Keno Secrets That No One Tells You About

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Close-up shot of a Keno slip.
BetMGM Dec 04, 2023, 7:37 AM

Keno is a popular lottery-style game that involves picking numbers in hopes that they’ll match some randomly drawn numbers. At the start of a game, you get a card showing the numbers one to 80, and you mark the numbers (or “spots”) you want to appear in the draw. If any of your numbers match, you get paid out according to your bet size and the number of matches. Like bingo or Lotto, keno is one of the simplest casino games, but it also has a house edge close to 25%. You’d get a much better payout percentage playing online slots, so why play keno?

One reason to play keno online or offline is the massive potential payouts. For example, you can win $100,000 by matching 10 spots on a $1 bet. No wonder some players say that keno is the ultimate gambling game. Sure, the odds against winning big are very high, but it’s fun to play responsibly — and by learning a few well-kept keno secrets, you can get much more out of the game. Keep reading for some underrated keno tips.

The History of Keno

One of the secrets of keno is that it’s a legitimate cultural experience because of how old the game is. Keno dates back at least 2,000 years to ancient China. The original name for the game is baige piao, which means “white pigeon ticket,” because the tickets looked like tickets used in another betting game involving homing pigeons. Most Chinese provinces had baige piao games hosted in gambling houses authorized by the province governor, who took a cut of the profits in exchange for granting permission.

After many centuries, Chinese immigrants brought baige piao to the Western United States in the 1840s. Eventually, the game became popular outside the Chinese community under the name Chinese lottery. At some point, it acquired the name “keno” from the French word “cinq,” which means “group of five.” Today, keno is played in casinos throughout the world as well as online.

Winning Keno Odds

The most important secret about keno is that there are no secrets as far as numbers are concerned. Keno draws are generated by random number generator (RNG) software, so the outcomes are entirely unpredictable. There are no secret keno patterns, and learning how to win at keno slot machines is impossible. That said, mathematicians have discovered that how many numbers you choose can make a difference. Look at this table, which shows the odds for each number of potential hits in a traditional keno game with up to 10 spots.

Number of Correct Hits Odds of it Happening
0 -84,330
1 -8,644
2 -2,011
3 -801
4 -488
5 -429
6 -526
7 -883
8 -2,005
9 -6,142
10 -25,380

Curiously, the ideal balance of odds and payouts ranges from number three to number seven. So, if you’re going to play keno, select four to eight numbers. Remember the French word “cinq” that gave rise to “keno”? Maybe they knew a thing or two.

Best Keno Number Combinations (Not)

Apart from choosing the correct number of spots, are there other number-based keno secrets to winning? Some players maintain that it’s best to pick hot numbers; others say the secret is to pick cold numbers. Sound familiar? These are the same sorts of superstitions that you’ll encounter in the slot machine section of a casino floor.

Unfortunately, there’s no factual evidence that either of these approaches work. Similarly, there’s no evidence that it makes a difference whether you stick to the same numbers or occasionally change them up. If it feels better to play with a particular set of numbers for personal reasons, go ahead and play with them, secure in the knowledge that you can’t make a mistake because you’re playing a game with entirely random outcomes.

The idea that there are no best keno number combinations may seem counter-intuitive, so feel free to test the theory. An excellent way to do this is to play keno online for free. There are many sites where you can find the game available in demo mode, so it’s worth running the numbers to get a sense of how to play keno without putting pressure on your bankroll.

Best Keno Strategy

Given these insights, it seems clear that the best way to play keno is to apply the common sense principles of responsible gambling. Start by identifying the casinos with the best keno payouts and ensure they’re trusted. Take it slow when you’re betting — keno can chew up your bankroll faster than baccarat, so allow yourself the time to enjoy the game. Be disciplined regarding bankroll management — keno is a game where you’ll lose money more often than you win, so do not chase losses. Instead, set a loss limit and walk away when you hit it.

That’s about it as far as keno strategy is concerned — the same thinking applies to other highly volatile games like jackpot slots. Have fun, and don’t take them too seriously.

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Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.