How to Play Keno

Photo Courtesy of (Angel Fire Press)
Old Mapes Casino Keno Ticket. Photo Courtesy of (Angel Fire Press)

Keno is a low-cost, high-payoff game played in many casinos.Games run every 10-minutes and tickets can be played for just a dollar or two, with a payoff of up to $50,000. It's slower than blackjack, but the payoffs can be much higher!

Keno is most often played with a plastic and metal cage filled with 80 ping pong balls numbered 1 to 80. Players mark a ticket with a keno crayon and choose as many single numbers as they wish.

You must present your completed ticket before the start of the next game. After the game starts, 20 numbers will be chosen. You may choose just a single number or many numbers. Payoffs depend on how many correct numbers you chose and the amount wagered.

A Little Keno History

Keno was first introduced to Nevada Casinos in the 1930's. Based on a Chinese lottery, the game was played in mining and railroad camps with two drawings per day. The Palace Club in Reno Nevada lobbied the state legislature to allow the game and then sped-up the process of attracting action and paying winners so there could be continuous games all day. Played for just a nickel or a dime per game and offering up to a $500 prize, the game caught on as an exciting and inexpensive form of entertainment. The Bank Club followed soon after with its own Keno game.

Because the early games took several employees to run, the clubs devised a payoff schedule that paid out approximately 72 percent, 28 percent being held for expenses and profit.Because of this, Keno is sometimes considered a bad bet.

The fact is, the house edge is higher on many other games. In addition, players who stick with a set group of numbers tend to eventually hit a solid ticket.

Each casino offers a small booklet explaining ways to play, minimum wagers, and maximum payoffs at the Keno counter or right at your table in the casino restaurant if they offer keno service.

Keno personnel will be happy to show you how to mark your card and answer questions. Some casinos have more than one game and signify them with colors, such as the "red" game and the "green" game.

To Play Keno

  1. Mark your favorite numbers on a blank Keno ticket with an "X" using a Keno crayon
  2. Mark the total numbers selected and the amount of your wager in the right margin of your ticket
  3. Hand your ticket to the Keno runner or Keno clerk at the Keno desk. They will return a copy of your ticket to you - make sure it is correct
  4. Watch the Keno game on the display board and make sure you present your winning ticket to one of the Keno employees before the start of the next game. If you have chosen to play multiple games you may wait until the end of your last game. Tickets presented too late are void

Sample payoffs

You are said to have a solid hit when all your numbers come up. If you choose 8 numbers, you win if you hit 5, 6, 7 or 8 numbers. However, the highest payoffs are for solid hits, as high as $250,000 for a solid 10-spot with a  $5 wager!

Sample Payoffs on a $1 Ticket

  • Pick and hit 1 out of 1: $3
  • Pick and hit 2 out of 2: $12
  • Pick and hit 3 out of 3: $42
  • Pick and hit 4 out of 4: $115
  • Pick and hit 5 out of 5: $820
  • Pick and hit 6 out of 6: $1480

Way Tickets

You can also play different "ways" on a single ticket. For instance, you might choose three numbers and circle them, and also choose four different numbers and circle them. Your ticket will now include a bet for a three-spot and a bet for a four-spot. You can also include all the numbers and play a separate seven-spot. When playing "way" tickets, most casinos offer an even lower amount you can bet per "way," such as 50-cents, so your three bets on this sample ticket would cost just $1.50 per game.