Players place their bets in Keno by marking an “S” over the chosen numbers on a Keno ticket form. Once players have placed their bets, a blower forces a stream of air into the bubble and the Keno balls bounce around. The caller will then press a button that opens a tube where balls are lifted one at a time into the “rabbit ears”, a small “V”-shaped tube. Twenty balls are drawn and the caller and “verifier” each record the numbers of the balls. Once the balls are drawn, a computerized system calculates all of the wagers and winnings.
Paytables will vary from casino to casino. Players are paid out according to how many of the numbers drawn match the numbers on their ticket and the amount of their wager. Players should not be surprised to find a fairly marked difference in Keno paytables from casino to casino as well as the house edge afforded the different casinos. In addition, each individual casino will offer a number of different paytables as well as specialty Keno bets from which to chose, each with their own unique house edge. The house edge offered by different paytables will vary from below 4% all the way up to 35%.
The History of Keno
While the word “Keno” is Latin in origin, the game itself originated in China. Legend has it that money raised by the game of Keno helped to safe an ancient city during war and also was important in raising the money to build the Great Wall of China.
The Chinese name for “Keno” is “Baige Piao”. “Baige Piao” translated into English means “white pigeon tickets”. It is believed that the results of some of the Keno games in ancient China were sent to surrounding villages via carrier pigeon, hence the name.
Originally, Keno was played using paper with Chinese characters. Often, they were the first 80 characters of the Thousand Character Classic. Keno was introduced to the US by Chinese Immigrants that worked on the First Transcontinental Railroad in the early 1800’s.
Playing Keno At The Casino
The Keno booth is the venue for the ball draw. Keno balls are drawn in one of four possible ways: the traditional Rabbit Ear blower, Automated Keno Blower (AKV), Random Number Generator (RNG) and the Hand Cage.
Before a balldraw, Keno “runners” will wonder the casino floor calling “Keno.” Keno runners will take player’s wagers and carry them to the Keno booth to be processed. The Keno tickets that the players hand the Keno runners are known as “inside tickets”. The Keno runner returns to the players with “outside” tickets which is the player’s official wager receipt. Once players receive their “outside” tickets, it is important that they verify that the numbers are correct. Errors typically cannot be corrected once the balldraw begins.
Once players have made their bets, they can watch the balldraw either on the electronic Keno board or on a video monitor. Keno results will normally be displayed throughout the casino and, often times, they can even be viewed from the TVs of the hotel rooms.
It used to be that winning Keno tickets had to be taken to the Keno booth immediately after having posted the results. In fact, had a player tried to redeem their winning ticket once the next Keno balldraw took place then they would find their ticket expired. Considering that Keno drawings can take place every couple of minutes, this did not leave the players a whole lot of time to dilly dally. These days, most casinos will offer players a “late pay” window. Generally speaking, Keno tickets covering 21 races or more will remain valid up to a year in many jurisdictions. The “late pay” rules for Keno tickets covering less than 21 races will vary from casino to casino.
Many casinos will offer alternatives to the tradional Keno playtables that offer between 1 and 20 spots. An example of this is the Top/Bottom paytable in which the player does not select any spots; rather, they bet that the balldraw will be uneven in its distribution amongst the top 40 and bottom 40 numbers. Other special Keno paytables include Even Only, Parlay, Edge, Exacta, Top Only, Bottom Only, Odd Only and Even Only.
The payouts provided by Keno are based on how many numbers the player chooses and how many of their numbers “hit” multiplied by the proportion of the player’s wager with respect to the “base rate” of the relevant Keno paytable. For the most part, the more numbers chosen by the player that “hit”, the greater the payout. Keno payouts will vary widely from casino to casino. Some casinos will allow wagers of between 1 and 20 numbers; although, some will only limit the choice to only 1-10, 12 or 15 numbers (spots).
The probability of a player hitting all 20 of the numbers on a 20 spot Keno ticket are infinitesimal (1 in 3.5 quintillion). In other words, forget about it. The odds of hitting on a 20 spot Keno ticket are as follows: