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Insider Secrets of Keno - Part Two

By: VictorVegas Vic” Royer

The first email comes from Jim. Jim is an avid keno player, and he has interest in the 20-card keno games being offered on most IGT multi-game machines. He writes as follows:

“I have almost finished your keno book.  It was written in 2004 just before 20 card keno was approved.  Because of this you do not have many playing tips for this type of keno.  Since 2004 have you written articles etc. that I could access to get some ideas?  I would appreciate any help you could give me.  I am going to be in Laughlin and Vegas for about 4 days next week and would like to try out some new ideas. Thanks.”

Here is my reply:

Hi Jim,

Thank you for writing. Yes, I have written over 100 articles on Keno since the book was published. Most of them for the Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, and for the newsletter.

You can find my newest keno articles here on this web site, at:

Initially, 20-card keno was a big disappointment. Later, the game was improved, but it is still a tough game on which to win consistently. The game has a much lower overall payback percentage than Four Card Keno. Most 4-card keno games can be found with a pay table yielding a payback of about 91.75%. That's pretty good for keno, and for slots in general. Some other keno games aren't as good, and it largely depends on where you are, and in which casino. Games in Laughlin will most likely have a much lower payback than those in Las Vegas. You can tell this by comparing the pay tables to those I listed in my keno book.

20-card keno generally has a payback of about 88%. Some are even lower, again depending on where these games are, and in which locale, and which denomination you choose (the lower the per-credit value, the lower the payback % -- conversely, the higher the per-credit value, the higher the payback %, in general).

So, the trick is to cross-bet, and wheel your groups multiple times. For example, most of the time I double-up on some combinations. Let's say I am playing a bunch of 9-spots. I will then also overlap them with 10-spots, and double up on the 10-spots, meaning I mark the same numbers on two cards, to double the pays.

The reason why multi-card keno can drain your bankroll so fast is because the value of the pays you get are usually so much lower than the overall cost of each ticket (the total wager). So, if you are wagering, say, 60-credits total, you will most often receive pays of 4-credits, 8-credits, 16-credits, 20-credits, even 36-credits, or 52-credits, and so on -- all of which are very much less than the total cost of each play.

That is different from 4-card keno, where many pays give you a positive pay, meaning you make more on the pay than the next play will cost.

If you plan to play 20-card keno in Laughlin, be very careful about the pays. Look at the pay tables and compare them to the better ones I listed in my Keno book, especially the better pay tables for 4-card keno. The game of 20-card keno is based on the 4-card keno program. It is simply 5x that many cards. So, the comparison with the 4-card keno pay tables provides a very clear window into which kind of 20-card keno game you happen to have in front of you.

Then, once you choose the right game, choose the highest denomination possible, and play split-rate tickets, multiple groups, and overlap your groups with double-pays.

Best of luck!


I will continue this discussion in Secrets of Keno – Part Three.

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