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Keno Strategy

Unfortunately, Keno is a game of chance. Regardless of what numbers you choose on your ticket, your chances of winning are the same. Although it may be difficult to believe, circling the numbers 1 through 20 on your ticket will offer the same chance of winning as circling twenty random digits, even if they're your lucky numbers! The good news is that you can increase your chances of ending with more money that you started with over the course of several Keno games. Your strategy for long-term earnings requires knowledge of odds, cash management techniques, and return rates.

The Top Playing Strategies


As mentioned previously, the amount of money you earn from playing a game of Keno will depend on the amount of catches you make on a card. For a Pick-20 Keno game, you have the best odds of matching exactly five numbers, and the chances of this happening are approximately 23.33%. You have the worst odds of matching all twenty numbers. The chances of matching all twenty numbers in a Pick-20 game are 1 in 3,535,316,142,212,173,800, or 1 in 3.5 quintillion. To get an idea of just how astronomically low your chances are of achieving this feat, imagine Keno tickets spanning the range of our galaxy. Only one of these tickets will catch all twenty numbers!

For your reference, here is a list of odds for other catch amounts:

  • 0 Catches: 1 in 843
  • 1 Catch: 1 in 86
  • 2 Catches: 1 in 20
  • 3 Catches: 1 in 8
  • 4 Catches: 1 in 5
  • 5 Catches: 1 in 4
  • 6 Catches: 1 in 5
  • 7 Catches: 1 in 9
  • 8 Catches: 1 in 20
  • 9 Catches: 1 in 61
  • 10 Catches: 1 in 253
  • 11 Catches: 1 in 1,423
  • 12 Catches: 1 in 10,969
  • 13 Catches: 1 in 118,084

From here, your chances of receiving additional catches become so astronomical that they're hardly worth considering. If you get extremely lucky and catch thirteen or more matches, you can expect your payoff to be fantastic.

Return Rates

A Keno game's return rate is a description of how much of your wager money you'll end with after playing a significant amount of rounds. These numbers are simply averages; obviously, some players will walk away from a session of Keno games with their pockets stuffed with cash, while others will simply lose their money. Knowing the return rate of a particular casino is an integral part of your Keno strategy - there's not a whole lot about the game that you can influence yourself, but you do have the ability to choose where you play!

In a 2001 study of Las Vegas casinos performed by WizardOfOdds.com, it was shown that depending on the casino, players could expect a return rate between 79.85% and 65.26% when playing 9-Spot Keno. Most of the higher return rates were held by less-famous casinos, such as Silverton, Arizona Charlie's, Frontier, and Jerry's Nugget. A few larger casinos, such as Rio, Mirage, and Bellagio also showed decent return rates, around 72%. The worst Keno performers, coming in at around 68% or less, included Monte Carlo, Palms, Caesars Palace, and Bally's. For the sake of comparison, it is important to note that that the return rates of perfectly played video poker are often over 95%, and can even exceed 100% for some game types.

Casinos outside of Vegas will generally have significantly better return rates. A 2008 study, also performed by WizardOfOdds.com, showed that eleven casinos in San Diego, California offered return rates between 84% and 95%. The return rates were virtually identical from casino to casino regardless of the wager amounts, which were tested at $.25 and $1.00.

Depending on the particular site you choose, online casinos can offer some excellent return rates for Keno games. In a survey of several 10-Spot Keno games in a variety of online casinos, return rates ranged from a meager 69.61% up to a whopping 97.09%. Before signing up for any casino site with the intention of playing Keno, check to see what kind of software it uses. VueTec software offers the best return rates regardless of how many spots you play, though the game types are generally limited to 10-Spot and lower Keno games.

The bottom line is that if you want to play Keno with the goal of making money, and not just enjoying flashy excitement, it is advisable to stay away from Las Vegas casinos, especially those found on The Strip. This is not to say that it's impossible to make money by playing Keno at Vegas casinos - massive payouts are available regardless of where you play. Return rates are only a way of seeing how much the average player earns over the course of several games.

Cash Management Techniques

As with any form of gambling, your goal while playing Keno will be to end with more money than you originally had. Although this sounds like a simple concept, its execution will require a degree of discipline and common sense on the player's part.

Set a realistic goal for yourself at the beginning of your Keno session, and never bet more than you can afford to lose. Discontinue your playing session as soon as you reach your goal. In addition to setting a positive goal, set a negative threshold as well. This threshold might be similar to your positive goal. For example, let's say you begin with $100 of gambling money. It might be a wise idea to set a goal of +$50, and a lower threshold of -$50. When your total bankroll equals either $150 or $50, discontinue playing.

Don't get in the habit of treating your winnings as "found money." The money you make while gambling is not free - you spent time and energy working for it, although the process may have admittedly been more enjoyable than your day job. Learn to treat your earnings with respect, and cash out while you're ahead.

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