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Introduction to Keno

Keno is a gambling game with a potential for huge payouts and that is one of the reasons for its popularity. It is also a game that can be played in a community ambience with social interaction. In fact in some communities it is used to bring people together on holidays.

The core of the keno game is a ticket with the numbers 1 to 80 in a grid. Players can mark up to 15 numbers on the ticket. Then 20 numbers from 1 to 80 are drawn randomly. Players are paid out depending on how many of their marked numbers match with the drawn numbers.

History of Keno

Keno originated around 200 BC in China in order to finance a war. A man named Cheung created a gambling game in which small bets were collected from a large number of persons with the promise of a massive payout. Part of the funds collected was diverted to pay for the war and the remaining used to pay the winner. When funds were required to build the Great Wall of China the same gambling game was employed. Ultimately it became so popular that it was played in its own right. The game came to be known as the White Pigeon Game because the winning symbols were sent to far corners of the country using courier pigeons. The symbols were not numbers but simple characters from a famous Chinese poem.

The game was introduced in America in the 19th century when Chinese labor was brought in to build the trans-continental railroad. In order to include the non-Chinese communities Arabic numerals were used instead of the Chinese characters. Initially only five winning numbers were drawn. Therefore the French community in America named the game “quine”. Over time this got changed to keno. Today keno is played in community halls, in land casinos and in online casinos.

Rules for Keno

The keno ticket consists of the numbers from 1 to 80 arranged in a 10 x 8 matrix. Usually the ticket can be purchased for different denominations. The specified payout is multiplied by the ticket denomination to determine the amount won. The player can mark up to 15 numbers on the ticket. In land based games the ticket is market in duplicate and one copy is retained with the casino. It is this copy that is used for determining the payouts. Then 20 numbers are randomly drawn and announced. In land casinos this is done using a bubble contraption and in online keno the software uses a random number generator. At the end players check out how many of their marked numbers match with the drawn numbers and if they figure in the payout zone they are awarded prizes.

There are separate payout tables for different numbers marked on the ticket. And there is no standard set of payouts. Different casinos have keno games with different sets of payout tables. If the player marks only one number then the payout typically could be 3 times. For 8 numbers marked the payout could range from 0.5 times for 1 match to 720 times for 8 matches. For 15 numbers marked the payout could range from 0.5 times for 3 matches to 10,000 times for 15 matches. When larger numbers are marked there is usually no payout for getting few matches.

Land casino keno games allow players to mark tickets in different ways. The Split Ticket is most common. Two sets of number are marked on the ticket. Each set is definitely identified usually by circling the numbers in that set. There can be no common numbers between the sets. The price of the ticket is twice the normal price. Other ticket formats are Combination, Way and King.

General Strategy

The most important part of keno strategy for a player is to analyze the payout tables and choose a game with a payout table that fits with his temperament. This perhaps is not possible in land based games because casino hopping is impractical. However it is very easily done for online keno players. There are two types of keno payout tables. One offers conservative payouts. For 15 numbers marked this table starts paying out with 3 matches. Hence it is likely that players will get back something, even if less than the amount wagered. But the big payouts for 15 matches are limited in such tables to about 10,000 times. The volatile tables offer a payout of 100,000 times for 15 out of 15 matches but do not pay anything for five or less matches. In online casinos conservative tables operate with about 5% house edge whereas the volatile tables are known to have a house edge of over 15%.

As mentioned earlier, there are different payout tables for different number of spots initially marked. This implies that that house edges are also different. In conservative tables the house edge is around 7% for 3 numbers marked and around 5% for 15 numbers marked. Usually the house edge is minimum at about 3.5% for 13 numbers marked. Hence it is a good idea to mark 13 numbers on the ticket.

Players should also keep in mind that almost all keno games, whether land based or online, put a cap on the maximum payout. What happens, particularly in volatile tables, is that players will not be able to realize the full value of the largest payouts for the largest wagers. The maximum matches are rarely realized and for the more frequently occurring matches the payout limit will not come into play. But players who may feel short changed because of this limit should restrict their bet amounts accordingly.

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