January 17, 2023

Keno — What is it and How do You Play it?

Clara Williams
Written byClara WilliamsWriter
Researched byAishwarya NairResearcher
Localised byEmily TremblayLocaliser

What do you think is the lottery game that gets the least amount of attention that it deserves?  There are a lot of players who would say keno.

Keno — What is it and How do You Play it?

A game called Keno is played in a lot of online casinos, and similar to Bingo, it requires players to pick one to ten digits from a table that contains numbers ranging from one to eighty. The winnings are determined by how many of your selected numbers match those drawn.

Learn how to play keno from our team of casino gaming experts. Hone your keno abilities and you could start reaping the rewards.

A Quick Keno History

Its actual maker is unclear, although it is at least 2,000 years old. Mystical familiarity with the "Book of a Thousand Characters" (or "Qianziwen") was essential.  Keno gained instant fame in Reno, Nevada, and has remained there since its 1933 arrival from China.  What is it that has penetrated the continents of Asia, South Africa, Australia, and the Americas?

Keno is the current common name for this game. 

The French and Latin words "quine" and "quini", respectively, indicated the five lucky digits of each participant, and their combination resulted in the American name for this betting game.  But the original Chinese term for keno was "baige piao," or in some regions, "pai-ko p’iao", which means "white pigeon ticket."

Baige Piao evolved from another wagering competition involving homing pigeons. Back in the day, when people played Chinese keno, they'd pick a few ideograms (detailed characters) from the initial 80 characters of the "Qianziwen" (the "Book of a Thousand Characters").

Other sources claim that about 200 B.C.E., General Cheung Leung devised Keno to earn funds to construct the Great Wall of China and fund for China's soldiers to safeguard them from Northern invaders during the Han Dynasty battles.

Because lotteries were forbidden at the time, participants initially substituted the titles of racing horses for numbers. It was not until 1951 that Nevada's regulations were altered to allow keno as an authorized lottery-style game, and keno has since evolved into a game of guessing winning numbers.

The Basics of Playing Keno

If you're curious about how to play Keno, a good thing to remember is that its rules are quite similar to those of other lotteries. It's a game where you pick numbers and hope that some of them match the numbers that are drawn at random.

The Keno Card

The numbers in Keno range from 1 to 80. Players select their preferred numbers; the total number of numbers selected varies widely. The range is typically 1-15, but this might fluctuate depending on the game.

When you play Keno online, the hopper — a type of virtual machine — chooses 20 numbers at random. In a real casino, the machine picks out balls with numbers on them. As the balls are drawn, the machine determines the player's winnings based on the total amount staked and the number of matching numbers.

What is a Keno Spot?

Spots refer to the random numbers chosen by players. In the past, players would use ink or crayons to make these notations (like a bingo dabber). Players pick keno spots by using the mouse in keno videos and or tapping on their screens when playing Keno online.

It can be misleading because the traditional, easy-to-play form of the game is also known as Spot Keno. You won't find any wild cards, multipliers, or special combos in this game.

How to Play Keno — A Step-by-Step Guide

One of the most popular ways of enjoying this lottery game is to play Keno online. Here's a handy guide to how to play keno.

  1. Find and join a reliable online casino. Check out sites like LottoRanker and CasinoRank for information, and sign up in no time. You can play keno online by starting a game you enjoy.
  2. Have your number picked up on the virtual keno card. It's up to you whether you want to click them or utilize auto-pick. Depending on the game, you'll be able to select anywhere from two to twenty of the possible options from a selection of one to 80. Let's say you want to play keno and pick ten random numbers as your spots.
  3. Set your bets. You can adjust your bet using the buttons usually found at the bottom of the page. In most games, this runs between $50 and $5. If you're just getting started, a single dollar is a great beginning point. Some games may include a multiplier option.
  4. Play a game. Start the game by clicking the "Play" or "Draw" option. A Random Number Generator (RNG) selects 20 numbers and highlights them on the online keno card. There are keno games where you can start several full rounds.
  5. Verify the results. If you match a certain amount, you win a prize. In some games, you may win between 1x and 10.000x on your stake for three matched numbers. Each variation of Keno has its own set of odds and rewards.

Keno Strategies & Tips

If you want to learn how to win keno games more frequently, find a keno game strategy that might be beneficial. Here are the best keno online tips and methods for increasing your chances of winning.

Choose the Games with the Highest Payouts

Always look for the keno games with the biggest prizes. It's only natural to want to maximize your chances of winning with the stakes you're willing to place.

You may believe keno prices are the same, but that's rarely the fact. Evaluate the game's rewards before starting.

If you're looking for higher rewards, you should try an online casino instead of a brick-and-mortar one. So, if this is your primary goal when playing keno, it's best to play Keno online.

Be Aware of your Odds of Winning

Knowing the rewards for different numbers of hits is useful, but understanding the probability of getting those hits is as important.

We stress the importance of keno game strategy, since many players are surprised to learn that the odds aren't great compared to other casino games.

Here's a table that breaks down your chances of winning based on the total number of hits:  

Don't Pick More than Eight Numbers

Picking between four and eight numbers is widely recognized as the optimal keno game strategy by gambling gurus. The best possible odds are found within this range, as shown in the table above.

The term "keno" means "five winning numbers" in its French origins, which may provide some insight as to why picking numbers between that range is the best strategy: the sweet spot between odds ranges from four to eight. Choose too many or too few numbers and your odds of winning decrease dramatically.

Don't Strive to Gain an Advantage

There is nothing you can do to lower the house advantage in a keno game, which is famously high.  As there is no real guide on how to play a keno game that will give you an edge or deploy a secret strategy to gain an advantage, you should be wary of anybody claiming otherwise.

So, take this not as a keno game strategy on what to do to improve your odds, but rather as advice on what not to do.

Don't try to learn any special methods or exploits, because doing so will distract you from finding a useful keno game strategy such as the ones discussed above.

Practice your Keno Game Strategy Online for Free

While there may not be a certain way to improve your keno skills, playing the game online for free will let you find the right keno game strategy for you.

This advice is especially useful for amateurs, since you should ensure that you grasp all of the game's mechanics before gambling for real money. You may play keno online in free demo modes in many online casinos. 

Even while keno isn't a very difficult game, it's still a good idea to get some free practice before betting for any cash.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to play keno thanks to our in-depth guide, are you ready to start playing with your ideal keno numbers?  Your lucky numbers may have some relation to key events in your life or they may be founded on the numbers that have been drawn most frequently in the game of keno. The point is that you are now equipped with the knowledge necessary to play keno online at a top casino.

About the author
Aishwarya Nair
Aishwarya Nair

Aishwarya Nair, dubbed "Lotto Lorekeeper" at LottoRanker, harnesses her meticulous research skills and cultural depth from Kerala, India, to shed light on global lottery phenomena. Equipped with a keen sense of detail and a penchant for data, she delves deep into the lottery world, unveiling hidden gems and trending patterns.

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