Keno is famous the world over as a simple, easy to learn gambling game. Much akin to lottery and bingo games, keno does not take much effort to learn, and there are many different variants out there for you to play. Most online casinos carry at least one type of this game, often delivered in RNG (random number generator) format. However, it is not impossible to find live dealer keno games, too.

Given the popularity and widespread availability of keno games, these may be something you wish to play. It is well worth taking a closer look at these games and learning a bit more about them. If you are new to online keno games, this is the guide for you.

The History

Keno is thought to have originated in China. As with virtually all gambling games, there is no universally agreed truth behind the origins of the game, although it is believed that it was invented to generate funds to build the Great Wall of China. 

There is no documentation to show this, with the first lotteries (and keno is a form of lottery game) being documented in Macau, in the mid-Nineteenth Century. The Chinese game involved characters, often the first eighty from the legendary Thousand Character Classic, a Chinese poem. 

Naturally, the game made its way over to the United States with Chinese immigration later that century. It was already known as Boc Hop Bu, and Puck-Apu in the United States within a decade, and by 1866 it was being played in Houston under its new name.

Today, the game can be found across the world. There are differences in how it is played, including the total number of picks made, and the number of “tokens” or numbers used on a card. This means that players will want to browse around for the game, which suits them before deciding to wager real money on keno.

How to Play Keno

As mentioned, there are several different ways to play, and we will study those in closer detail shortly. For now, let us begin by looking at how a basic game of keno is played.

This game is naturally appealing to players as it presents them with a chance to win large sums of cash with relatively small bets. This is possible because your odds of success when the Keno results are drawn is not great. The same is true of all lotteries, as anybody who has played a lottery can attest.

A keno game will typically feature a card of 80 numbers, one through eighty. Again, this can change depending on the variant you are playing. The objective is to choose anything from four numbers up to fifteen numbers from the card. In some games, as few as one number can be selected, and as many as twenty.

Keno players can often decide how much they wish to bet when they play, although some games do have fixed ticket prices. Once a bet has been made, the game begins.

A series of numbers are then drawn at random. This will vary from 15 to 20 numbers from game to game. The maximum number of picks is determined by how many numbers the game allows players to select. The more numbers a player successfully crosses off their card, the more they will win.

A typical Keno screen that you might see when playing online.
Online Keno Screen

How a Game of Online Keno might play out

Here is an example of how the game works:

  • You are playing a standard game of keno, which features 80 numbers, and 20 picks.
  • You select numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 and wager $1.
  • The paytable displays the amount you can win if you match those numbers. The lowest possible payout is 1:1 for matching five numbers. The maximum prize available is 10,000:1 for matching all 20.
  • The game begins, and you manage to match numbers 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. This means that you have got seven correct numbers, so you will pocket the relevant prize as denoted from the paytable. The paytable says that matching 7 out of 20 numbers offers a 5:1 prize. You will, therefore, receive your bet back, plus 5x your stake in profit.

The amount you can win will differ from game to game. Moreover, what can be won will also change according to how many numbers you pick for your card. On top of that, the minimum total of numbers you need to bag any prize at all can vary in each game.

Keno results and what they mean

In most keno games, a standard paytable is adopted. In a 15-number game, the payouts will often be represented as follows:

  • Match 5 Numbers Out of 15: 1:1 Payout
  • Match 6 Numbers Out of 15: 2:1 Payout
  • Match 7 Numbers Out of 15: 5:1 Payout
  • Match 8 Numbers Out of 15: 15:1 Payout
  • Match 9 Numbers Out of 15: 50:1 Payout
  • Match 10 Numbers Out of 15: 150:1 Payout
  • Match 11 Numbers Out of 15: 300:1 Payout
  • Match 12 Numbers Out of 15: 600:1 Payout
  • Match 13 Numbers Out of 15: 1,200:1 Payout
  • Match 14 Numbers Out of 15: 2,500:1 Payout
  • Match 15 Numbers Out of 15: 5,000:1 Payout

Note that there is no payout for matching less than five numbers in the example above. Again, note that payouts vary depending on the total numbers picked by the player, and those drawn in the game.

Keno Variants

As we have discussed on numerous occasions thus far, there are several different types of keno games you can play. Some speed games only feature thirty numbers, and live dealer games are played over a video stream with a human dealer. RNG (random number generator) games are the most common. 

It is also possible to find keno games, which serve up progressive jackpot prizes. These can only be won if you match a large number of numbers. For instance, some progressive games may payout prizes worth 5% of the jackpot total if you match 14/15 numbers or the entire pot if you match them all.

Before you decide to wager on keno games, it is worth checking out the options you have open to you. There are free play games, which allow you to do this.

Strategies for Success

Keno is a lottery game, and thus a game of chance. There are no strategies you can deploy to give yourself a guaranteed win when the Keno results are drawn. However, there are things you can do to improve your chances of winning and to avoid crashing out of a game by placing silly wagers. Here are a few of the things you can do to improve your keno gameplay:

  • Always check what terms your keno game offers before you to decide to play it
  • Play free keno, to get a feel for the game before you wager real money on it
  • Avoid playing with all 15 or 20 numbers. It is tempting to play with this many numbers, but the more numbers you play with, the greater the total of numbers you will need to bag a win
  • If you select one set of specific numbers, it is best to stick to them. After all, you would not want to play on with a different set of numbers, only to see your original numbers turn out to be the winning ones
  • Ignore patterns such as hot and cold numbers, or clusters of numbers on the card. This may sound like it helps you win, but keno is a game of chance, and any patterns which appear are purely coincidental

Who Should Play Keno?

If you like lottery games in general, then keno could be a good fit for you. The game has a lot in common with bingo and national lottery games. Unlike lottery games, keno games are always available and can be played continuously, game after game.

Players who want to engage in a spot of casino gaming on games of chance will not be required to learn all manner of rules to play keno, either. This is a simple game, which takes little to no effort to play. These are the types of players that will arguably find keno the most attractive.

Where to Play Keno Online

You will not have to look hard to find an online casino that is offering keno. Virtually all internet casino sites (including sportsbooks, poker rooms and bingo domains) offer keno games. Some may be instant keno (RNG-based), and others may be live dealer keno casino games. Ultimately, they are all played in the same way.

As keno variants tend to be numerous and there are often a few different options at the same site for you to play, we would advise you to play keno for free before deciding which game is best suited to your needs. From there on out, you can select an online casino based on whether it offers the keno game which appeals to you.

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