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Learn to play the lightening lottery game keno using our extensive guide!
Keno is a thrilling alternative to the more relaxed pleasures of bingo. For casual gamblers looking for something to get the blood pumping, this rapid-fire numbers game from the United States could be just the ticket! Get your head around the rules with our expertly-written player guide.
Below are the best online casinos for playing keno. Click below to spin up some wins.
A game of keno runs on the same principles as bingo and lotteries in that players have to select a certain amount of numbers to play the game. The numbers are then drawn from a keno machine which is very much like the ball selectors commonly seen in UK bingo halls. In each game of keno there are 80 available balls, and 20 are called.
The difference between bingo (or lotteries) and keno is that players can choose how many numbers they wish to wager upon, from one to 20, although most keno games have a minimum of three. Once the draw has been completed, players give up their tickets in exchange for a prize as outlined by the casino’s paytable.
This game is very popular in US and Asian casinos. Players seldom stand around and watch the drawing of the balls, though. Instead, runners hunt around the casino offering ‘spot’ tickets for sale. These spots refer to the number of balls on the ticket that are chosen, so a ‘three spot’ ticket has three numbers. The players do not choose the numbers themselves if they go for this selection method.
Alternatively, players can pick up keno cards. These are cards with 80 numbered spaces printed on them. The player marks off as many numbers as they wish to select, up to the maximum of 20 (or 10 at some casinos) and then hands the card in at the keno booth or to a runner. They will receive a printed ticket in return stating that they are in on the draw, and with a list of their numbers.
A keno ticket usually costs the same, no matter how many numbers are selected. A player can also opt to play a number of consecutive keno draws using the same numbers.
The draw is then made and the numbers announced. Usually, the winning numbers are displayed on boards all round the casino, so a player can check their ‘lucky’ numbers as they are enjoying a few hands of blackjack.
Payouts depend upon how many numbers you hit, and how many numbers you originally selected. For example if you selected five numbers and all five come up, your payout is likely to be around 250-1. If, however, you’d selected 10 numbers, and only three hit, your payout will be 2-1.
Keno has a very interesting back story, although its veracity is somewhat debatable.
The game is alleged to have been developed around 200 BC in China. Emperor Cheung Leung needed funds for his latest conquest and decided to offer a lottery to his people as a means of raising revenue. This lottery became known as ‘White Pigeon’ as such birds were despatched throughout China in order to convey the lottery results to local villages.
This spurious tale has been expanded to include the notion that lotteries were used to help fund the building of the Great Wall of China. While it seems certain that lotteries or lottery-type games were played in ancient China, the link to modern-day versions of keno is hugely debatable.
All the same, keno has long been popular in China and migrated to the USA when scores of workers emigrated to the US to work on railroad construction in the 1800s. It has remained popular in the US and across most of Asia ever since.
Unfortunately, the cute origin story does not explain the name ‘keno’ which is not of Chinese origin. Etymologists surmise that ‘keno’ comes from the French term ‘quine’ which means ‘five winning lottery numbers’. It also strengthens the idea that keno is based on lotteries that were played in France and Italy in the 1880s.
Films and TV Shows with keno as their theme are few and far between. However, if you watch Nevada-set dramas such as Vegas Vacation and Stealing Las Vegas you’ll find passing mentions of keno.
More overt references can be found in ‘Lucy Gets Lucky’, an episode of the hugely popular US sitcom I Love Lucy in which Lucille Ball visits Sin City, plays keno, and encounters Dean Martin, the Rat Pack legend who helped save Vegas in the ’60s.
A keno bar also provides the setting for a key scene in Hard Eight, the debut film of the acclaimed Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia There Will Be Blood). For it’s while playing keno that Philip Baker Hall’s old time gambler Sydney encounters Jimmy Gator, a slick villian played with his usual panache by Samuel L Jackson. One of the unsung movies of the 1990s, here at RightCasino we’re such big fans of Hard Eight that we didn’t hesitate to include it in our list of the 10 greatest gambling films.
In terms of statistics, it’s interesting that, although the maximum amount of numbers you can match in a game of keno is 20, there has never been a report of any player ever, anywhere, matching all 20 numbers. That’s not surprising as the odds of successfully landing 20 numbers out of 20 are 3,535,316,142,212,173,800 to 1.
To put that into perspective, if every person currently alive on the planet had played one game of keno every single second of their lives from the moment they were born, one single person would have matched all twenty numbers drawn in a game of keno … once.
In addition, if all possible keno tickets were lain end-to-end and used as a bridge, this bridge would comfortably span the width of our galaxy.
Keno is typically offered at online casinos in one of two forms. The first, most popular type of keno game is as a online slots type game. The second, less popular type is in the form of a table game.
If you play the slots-type version, it’s simply a case of paying your stake, selecting how many numbers you want to choose, picking them, and then telling the game to go ahead with the draw. You will know how much you stand to win by the paytable that’s displayed and updated as you select your numbers.
There are a sizeable number of different keno-type games available from multiple providers. Most are very basic, but a few have a few extra features to make the game more entertaining.
A handful of games could be considered to be more authentic representations of casino-style keno, but these games are neither common, nor popular.
No ‘live dealer’ casinos feature keno.
Some providers offer a version for keno for mobile devices. It’s a very easy to game to port to mobile platforms, although most mobile versions of keno are very basic representations of the game.
While keno’s online popularity is relatively new, the game’s origins can be traced to ancient China. In the 1800s, keno was brought to the United States by Chinese immigrants, beginning the West’s love affair with the game. Be aware that most forms of keno come with an extremely high house edge, sometimes as high as twenty-five percent and also, bets cannot be optimised. That being said, if you brave the house edge there are some massive progressive jackpots to be won, both in live games and video/online variants.
The rules of keno are very straightforward. Virtual keno is essentially a hybrid between a lottery game and an online slots machine, while live games are basically rapid-fire lotteries. In most respects, live keno and online games play identically, except the former uses paper cards and the latter a virtual interface.
Just like in bingo or a lottery, you choose a set of numbers on a slip or ticket. The amount of numbers you can pick depends on the game, but is usually within a range of 2-10 or 1-15. However, you will always pick numbers between 1 and 80.
At set intervals (measured in minutes for live keno and seconds for video or online keno) 20 winning numbers are randomly selected from 80 possible numbers.
The game will pay-out depending on players’ ‘catches’ – i.e. numbers marked on their slip that match the winning numbers drawn.
Players buy new slips in preparation for a new draw. That’s all there is to it!
There are several bets that can be placed in keno, with varying pay-outs depending on your selected number groupings. You can also boost your return with combination bets.
|Straight ticket||Betting your marked numbers as a single wager is known as a ‘straight ticket’ – this is the simplest possible way to play keno. However, many players like to bet additional combinations (often known as a ‘way ticket’) For example, a player might mark six numbers and circle two groups of three, marking the side of their slip ‘2/3,’ ‘1/6’. In a £1 game, this would mean betting £3 for a £1 wager on each of the three-number combinations and on the overall six-number combination.|
|King ticket||A number circled alone is a ‘king’ number which is added to all other combinations. For instance, if you had bet on two, four-number combinations and circled a king number, you would have a nine-number combination overall if the king was drawn.|
|Combination ticket||With this ticket, you can play various combinations of number groupings. As an example, you could play a ticket with two, three and four-number groups as 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5 (with the two and three groups), 1/6 (two and fours), 1/7 (three and four) or 1/9 (all three.) This ticket would cost you £7 in total at £1 a game.|
Play the lightning lottery game on your mobile device.
Developments in mobile gaming technology have brought high-quality entertainment to all major mobile and tablet devices. This means you can get virtual keno in the palm of your hand – simply consult the table of casinos below and find out which brands support your operating system.
Mobile platforms are fast becoming the most popular means of gambling online. By recent estimations, $10 billion is wagered annually on mobile devices, and a fair portion of that revenue comes from keno.
Virtual keno is played exactly the same way on a mobile device as on a desktop. Once you have made your selections using your touchscreen, a random number generator will draw winning numbers – all you have to do next is count your catches!
Versions of keno that you can play on a smart-phone tablet are not exactly numerous, but with a little bit of hunting, and if playing ‘keno’ on the go is important enough to you, then you should be able to find a mobile keno game.
There are a handful of online casinos that offer keno at their mobile casinos. Some sites you can try are Leo Vegas, BGO, 32Red and Guts.
Most casinos are still based on the preferences of European countries, where keno as a casino game has never really taken off. Perhaps once more US states and Asian countries acclimatise themselves to the joy of online gambling as experienced by much of the rest of the world, mobile keno will become much more prevalent. Until then, keno lovers will just have to accept what they can find.
Some keno games will be provided via downloadable mobile casino software, but more often than not casino sites are using HTML5 in order to code their gaming software. Such games can be played within a mobile browser, meaning no download and installation is necessary. All such games are guaranteed to work on iOS and Android-based systems, and there’s also a good chance the games will work on Windows Phones and BlackBerrys.
Most versions of mobile keno follow the typical, broad keno template. You pick your numbers (usually any amount of ‘spots’ from three to ten, or to twenty in some cases), and then hit the ‘play’ button. Twenty keno balls will then bounce around the screen and the more you land, the more you win. The paytable for your selections will be displayed on the screen, so if good fortune has smiled on you, you’ll be able to see instantly just how much you have won.
The beauty of mobile keno is that games are played as often and as speedily as you want. In a real casino you’d have to wait until the next available keno draw (although at the big casinos that only necessitates a wait of four minutes or so), but with mobile keno, you are completely in control.
Even though most mobile keno games are restricted to the typical ‘match as many balls from the twenty drawn’ rules, there are a few different keno games with different themes, and some with bonus features. NetEnt’s version of keno for example has a joker that each round hides behind a number. If that number is drawn, the joker is transfered to the bonus meter, and every time the bonus meter is filled (it takes five jokers to fill the bonus meter) the player is granted a free round in which also prizes are doubled.
The game also features a progressive jackpot which is awarded if the balls drawn form a perfect ‘J’ pattern.