Revitalizing keno — a new way to play

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (2002) in Casino Player.

Long ago, I proposed a way to add excitement to keno and make it more social. My proposal was ignored. Today, I’ll try again.

I’m suggesting that an additional way of betting – “the Odd Gamble” — be added to keno.. People should be allowed to bet on the sum of the odd numbers versus the even numbers. Your “team” is always the odd numbers. The casino’s team is always the even numbers.

A scoreboard keeps results as each game unfolds, so that if the first number is 3, it reads:, PLAYERS (odd) 3, CASINO (even) 0. Then, if 18, 51, and 4 come next, it reads: PLAYERS (odd) 54, CASINO (even) 22, being updated as each of those numbers is randomly chosen.

How to bet

How do you bet? Well, instead of picking your own numbers and being paid off in accordance with how many of your picks appear, you just wager dollar-for-dollar that your “team” of odd numbers will have a higher score than the casino’s “team” of even numbers. If you bet a football game nearby at the sports book, you’d have to lay 11-to-10, meaning you’d have to risk $110 to win a $100 bet. So, how much extra should it cost to bet on the odd numbers?

Nothing! You get to wager even money. If you’re not familiar with the game, let me explain that Keno is played with 80 numbers, boringly listed as 1 through 80. If you buy a keno ticket, you choose your own numbers. You could choose just three numbers, 10 numbers, or other amounts. Payouts are provided in accordance with the likelihood that you’ve chosen well. Twenty numbers are then drawn at random and posted on monitoring screens throughout the casino, one by one. The more successful you are at picking the same numbers that are chosen randomly, the higher your payoff – if any.

But, “the Odd Gamble” is a better option. You have everyone cheering for the same side – a social experience. And there’s lots of suspense as the scoreboard is updated. Imagine being able to snatch a victory with the last two odd numbers 63 and 73, overcoming a 135-point casino lead and winning by a point. Cheers, hugs, and congratulations! Us versus them.

The house edge

So, if you don’t pay any consideration, where’s the casino’s advantage? Do they take ties? No, the house doesn’t take ties. So, ties are just ties, right? The money goes back. Nope. The money doesn’t go back. The player wins ties!

The casino’s edge is simply that the even numbers add up to more than the odd numbers. This is easy to see when you consider that each one of the 40 even numbers (from 2 to 80) is always one point higher than the odd number (1 through 79) that precedes it.

Since 20 numbers will be chosen, an average of 10 will be odd and 10 even. That’s fair. But the average odd number will be exactly 40, and the average even number will be exactly 41. That means an average score for the casino will be 410 and an average score for the players will be 400.

The house wins approximately 52.5 percent of games in the long run. The player – after being given the ties — wins 47.5 percent. This means that after 100 wagers of $1, a player can expect to win and get back $2 (his $1 and the casino’s added $1) 47.5 times, for a total return of $95. This makes the house edge roughly five percent – much greater than at craps and a little less than at roulette.

Giving more back

But I’m proposing that the house give even more back. Because most keno players are used to wagering in a way that affords them a chance to win back many times what they risk, let’s add that possibility to “the Odd Gamble,” too. Anytime the odd side wins by 500 points or greater (which will happen about once in 4,500 times, based on 120,000,000 randomly simulated games), the players get back 25 times their money. Win by 750 points or greater (which will happen roughly once in 160,000 times), be paid 250 times the money.

The house will still win about 4.5 percent of the amount wagered, not in line with a higher edge using most keno payoffs now, but enough to attract an additional type of social bettor to the game. In a sense, keno would become two different types of casino games, played simultaneously, without any meaningful increase in cost.

Casinos can giggle at my idea, or they can gamble. Or they can giggle and gamble at the same time. They get to choose, just like players do. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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