Keno Balls

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Last week we talked about the idea that the amount of paint on the keno ball could affect the outcome of the call. I pretty much debunked that with the proviso that this idea can actually be tested these days through simple statistical methods.

Red ball roundup keno game

Back in the day there used to be theories bandied back and forth about how the paint on the balls could be used to deliberately tamper with the outcome of the balls. There were two methods proposed:

• The use of some kind of heavier than usual paint that would give the ball a discernable heavier weight than untampered balls.

• The use of some kind of magnetic paint.

Occasionally you will see keno balls “stick” either in the top of one of the tubes of the blower, or sometimes one or more will stick around the top of the glass bowl. Mar 12, 2020 I was playing keno at Bally's when one of the keno balls broke in half during the game. Did Bally’s handle the situation properly? Should the game have been voided? (The game was stopped temporarily, the ball replaced, and play resumed.) Would players with multi-game tickets have to replace them had the game been voided?

I need to stress that as far as I know neither of these methods has ever been detected in use by cheaters.

The use of some kind of heavy paint seems to be plausible, perhaps the inclusion of lead or uranium in the pigment. This could be accomplished either by someone inside or outside the game (but one who had access to the balls at some stage of production.)

In the second case, the operators of the game might be unaware of the cheat. Although it is not proven that this is possible or that additional weight on a ball will influence its frequency, some keno games do weigh them occasionally as a preventative measure for this kind of scam. I think that is a good idea.

Now the use of some kind of magnetic paint might be less obvious as the balls would all weigh the same and presumably look alike. However, there would have to be some kind of electromagnet installed either at the top or the bottom of the ball selection device.

This is not impossible but unlikely without the participation of the game operators. This cheat can be easily detected if the investigator simply gets a strong magnet and passes it over the set of balls, looking closely for movement. If the balls are magnetized, it will be evident.

Occasionally you will see keno balls “stick” either in the top of one of the tubes of the blower, or sometimes one or more will stick around the top of the glass bowl.

I remember one game where the balls would stick on almost every game. It turns out that the graveyard crew, when cleaning the rabbit ears was using an electric blow dryer to dry out the ears after cleaning.

Well that’s it for this week. See you at [email protected]

On This Page

Introduction

Note: The page addresses the conventional keno game, known as Spot Keno, where the player picks 1 to 20 numbers from 1 to 80 and the game draws 20 balls. There are links to keno variants towards the bottom of the page.

Keno is a simple game of luck, much like most lottery games, where the player chooses numbers and hope as many as possible match those randomly drawn by a hopper or machine. The simple form with no multipliers or extra balls is called Spot Keno and is addressed on this page. See the Internal Links section below for many keno variants.

There are two formats for playing keno: live and video. In live keno, the player uses a crayon and paper to indicate his picks. Every few minutes numbers will be a live draw from a hopper filled with numbered balls. In video keno, the player touches a screen, sometimes using a wand, to pick numbers and the machine does the draw randomly.

Like most games of pure luck, the odds in keno are pretty poor. Keep reading to learn more about the rules and how much you can expect to lose on the game.

Rules

Following are the rules for basic keno:

  1. The player makes a wager and indicates which numbers he wishes to pick. The picks are made on a slip of paper in live keno and by touching the screen in video keno. The range of numbers the player may pick from is 1 to 80.
  2. The number of picks the player may make depends on the game itself. Usually the range is 2 to 10 or 1 to 15.
  3. The game will randomly choose 20 out of 80 balls.
  4. If the game chooses a number the player chose that is known as a 'catch.' The player is paid according to the number of balls he catchs.

Examples

Following are some common video keno pay tables found mostly on Game Maker machines. The bottom row shows the expected return.

Pay Table 1

CatchPick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0111111111
1000000000
2521000000
3115321100
4401052210
540049221055
61,000275404025
72,500500400120
85,0001,000500
95,0002,000
1010,000
Return86.08%84.66%85.97%85.79%84.96%85.33%84.57%84.25%86.43%

Pay Table 2

CatchPick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0000000000
1000000000
21422000000
3403221000
41001442110
580092151233
615003481124728
777601500352140
8800047001000
990004800
1010000
Return84.18%83.25%86.14%85.31%85.21%85.31%84.17%84.87%86.72%
Hit frequency6.01%15.26%25.89%9.67%16.16%23.66%10.23%15.31%6.47%
Balls

Pay Table 3

CatchPick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0----------
13---------
21522------
3435331---
477124221-
575055211265
61,600335984021
77,0001,450300142
810,0004,7001,000
99,0004,000
1010,000
Return75.00%90.19%87.41%87.74%88.06%88.02%87.68%89.07%87.57%88.80%

Pay Table 4

CatchPick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0000000000
1000000000
21422000000
3455331-00
4851142210
580468201265
61,500390984423
77,0001,550300132
810,0004,7001,000
910,0004,500
1010,000
Return84.18%90.19%90.19%90.33%90.76%90.85%90.67%89.93%89.79%

Pay Table 5

CatchPick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0----------
13---------
21522------
3465331---
491124221-
581070211265
61,600400984424
77,0001,652335142
810,0004,7001,000
910,0004,500
1010,000
Return75.00%90.19%91.58%92.03%91.93%92.67%92.44%92.31%92.00%92.55%

Pay Table 6

CatchPick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0000111111
1000000000
21531000000
33712311-00
46428144111
517062333082
6300175706536
7325250178115
8350325225
9375300
10400
Return90.19%92.96%92.77%92.72%92.66%92.64%92.62%92.66%92.69%

Pay Table 7

CatchPick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0----------
13---------
21522------
3485331---
4100134221-
583875221365
61,6604221004424
77,0001,670362146
810,0004,7001,000
910,0004,500
1010,000
Return75.00%90.19%94.35%94.78%94.95%94.99%94.92%94.90%93.60%93.20%

The following Pay Table 8 I saw on a 25¢ Aristocrat video poker game at Binion's Las Vegas on October 13, 2019.

Pay Table 8

CatchPick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9Pick 10
0---------
1---------
21522------
3455331---
485114221-
580468201265
61,500390984423
77,0001,550300135
810,0004,8001,000
910,0004,500
1010,000
Return90.19%90.19%90.19%90.33%90.76%90.85%90.67%90.26%90.28%

Surveys

In 2001 I did a survey of every live keno casino game in Las Vegas. The returns ranged from 65% to 80%. In other words, the house edge was 20% to 35%, making live keno among the worst bets you can make in Las Vegas.

In 2012 I did a similar survey of live keno in Laughlin, which showed a range of return of 50% to 74%. Fair go pokies.

In 2008 I did a survey of video keno in San Diego. The returns ranged from 84% to 95%.

In 2017 I redid my Las Vegas video keno survey, which can be found at Wizard of Vegas.

Advice

If you must play keno, the only skill is choosing where to play to play and then how many numbers to choose. It makes no difference which numbers you choose. Contrary to popular myth, legitimate keno games, like those in Las Vegas, are fair and every ball has a 1 in 80 chance of being drawn each game. To determine the odds of any keno game you can use my keno calculator. Just put in the pay table and you will see how much you can expect to get back every bet.

However, I tend to think anybody who would take the trouble to analyze the game is probably not playing it in the first place. The odds in video keno are about as bad as slot machines. If you want to lose a lot less money gambling I would highly recommend converting to video poker. For live keno players, I would suggest converting to bingo.

Practice Game

Get your keno fix right here on my practice game.

Calculators

We have calculators to determine the payback for any pay table for the following keno games:

Free Powerball Keno Games

  • Keno.
  • Power Keno/Super Keno.
  • Cleopatra Keno.
  • Caveman Keno.
  • Caveman Keno Plus.
  • Triple Power Keno.
  • Extra Draw.

Scouting Guide

Keno Balls Generator

When you're in the casino it would take a long time to put in every pay table through my many calculators above to determine the best game to play. That is why I created two printer-friendly guides you can print out and take with you:

  • My Keno Scouting Guide is a short reference to the best available game for any pay table for all the most popular forms of keno. Each game has a table showing the possible pick-10 pay tables available and the best number of picks for that game and its return. See the last page of the guide for a full explanation how to use it.
  • My Full Pay Table Report is a longer guide showing every known pay table for all the major keno games and their associated return. For those who want to know the return for any number of picks, not just the best number (which the Keno Scouting Guide provides).

For a printer-friendly document showing keno pay tables and returns for several major keno games please see my Keno Scouting Guide (PDF). Perfect for printing and taking to the casino to find the best game and pay table available.

Popular Keno Variants

  • Caveman Keno.
  • Triple Trouble Keno.
  • Power Keno.
  • Super Keno.
  • Extra Draw Keno (three extra balls).
  • Ultimate X Keno.
  • Book of Keno.
  • Alien Attack Keno.

Internal Links

  • Las Vegas Hilton keno games.
  • Atlantic City Tropicana keno.
  • Jumbo Keno Progressive/Mega 10 — Progressive keno games found at Station Casinos of Las Vegas.
  • Progressive keno games at the Boyd and Station casinos.
  • Nevada numbers — a progressive lottery game.
  • High/Low/Middle Keno — keno game seen at the Lisboa in Macau.
  • Extra Draw Keno (two extra balls).
  • Jumbo Keno Progressive — kenogame at the Station Casinos.
  • Laughlin keno survey.
  • Keno sums — Math behind the sum of all 20 balls drawn

Keno games by U1 Gaming

Following are keno games by U1 Gaming.

External Links

  • German translation of this keno page.

Written by:Michael Shackleford