted to accept $1, $5, $10, $20, and even $100 bills and give game credits in return, but most will still accept coins. Some of the newest models omit the coin slot altogether, though. These machines print out credit tickets that you can cash in when you’re done playing instead of paying out in bills or coins.

It’s a good habit to check any video machine, not just Keno, to make sure you’re getting the correct amount of credits when you’re using cash.

Always press the Erase or Wipe once you’ve inserted your money. This clears the numbers left behind by the previous player. Video Keno, just like live Keno, uses a pool of 80 numbers. You select your numbers using either a touch wand on a standalone machine or, if it has a touch screen, simply touching the numbers.

Usually, the game allows a maximum of 10 spots, so you can choose as few as 1, as many as 10, and anywhere in between! You’ll find the payout schedule on the screen above the Keno board. Watch it carefully, because it will change depending on how many numbers you choose, as well as how much or how little you wager.

You’ll be making your bets by pressing the Bet button, similar to slots and video poker, or by inserting more money into the machine.

Press the Play or Start button once you’ve chosen your numbers. This will start the machine drawing 20 numbers from the 80-number pool. Each number will be highlighted on the Keno board on the screen, just like in a live game.

The game indicates you’ve caught a number by either changing the color surrounding the number or marking it with a check. The payout schedule will show you what you will collect depending on how many of your chosen numbers match the numbers drawn by the computer.

With a winning combination, you’ll hear the pleasant plink of coins or simply have credits added to your credit meter.

Insert more coins or press the Bet button again if you want to keep playing. If you want to try another game, you can bet the same numbers again or clear your previous selection and choose brand new numbers. Once you’ve had enough Keno fun, press the Cash Out button to print your credit ticket and head to the cage to exchange it for cash!

Winning at Video Keno

Every video game has ups and downs, be it video Keno, slots, or poker. The downs in video Keno might seem to last forever, though, because the odds against winning are so high. To win at Keno, you need luck and patience, but we’ve got a few strategic tips for you, too.

  • Keep your limits in mind; bet at the denomination level you can afford.
  • Once your bankroll for the session is gone, it’s time to step away from the machine! You can always come back another time.
  • You only need to load up a video Keno machine with a maximum if you’re trying to hit the progressive jackpot.
  • Though the payouts vary, live Keno and video Keno pretty much share the same odds.
  • Mathematics shows that past event has no bearing on future events, so when you choose your numbers, stick with them! Changing your numbers from one game to the next won’t increase your chances of winning.

We’ve even got a few keno tips that gamblers successfully employ, even if a mathematician doesn’t agree with them.

  • Patterns and groups show up in Keno games. The trouble is, those patterns aren’t predictable. You can use it to your advantage, though, by occasionally playing numbers that wrap around a corner or form a straight line.
  • Look for that sweet spot where your numbers start catching. If you’re not winning with six numbers, try seven. It works the other way too; if you’re not catching anything with eight numbers, drop your selection down to five or six.
  • If you manage to score a jackpot with six out of six numbers, you may want to change it up! Try a different machine, or switch to using eight numbers. Or just head home with your pocket full of winnings!
  • Don’t depend on a single machine—they have bad days too! If you’re not winning, go hunting for a different machine rather dropping all your cash in a machine that’s not paying off.

Progressive Keno Games

Progressive jackpots are great, but in video Keno, they can grow to staggering numbers. Sometimes they can get as high as tens of thousands of dollars! This sort of jackpot can create a line of players waiting for their chance at a big win. We’ve got some tips for those progressive players, as well.

  • When shooting for the progressive jackpot, play only as many numbers and coins as it takes to be eligible for the big win. Sometimes these behemoth progressive machines won’t give you a chance to win the big bucks unless you’re playing 8, 9 or 10 numbers at 4 or more coins. You should only play 10 numbers if you’re required to play that many, or catch 9 out of 10, to win the progressive jackpot. The payout schedule can help you figure out the best way to stretch your bankroll and still qualify for the progressive jackpot.
  • Play the machines offering the biggest progressive jackpots if more than one is available.
  • Don’t play all the coins necessary to win a progressive jackpot if you really don’t want to wager that much. Sometimes a player might even offer you some money to play the progressive machine you’re using. If it happens, let go of your machine and take the money.
Scroll to Top