How do you play Keno?

Keno is a simple, numbers-based, game of chance, akin to the National Lottery. In its early days in Nevada – where lotteries were, and still are, illegal – names of racehorses rather than numbers were written on keno tickets and the game was known as ‘racehorse keno’. Each game of keno was, and still is, called a ‘race’, but keno has been played exclusively with numbers since 1951, when state law was changed.

In a bricks-and-mortar casino, keno is typically played in a separate, dedicated keno lounge. In traditional, ‘live’ keno, players choose a series of up to ten, or possibly even up to twelve or fifteen, numbers, or ‘spots’, between 1 and 80 and marks or circles them on a paper ticket with a crayon. Players hand in each ticket, in return for a duplicate and, at regular intervals – typically every few minutes – twenty numbered balls are drawn, at random, from a hopper. The aim of the game is to match as many numbers, or ‘catch’ as many ‘spots’ as possible; prizes are paid according to a set pay table, which varies from casino to casino and according to how many numbers chosen, how many numbers matched and the amount staked.

Keno requires little or no skill or strategy and, like similar casino games, features a high house advantage, or ‘edge’. In Las Vegas, the house edge on live keno games is typically between 20% and 35%, which compares less than favourably with other non-slot casino games, such as baccarat, blackjack and craps, to name but three.