How Does Keno Work

How Does Keno Work

Keno is a descendant of a Chinese lottery game which became very popular with the evolution of online casino gambling. However, new players struggle to get the grasp of it, as well as how to play it optimally. Here, we go through the rules and strategies of keno.

Keno: What Is It and How Do You Beat It?

Keno is a descendant of a Chinese lottery game, similar to Bingo in many ways. There’s a stereotype of keno lounges filled with grannies going through their last few sunsets, trying to get that winning ticket. However, this is unfounded. Keno games became popular with online casino players, as more and more players decided to test their luck on keno tickets.

A quick description of the rules of keno would go like this. You get a ticket with 80 numbers and you pick up to 10 of them (they are also called spots). Then, the keno machine randomly draws 20 numbers, and according to how many you’ve guessed, you get a prize payout correspondingly. It all sounds simple enough on paper, but once you start playing keno, there are a few things you need to learn to avoid getting confused.

There’s a harsh reality behind keno games — you’ve got slim chances to win. Of all casino games, keno has the biggest house edge of 25+%. But while this is strictly a game of chance, there are some tips you can utilise in order to achieve optimal odds. In this article, we’ll go through those once we get to the bottom of how the game works.


Game Rules

Things start off with you buying a play slip. There, you select 1–10 spots (some versions of keno offer you the possibility to pick even more, but we’ll address that later on). And after picking the numbers, you choose how much money you want to wager and whether you want to participate in consecutive draws. Most lottery retailers offer a quick pick as well, which lets you have the computer choose your spots. And if you do decide to play in multiple keno drawings, you have to select the same number of spots in each draw — if section 1 of your play slip contains 5 numbers, section 3 must as well.

Additionally, you can make combinations and groupings of numbers on one play slip. For example, you can pick 9 spots and divide them into three groups, which are then independent of each other. Another way to group them is by using a king number. You can choose 7 different numbers and split them into two groups, with the king number being a part of both.

Bull’s Eye

Before official winning numbers start popping up on the keno monitor, you can choose to play with Bull’s Eye. That’s an addition to keno games where one of the 20 numbers gets randomly chosen to be the special one. And if you select that number up front, you can multiply your winnings up to 25 times.


First off, once you decide keno is the game you want to play, you should make sure you pick the right one. As is the case with pokies, different keno games come with different RTPs, which you can find listed online. So you should always check these numbers beforehand, so you don’t end up playing a keno game which offers lower odds of winning out of pure ignorance. Likewise, there’s no consistency among providers when it comes to deciding on the payout amounts. Hence, if you guess, say, 7 numbers, you might receive less money than you would while playing a different keno game.

On top of that, there’s a further diversification of games. Usually, keno consists of a player (or a machine in their name) picking up to 10 spots. However, some keno games allow 12, 15, or even 20 numbers to be selected. Those games offer better payouts and more multipliers, but the odds of you hitting all 20 numbers are extremely small. Moreover, they also offer some additional options. For example, you can get a multiplier for guessing no numbers correctly. The logic behind this is that, if you choose, say, 15 spots out of 80, it’s statistically less likely to miss all of them (1 in 125) than to guess two (1 in 7).

Picking Numbers

How Many?

When playing keno, most thought goes into choosing the number of spots you want to play with. Should you go with all ten, just one, or what the hell should you do? Our advice is to choose anywhere between four and eight spots. And here’s why. If you choose three, the chances of them being the winning numbers are 1 in 73. And apart from that, even if you get a winning ticket, the payout won’t be anything impressive.

On the other hand, choosing more than 8 means you need to get at least four just to cover your ticket costs. On the other hand, getting 5 out of 9 numbers correctly happens once in 31 attempts. Even though you have better odds of gaining some money than by betting only on 3 numbers, in the long run, you’re more likely to finish in the red than not.

Which Ones?

Some games keep a score on which numbers pop up more often than the others. Those that are drawn frequently are hot spots, while their opposites are cold spots. However, this game operates with a Random Number Generator, and as such, there’s no real evidence cold spots have higher chances of appearing in the next round than the hot ones. Nonetheless, some players use this information as a guide when choosing numbers.

Furthermore, a few players recommend using consecutive numbers instead of just letting your inner Stevie Wonder scatter them all over the place. Again, this goes against the principles of the RNG’s randomness, but players with experience have noticed that numbers supposedly tend to group together. So if nothing else, at least it makes it easier to follow.


At the end of the day, you have to be aware that keno is still pure lottery. As such, it’s a game of chance, and you can’t really influence whether you’ll get lucky or not. However, understanding how the game works and what you can do to maximise your winning potential can get you a long way from just flushing your money down the drain.

However, picking the right numbers and the right version of the game is essential. So always check which game you’ll play beforehand. And after that, it’s up to the gods and what they’ve written in your fortune cookie.

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