How to Play Keno

Last update:  December 2022

What is Keno?

Keno is kind of like the lottery — you pick several numbers on a ticket, and hope to match the numbers drawn by a computer or ping-pong ball machine.  Jackpots are as high as $250,000 for a $1 ticket.  That's a lot less than lotteries, but you're way more likely to hit a keno jackpot than a lottery jackpot.

Where to play

Keno lounges.  Some casinos have lounges where players can sit in chairs and watch the numbers being drawn to see if they've won.  The play is glacial, but that means your money will last a long time.  That's great if you've almost exhausted your gambling budget and want to play something.  The catch is that most casinos don't have keno lounges.  I don't have a list of casinos that do, but I can tell you the one at the Plaza downtown is 24 hours.  Note that the house edge is pretty high (20-35%), but that's not a deal-breaker for most people because keno is played slowly and for small stakes.

Keno machines.  Amid the banks of slot machines there are often keno machines as well.  The house edge on these games is usually around 10%, making it better than lounge games, but about as bad as slot machines.  And since these games are played way faster than lounge games, you'll stand to lose a lot more money.  To figure your expected loss, see my Average Loss Calculator and choose "Slots".

Online.  Some online casinos offer better odds than the machines in the land casinos.  Bovada's keno game from Rival software has a house edge of about 7%, for example. (advertisement)

Never play Keno?

Many gambling writers will tell you to never play Keno because the edge is so high.  In The New Gambler's Bible, Arthur Reber says, "I wouldn't play it with Monopoly money, and I hope you never will."

He's making the classic mistake of thinking that the house edge is the one and only thing that matters about a game.  It's not.  Also important are how much it costs to play, and how fast you play.  Lounge keno is played at such small stakes and at such a low speed, you'll likely lose far less money playing keno than playing a game with a lower house edge, like craps or blackjack.

Keno critics are the same kind of people who deride lotto games as "a tax on people bad at math".  Actually, I think it's the critics who are bad at math.  I explain this in detail in my article on lotto games.

More on Keno

Here are some other Keno resources on other websites:

  • The Wizard of Odds. A professional actuary analyzes the holy living mortal snot out of the game.
  • Las Vegas How-To..  Shows a picture of a ticket and explains exactly what all the various boxes mean.  Nice.

See also how to play:

Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

You can play Bovada's games (below) right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's the main reason Bovada is the only online casino that gets advertising space on my site.  (When you see the registration box, you can cancel it and proceed to the game without registering.)

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