How to Bet Keno

Casinos have developed different ways to place wagers on keno to add variety and interest to the game. These variations have virtually no effect on your odds of winning any given race, but they do give you more bang for your buck, because there are several ways to win at least some money. Also, many of the variations allow you to bet less than the straight minimum, so they can be a good way to stretch your gambling dollar.

Straight Bets

A straight keno ticket is just like a lottery ticket. You pick the individual numbers you want to play and wait to see whether you catch any in the drawing. You can play as many numbers as you like, up to the casino's maximum, usually fifteen. You might be able to play more numbers at some casinos or on special games, but no matter what the player's limit is, only twenty numbers are drawn in a keno race.

On straight tickets, you must place at least the minimum wager for each race. The minimum bet can range from seventy cents to $2, depending on the casino. The keno brochure will tell you what the minimum and maximum wagers are.

◄ This is a one-way, six-spot ticket, written 1/6.

Way Bets

Way tickets group the numbers you've selected into sets, which gives you more ways to win — hence the name. If you select six numbers, you can separate those six numbers into three groups of two numbers each. This gives you four different ways to win: a straight bet, plus the three groups. It's the equivalent of playing four separate tickets.

For example, say you decide to play 7, 15, 27, 39, 56, and 68. If you only catch two numbers, you probably won't win anything, since most casinos require a catch of three on a six-spot ticket. But if you pair these numbers — 7 and 15; 27 and 39; and 56 and 68 — and one of these pairs is a catch, you will win something.

To mark your ticket for way bets, circle the numbers you want to pair. Note that the numbers don't have to be consecutive in order for you to group them together; all you have to do is draw a circle that includes the numbers you have marked with an X, and the keno writer will ignore any numbers that aren't marked. At the top or side of the ticket, indicate the “ways” you want to bet. For our example, we have a one-way, six-spot bet, written 1/6, and three two-spot bets, written 3/2. You must mark both of these on your ticket in order to get paid. Always check your ticket carefully to make sure keno personnel have recorded the bet you intended to make.

◄ By grouping the six numbers into three sets, you create a one-way, six-spot ticket (written 1/6), and a three-way, two-spot ticket (written 3/2).

The advantage of way betting is that, at most casinos, you can play way tickets for half or less of the regular minimum bet. So, if the minimum is $1 on a straight ticket, a five-way ticket will cost only $2.50 instead of $5. Alternatively, some casinos will let you pay the straight minimum on a way ticket, effectively reducing the cost of betting on each way. If you pay $1 on a five-way ticket, you are wagering only twenty cents on each way.

Most casinos require that way bets be divided into equal sets of numbers. If you want to play fifteen numbers, you could divide your numbers into three groups of five, five groups of three, or seven groups of two; you can have one leftover number, but you can't have six groups of two and one group of three.

◄ Out of the three groups of two spots, we can create three groups of four spots: 12-13-36-37, 12-13-63-64, and 36-37-63-64. Now we have a one-way six-spot, three-way two-spot, and three-way four-spot ticket, written 1/6, 3/2, 3/4.

Combination Way Bets

Combination way bets give you even more ways to win on the same ticket, by combining the ways you already selected. It may sound complicated, but it's really just another method of grouping your numbers.

In our previous example, you chose six numbers to play, and then separated those numbers into three groups of two. In a combination way bet, you link those three groups together. Let's call the original pair group A, group B, and group C. You're going to combine those couples into three sets of four numbers each: A and B, A and C, B and C. Now we have a three-way, four-spot ticket, written 3/4, to add to our one-way, six-spot wager, and our three-way, two-spot wager. And there are now seven possible ways to win on this ticket.

◄ This is a 190-way 8-spot ticket. Each group of four numbers works with every other set, and you use all eighty numbers.

Casino rules on way tickets and combination way tickets vary, but many places let you play up to a 190-way, eight-spot ticket. On this ticket, you divide all eighty numbers into groups of four, either vertically or in two-by-two squares, and each group of numbers can be combined with any other group of numbers to produce a winning ticket. You'll get a steep per-way discount on this type of bet; if you were required to pay $1 per way on this ticket, one race would cost you $190, and most keno players wouldn't pay that much for a single race. So the casino will charge perhaps ten cents per way on a 190-way ticket, making the single-race cost a much more affordable $19.

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