Keno Rules

Picking up on the nuances of standard keno rules takes about three seconds. This uncomplicated game still offers a million miles of fun, so taking those three seconds is well worth your time. Even more so than merely presenting a set of keno rules, this page hopes to take you from not knowing how to play, to being comfortable trying keno at any casino, and not getting intimidated by complicated sounding multiple bets.

To play at a casino the first thing you need do is find the keno booth. There are usually a few places around the casino floor where you can pick up tickets. Along with your ticket (more specifically, when you pick your numbers), you will get a receipt. Keep it because you need it to claim any winnings. These tickets might remind you of a mutated bingo card. There are no columns or rows, well there are, but they have no purpose.

What is called standard keno for casinos these days is the variation sometimes referred to as 'race horse' or Nevada keno. The naming conventions are explained a bit in our history section. In this familiar version of the game, one or more people are playing against the house. You grab yourself a keno card, which has 80 different numbers, and pick out a bunch. Just circle them or mark them, usually up to fifteen (this is where you check the booklet I mentioned you should pick up on the keno tips page) and bring your card back to the keno clerk. The clerk will then record your numbers and issue you a receipt.

At this point you find the spot where winning numbers are displayed. There may be a 'big board', which lights up the numbers as they are chosen, or you may have to find a television monitor dedicated to displaying keno numbers. Classically, the keno numbers were drawn from what's known as a keno goose. Shortly after the romance of the goose, a host of lottery style draws became the standard method for pulling winning numbers. Once this became an automated process, anyone who ever earned a living pulling winning keno numbers lost their jobs. Computers are much better at drawing random numbers, well actually they are much worse (seriously) but they're really quick and don't charge by the hour. So now that we have a good old-fashioned computer chip picking the winning numbers you can be pretty sure five minutes between games means five minutes exactly.

So as you watch the numbers come up, you can mark them down on your card, much like bingo. At the end of the drawing, the number of matched numbers determines whether or not you're a winner. The more numbers (or, more precisely, the greater percentage of your chosen numbers) that match, the more you win!

If you have enough matches to claim a winning ticket (depends on how many you picked in the first place), its time to head back over to the keno clerk and let them pay you! If you are playing individual games, be sure to keep on top of things, because if you have a winning ticket on a game and you fail to get your butt to a keno clerk before the next game starts, your ticket is void and you cannot collect any winnings. This sucks, and the casinos understand this. That's why they allow you to buy a large number of tickets using the same numbers. Usually this number is limited to twenty games. After this 'multi race' ticket has lasted the 20 (or however many you choose) games, you can go to a keno clerk and have them check for winning games.

A third option exists for people who really don't want to pay attention to the numbers being drawn. At many casinos you can buy a 'stray and play' keno ticket which applies to the next 'X' number of games ('X' is usually greater than 20, or whatever the maximum 'multi-race' game number is). The difference here is, you don't have to show up after your 25 or 30 games have run through. You can come back any time. Most stray and play tickets are good for up to a year. This means you can buy a ticket for the 'next' 60 games, and if you happen to match all the numbers without even realizing it on the 36th game, you can leave the country and come back to Vegas in eight months, walk to the keno clerk, have them check your ticket, and pick up your winnings.

Although payouts vary, there are some examples we can look at just to give you a better sense for playing the actual game. Players can pick from one to 'X' numbers on their card, and winning is dependent on a certain portion of those numbers matching the computers. If you pick five numbers, you usually have to hit three numbers to be able to claim any cash. If you do hit three the odds are paid back to you at (usually) 3 to 1. If you were to hit on four of those five numbers, you would be paid back at odds closer to 26 to 1. If you were to hit all five you would be paid back at close to 332 to 1. This is why keno is loved, because 1 dollar could bag you 332 instantaneously. There's none of that slow bankroll building you have to do in craps or blackjack.

Another option for keno players is the choice of combination or way tickets. A way ticket allows the player to group different numbers, where each group has the same number of numbers, to create more than one way to win. Take for example a 3-3-3, 9-spot ABC way ticket. Long name, not that long to figure out. It means you can select a combination of three 3-spots. To do this you simply mark your ticket in three groups of three numbers. You can visualize this by marking the first group of three numbers with big A's instead of circling them. Mark three more with big B's and three more with big C's. Now you have a 3-3-3, 9-spot, ABC, way ticket! What does this mean? It means hitting any 3 out of 3 will pay you as though you had a single 3-spot win. This common 3-3-3 bet can be expressed as a 3-way-3 or simply 3/3.

The purpose of all of these confusing ticket variations is to make it supposedly easier, and supposedly more exciting, for players to wager more money on more numbers. The fact of the matter is, playing a way or combination ticket offers no advantage, and also no disadvantage, to the player. The only possible thing you could take advantage of is discounted minimums. If you are playing three or more ways many casinos will discount the price per 'way' (say they let you place $0.50 per bet instead of the usual $1 minimum). This isn't much of an advantage though, since you're only paid back on what you actually bet.

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