How to Play Keno

Keno was first played in China during the Han Dynasty. According to legend, the Chinese government created the game as a means to raise money for war efforts. In addition, it is believed that funds raised from the game of keno also helped China build the Great Wall. Back in the early times, carrier pigeons delivered the winning numbers to Chinese towns. People excitedly waited for those pigeons to find out if they had won.
Keno made such an impression that Chinese immigrants couldn’t imagine life without it, so they introduced the game into United States culture when they immigrated.

Now, most brick-and-mortar casinos offer keno to gamblers looking to get lucky by selecting the right numbers. You can also find online casinos that offer real money keno games 24/7.

Keno is similar to the lottery in the sense that it is a game of chance. Still, players use certain strategies, including betting methods, when playing the game. Many believe these strategies and methods tilt the odds in their favor.

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.

Game Overview

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.

The game of Keno is quite simple. In most cases, players have a card that contains the numbers 1-80. Players choose anywhere from 1 to 10 of the numbers listed on the card. In some cases, casinos let players choose as many as 15 numbers, and some casinos even let players choose 20 numbers. When a player chooses a number, he or she is essentially betting that the number will be selected.

While casinos used to use ball machines to select the winning numbers, most now use random number generators to select the numbers. If someone picks a winning number, he or she is entitled to a cash prize.

Keno Bets/Tickets

Players cannot simply pick numbers and hope to win. They have to choose a bet type, also known as a ticket type, when playing keno. This is where many players use a strategy in the hopes of improving their odds.

Straight Ticket

The straight ticket is the simplest option for playing keno, and it is popular with new players. Players simply pick their numbers, and they receive a payout based on the number of matches they make. In addition, some casinos pay players who do not have any matches.

Top/Bottom or Left/Right Ticket

Players who do not wish to choose specific numbers can go with a top/bottom or left/right bet. This ticket allows players to bet that more numbers will be selected from the top 40, bottom 40, left 40, or right 40 of the keno card than anywhere else. Some casinos also let players bet that all of the numbers will be in the top, bottom, left, or right of the card.

Odd/Even Ticket

Similar to a top/bottom bet, this option lets players bet that more odd or even numbers will be drawn.

Split Ticket

The split bet is another option for players. Players essentially make two straight bets on the same ticket. The two bets cannot share any numbers. There isn’t a strategic advantage to making this type of bet. It’s simply a way to play more keno games without getting an extra ticket. The disadvantage to this is quite simple. If you have a favorite number that you always like to play, you won’t be able to play it on one of the bets.

Way Ticket

A way bet is somewhat similar to a split bet. Players choose groups of numbers, using the same card for each group. For instance, a player might choose three sets of numbers, with three numbers in each group. Some casinos make players choose unique numbers for each set, while others allow players to repeat numbers.

This is the most complicated type of keno bet since it is hard to track. However, it comes with its advantages. Players use this bet to win small amounts of money on a consistent basis. In addition, some casinos offer a discount when people bet this way. Instead of paying $1 per bet, they can play for as little as a dime per way.

Combination Ticket

Players have the option of placing standard bets on the same ticket by using a combination ticket. The bets can have contrasting styles.

King Ticket

Players can choose to circle a single number on their cards. This is the king number, and it is played in conjunction with other numbers. The king ticket can be used for straight, way, or combination bets.

20-Spot Ticket

The 20-spot ticket is a relatively new form of keno. Players select 20 numbers from the 40-number card. Players do not receive any money if they match 4,5, or 6 numbers. Players who match 2, 3, or 7 numbers get their money back. Those who match at least 19 numbers hit the jackpot, and those who don’t match any numbers also receive a nice payout.

Ways to Play Keno

Casinos often offer live and video keno. During live keno, players typically place bets inside of a keno lounge. However, some casinos collect bets at the cashier window and then announce the winning numbers on video screens throughout the casino.

In video keno, players interact with a video machine. They select their numbers on a card and instantly find out if they win. Payouts are usually better with video keno, but the play is much faster, meaning players can go through their money quickly.

Progressive Keno

Some casinos offer a progressive jackpot for their keno games. The pot continues to build until there is a big winner. Then, the jackpot goes back down and starts building up once again. This is the best way to hit it big with keno.

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.

Now that you have the basics on playing keno down, it’s time to learn how to win at keno.