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HOME > NEWS > Featured Articles > Deal Me In: The choice between losing or losing really fast

Deal Me In: The choice between losing or losing really fast

23 May 2014

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I like to play the keno machines and would like to know about the payouts. Does the machine pay out after so much money goes into the machine, or is it based on picking random numbers? I have noticed that sometimes I will play a string of numbers, and when I get off those numbers, they will start lighting up. Can you shed any light on this? Pat H.

Just as with all the cards displayed in video poker, or the symbols of a slot machine, a random number generator determines all numbers drawn in video keno. All 80 numbers on a keno game have the same chance of being drawn, whether you are playing them or not.

The medium casino advantage on all video keno games is 7.5 percent. That’s very high by my standards (2 percent or less), but compared to approximately 28 percent on a live keno game, it’s considerably lower. And why lower? It is because video keno has better pay tables.

Now, Pat, even if on paper, it looks like video keno is the better deal and you should be hauling in some serious ka-ching, it’s really not. At $1 a pop, the most you could lose on a live keno game is about $15 an hour, as that is the average number of games called per hour. A typical video keno player can easily burn through $15 in quarters in under three minutes. The fact of the matter is that the choice between keno and video keno is the choice between losing, or losing really fast.

Allow me, Pat, to dole out some advice for playing the cybernetic version of keno. First, think about switching to video poker instead. Your hourly loss to the house will end up being much, much lower.

If you are not going to listen to me, that’s fine. It’s only an advice column. Be that as it may, you do want to search for the highest-paying pay tables. The higher the payouts for the spots you play, the lower the house edge. Play fewer spots so the odds against hitting a winning ticket are not so astronomical. Deliberately play at a leisurely pace, because the slower you play, the less of your hard-earned money ends up in the casino’s coffers. Finally, use your player’s card to offset the losses you will experience on this negative-expectation game.

Dear Mark: I am glad to see you mentioned the El Cortez being the place to play when it comes to gambling in Las Vegas. Although I usually stay at the Rio, I always make my way downtown and play there. By the way, you forgot to mention that they offer eating and gambling at the same time. It is actually kind of fun, with two of my favorite pastimes together. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Jeff F.

Who hasn’t, Jeff, sat on the counter in a casino coffee shop scarfing down a 99¢ breakfast special and playing keno at a buck a game. Oh, and it used to come with free cocktails too. If those weren’t the good old days, I don’t what were.

Actually, eating and gambling has a historical backdrop. Did you know the origination of the sandwich is directly related to gambling? Thank the Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). He loved to gamble so much he had his cortege bring him meats, bread and cheese so he would not have to abandon the gambling parlors, from which comes the sandwich.

The El Cortez figures you can’t win if you’re not playing. So, Jeff, like you stated, you don’t have to decide between your hot streak and a hot pastrami on rye. With their Gambling Gourmet, you can enjoy an El Cortez dining experience without leaving your table. They will bring you grub game-side, so you can have at it gambling nonstop.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The trick always, in taking a sucker, is to get him to suggest a bet.” – Marty Reisman, The Money Player (1974)

Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the gambling trenches, working for seven different casinos. He now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer, and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.

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