Keno is available at a wide range of land based casinos and at most online casinos. It’s one of the easiest games to play, but it’s also widely-considered among the worst gambles on the floor.
If you’ve never played keno before, you might be struck by the similarities between keno and state lottery games.
The game begins when you select between one and fifteen numbers from a pool of 80 eligible numbers. A drawing of twenty balls is held, and if enough of your numbers match, you’ll win a payout. The payout increases depending on how many numbers you picked correctly.
The best decision you can make as a player is to select the best possible pay charts, meaning the ones that offer the lowest house edge. Different amounts of numbers often have different payback percentages, even in the same casino.
Popular Keno Pay Tables
There are literally hundreds of possible pay tables so I can’t include all of them here. You can use these to get an idea of what the best returns are where you are playing.
The casinos don’t want you to worry about the expected return and they don’t want to make it easy for you to figure out how favorable a keno game is to the casino. Almost all keno games offer such a low pay back percentage that you should probably either not play at all or you should consider it just like when you buy a lottery ticket.
When you buy a lottery ticket there is a very slim chance you may win a huge payout, but you know that the odds are not in your favor. If you play keno the same way you can enjoy a game of chance without thinking too much about how big of a disadvantage you are playing at.
- A pick 1 game that pays 3 for hitting your number pays out 75%.
- A pick 2 that pays 12 for hitting both numbers pays back 72%.
- A pick 3 that pays 1 for hitting 2 numbers and 43 for 3 numbers pays back 74%.
- A pick 3 that pays 1 for 2 numbers and 42 for 3 pays back 72%.
- A pick 4 that pays 1 for 2 numbers, 3 for 3 numbers and 130 for 4 numbers pays back 74%.
- A pick 5 that pays 1 for 3 numbers, 10 for 4 numbers and 800 for 5 numbers pays back 72%.
- A pick 5 that pays 1 for 3 numbers, 15 for 4 and 700 for 5 pays back 72%.
- A pick 6 that pays 1 for 3 numbers, 4 for 4 numbers, 95 for 5 numbers and 1500 for 6 numbers pays back 73%.
- A pick 6 that pays back 1 for 3 numbers, 2 for 4, 85 for 5 and 2,000 for 6 pays back 71%.
- A pick 7 that pays back 1 for 4 numbers, 25 for 5, 350 for 6 and 8,000 for 7 pays back 72%.
- A pick 7 that pays back 2 for 4 numbers, 30 for 5, 300 for 6 and 5,000 for 7 pays back 71%.
- A pick 8 that pays back 9 for five numbers, 90 for 6, 1,500 for 7 and 25,000 for 8 pays back 73%.
- A pick 8 that pays back 5 for 5 numbers, 100 for 6, 1,500 for 7 and 30,000 for 8 pays back 70%.
- A pick 9 that pays back 4 for 5 numbers, 50 for 6, 280 for 7, 4,000 for 8 and 50,000 for 9 pays back 75%.
- A pick 9 that pays back 3 for 5 numbers, 30 for 6, 400 for 7, 4,000 for 8 and 40,000 for 9 pays back 67%.
- A pick 10 that pays back 1 for 5 numbers, 22 for 6, 150 for 7, 1,000 for 8, 5,000 for 9 and 100,000 for 10 pays back 72%.
- A pick 10 that pays back 1 for 5 numbers, 10 for 6, 100 for 7, 1,000 for 8, 5,000 for 9 and 100,000 for 10 pays back 61%.
- A pick 11 that pays 8 for 6 numbers, 80 for 7, 400 for 8, 2,500 for 9, 25,000 for 10 and 100,000 for 11 pays back 71%.
- A pick 12 that pays back 5 for 6 numbers, 32 for 7, 200 for 8, 1,000 for 9, 5,000 for 10, 25,000 for 11 and 100,000 for 12 pays back 72%.
- A pick 13 that pays 1 for 0 numbers, 1 for 6, 20 for 7, 80 for 8, 600 for 9, 3,500 for 10, 10,000 for 11, 50,000 for 12 and 100,000 for 13 pays back 72%.
- A pick 14 that pays 1 for 0 numbers, 1 for 6, 9 for 7, 42 for 8, 310 for 9, 1,100 for 10, 8,00 for 11, 25,000 for 12. 50,000 for 13 and 100,000 for 14 pays back 72%.
- A pick 15 that pays 1 for 0 numbers, 10 for 7, 25 for 8, 100 for 9, 300 for 10, 2,800 for 11, 25,000 for 12, 50,000 for 13, 100,000 for 14 and 100,000 for 15 pays back 71%.
Keno Pay Table Analysis
Casinos try to fool you into thinking the best returns are offered by the keno pay tables that have the highest payout amounts. Don’t fall for it.
Look closely at the pay table listed above and you’ll see that the table that offers the lowest house edge is either the pick-1 game at 75% or the pick-9 that also offers 75%.
The pay tables that offer the highest pay outs, 100,000 in this case, all fall into the low 70’s. Remember this is just a small sampling of available pay tables, but in general the higher the payout amounts the lower the pay back percentages.
The real issue is that none of the pay tables offered here or anywhere else provides enough of a return to play keno. A 25% house edge is just too much to overcome.
The only possible saving grace for keno is that if you are playing in a casino there is a set amount of time between draws so you can only play so many draws per hour. This can mean that you lose less money per hour than faster paced games, but I have a hard time giving the casino such a large edge.
How to Use These Keno Pay Tables
Keno pay tables are useful because the only real strategy you can use is to play the best table.
The way to use these keno pay tables is to get an idea of which ones offer the best pay back percentage. Then compare these to the ones available where you play.
If you can’t determine the house edge of the keno game you are considering playing ask someone at the casino. They may not tell you, but they may share the information with you. It doesn’t cost you anything to ask.
Should You Play Keno?
Only you can decide if you mind giving the casino such a large edge, but I will admit that even though I don’t do it often, I do play keno from time to time. I also buy lottery tickets from time to time.
Just like I mentioned above, when I play keno or the lottery I am spending a buck or two with the hopes of hitting a big score.
In other words:
I don’t really expect to win but I am hoping to win.
When I want a chance to get an edge on the casino I never even consider playing keno.
Because I look at keno like the lottery I tend to place $1 bets on the tickets offering the highest dollar pay outs. If the highest offered is $100,000 I will play that game. I am sacrificing a dollar for the slim chance to win $100,000. I won’t really miss the dollar but if I win I sure will enjoy the $100,000.
In order to consider alternatives to playing keno, you need to determine why you want to play keno in the first place.
Do you play keno to give your mind a break or in the slim hopes of hitting a big score like playing the lottery? Are you under the false belief that you can beat the game in the long run or are you playing a game with a very slow pace to help your bankroll last as long as possible?
Pai Gow Poker
If you are treating the game of keno like buying a lottery ticket or if you want to play a slow paced game to extend your bankroll you are probably playing what you should be playing. The alternative that offers a slow paced game with a much lower house edge is Pai Gow Poker. It looks complicated at first but it is actually fairly easy to learn how to play. It is both slow, though not as slow as keno usually is, and many hands end up in a push so you only play so many hands an hour that either win or lose.
In the case where you are looking for a game that lets your mind rest you should consider playing baccarat. It only requires a single bet decision and then you can just watch the action. It offers a much smaller house edge than keno and is readily available just about anywhere you can play keno. The downside to baccarat is there is no chance for a big win on a single deal. The pay outs are basically 1 to 1 so some players find it boring in comparison to keno.
If you were hoping to beat keno in the long run I hope you have changed your mind after reading the analysis on this page. There is no way to beat a casino game with such a large house edge in the long run.Keno strategy is almost as easy as learning how to play keno. You can either choose not to play a game that offers such a large edge to the casino, you can play on the pay table that offers the lowest house edge or you can just treat it like the lottery and ignore the house edge. The proper strategy is to play with the pay table that offers the lowest edge to the casino.