Keno Tips and Strategies – How to Play Keno

By on June 13, 2013
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When you sit down in a keno lounge or even a casino restaurant, you’ll find blank keno tickets, crayons, and instruction booklets everywhere. If you decide to bet your two favorite numbers, you’re not getting the most bang for your keno buck. But who can blame you? Most in-house instructions do little more than explain the most basic bets and what the house pays if you win them. Once you understand the game better, you’ll see that there are actually many other ways to bet—and consequently, many ways to increase your profit and chances of winning.

Getting It Straight

Placing a straight keno bet involves 1) Deciding how many numbers you want to bet, and 2) Marking your ticket to indicate your choices.

To decide how many numbers to bet, consider:

  • The maximum number of spots (or numbers) that can be marked on a straight bet ticket. Most casinos allow a maximum of 15 numbers, but some may cover bets on a maximum of only 10 numbers. Some casinos offer special keno tickets that allow you to bet 20 numbers at a higher minimum bet. Ask your keno runner or ticket writer for specifics.
  • The betting limits (Usually a 70-cent or $1.00 minimum.) With 70-cent minimum, you can make bets in increments of 70 cents, that is $1.40, $2.10, $2.80, $70, and so on.
  • Your potential payout (What a winning bet will pay)
  • Your chances of winning

Your minimum bet and payoff for winning tickets will differ from casino to casino to casino, but this information is provided for you in the casino’s keno instruction booklet or at the keno lounge. In most casino’s, if you play only one number and it’s drawn, you will triple your money (If paid $1 to play the single number, you get back $3 when you win).


By the same token, if you play ten numbers for the same dollar, your potential payout is terrific, but you have to catch at least five numbers. That means that five or more of the 10 numbers have to be drawn before you win anything. The more numbers you catch, the more money you win. For example, a $1 bet on 10 spots usually wins $25,000 when you catch all 10 numbers. If five of the 10 numbers come in, you get back your dollar and they call it winning. If you catch six out of 10 numbers, you receive $20 of which $1 is your original dollar; seven out of 10 numbers pays $140; eight out of 10 pays $1,000; and catching nine out of 10 numbers pays you $4,000.

Taking a Chance

Keno is a popular pastime because it offers the possibility of winning spectacular payouts on relatively small wagers. As we just mentioned, in some casinos, a $1 bet on 10 numbers can generate a $25,000 return when all 10 numbers are drawn. However, there are more than 1.6 trillion ways to select 10 different numbers odds of picking 10 of the 20 that will be drawn are approximately one in 8.9 million. The more numbers you try to pick, the harder it is to hit them all.

For that reason, the most popular keno bets are often the 6-, 7-, and 8-spot tickets, because the payout for selecting six numbers on any of these tickets is still high relative to a $1 bet, and (as you can see in Table 11.1) your odds of hitting 8 out of 8 are considerably better than your odds of hitting 10 out of 10.

[colored_box color=”green”]Gamb-lingo

When you catch a keno number that means that a number you’ve marked on your keno ticket has been drawn.[/colored_box]

Take a Look at Your Keno Odds

Your Chances of Hitting: Are 1 in: $1 Bet Pays(Typically)
10 out of 10 8,911,711 $25,000
9 out of 10 163,381 $4,000
8 out of 10 7,384 $1,00
7 out of 10 621 $140
6 out of 10 87 $20
8 out of 8 230,114 $25,000
7 out of 8 6,232 $1,480
6 out of 8 423 $90
7 out of 7 40,979 $8,100
6 out of 7 1,366 $400
6 out of 6 7,752 $1,480
5 out of 6 323 $90


Something else you should know about keno: if you were to cover all the possible ways to pick 10 out of 10 numbers by placing an equal bet on every combination of 10 numbers that you could make, you would spend 40 percent more than you would receive for all the winning numbers and combinations.

[colored_box color=”blue”]Bet You Didn’t Know

When the house edge is 30 percent, on the average you will receive 70 percent back. So what you spend compared to what you receive is 1.00/.70= 1.43. Thus, a 30 percent house edge means you spend 43 percent more than you receive in payoffs.[/colored_box]

Placing a Straight Bet

Once you pick your numbers and decide how much you want to bet, you’re ready to mark your ticket. Because there is so little time between the games, it saves everyone a lot of anxiety if you correctly mark all the numbers, or spots, you want to play on your ticket before placing your bet. Always use one of the crayons provided instead of your own pen or pencil.

To mark a straight bet on a blank ticket, put an “X” through the number or numbers you want to play. Indicate how many numbers you’re playing in the right margin (usually in an area marked #SPOTS/ WAYS) and then write the amount of your bet in the PRICE PER GAME box and the number of games in the NUMBER OF GAMES box, like the ticket shown next. In some casinos, your keno ticket will have a TOTAL PRICE box, in which you enter the total cost the ticket by multiplying the number of games you’re playing by the amount of your wager on each game. If your keno ticket doesn’t have a TOTAL PRICE box, or you don’t know how to fill it in, the keno runner or ticket writer will total up all of the separate bets on the ticket and fill it in for you, or write it in at the top of the ticket.

After you mark the ticket, give it to a keno runner or a ticket writer in the keno lounge before the start of the next game. The ticket writer will enter it in the computer and print you an official ticket. Be sure they entered your numbers and bet correctly on the printed ticket before the game begins. Then, sit back and relax!

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