Home News How to Play Keno: Secrets and Tips

How to Play Keno: Secrets and Tips

By Manny Wood.
Fact checked by Wilbur Thompson.

Keno is a popular gambling game frequently enjoyed at modern casinos and included as an option in certain lottery offerings. If you’ve ever been interested in how to play keno, this article will help you to understand all the ground basics.

In this game, players place bets by selecting numbers from a range typically spanning from one to eighty. Once all the players have made their wagers, a set of twenty numbers (though some variations may draw fewer) is randomly chosen. It can be done using a ball machine akin to those employed in lotteries and bingo, or through the use of a random number generator.

The payout structure in Keno, referred to as “paytables,” varies from one casino to another. It is determined by factors such as the number of numbers chosen (whether by the player or by a terminal), the number of matches among the chosen numbers, and the wager amount. These paytables typically yield a larger “house edge” compared to other games, ranging from less than four percent to over thirty-five percent in online play, and approximately twenty-forty percent in brick-and-mortar casinos. By way of comparison, the average house edge for non-slot casino games is below five percent.

History of the Game

Keno, a captivating lottery-style game, has evolved from its origins in ancient China and has become a popular attraction at top online casinos. The game of Keno is said to have been introduced over a thousand years ago by a man named Cheung Leung, who sought to raise funds for his struggling army and city. He devised a lottery game based on luck, where players would select characters from a collection of one hundred and twenty Chinese characters that formed an ancient poem and place bets accordingly. The game was successful, and it is believed that Leung saved his city and even contributed to the construction of the Great Wall of China using funds generated from Keno.

Keno found its way to the United States through Chinese immigrants in the 1800s, who brought the popular lottery game with them as they came to work on the railways. To make the game more accessible to a wider audience and accommodate those who didn’t speak Chinese, the original characters were replaced with numbers.

In the 1930s, Keno made its debut in U.S. casinos. However, due to governmental regulations, lotteries were not allowed within casinos at the time. To circumvent this restriction, the game was known as ‘Horse Race Keno.’ As off-track race taxes were imposed, the game underwent another name change to ‘Keno.’ Throughout these transitions, Keno remained a popular game within casinos, showcasing its enduring appeal.

Today, online casinos feature Keno as well. The modern version of the game involves selecting numbers from a pool of eighty options, with players able to choose between one and twenty numbers. Online Keno offers an easy-to-learn and enjoyable experience, akin to playing a lottery but with no waiting time for winning numbers to be revealed. Many top online casino sites allow players to try out free online Keno games for fun or to familiarize themselves with the online format before playing with real money.

Online Keno combines the ancient Chinese legendary game with the modern technology of online casinos, creating a unique and thrilling gaming experience.

Keno Glossary

Keno can be a complex game to grasp, especially with all the specific terms involved. To help you quickly familiarize yourself with the key concepts, here’s a simplified glossary:

  • Autopick: A feature that randomly selects numbers for you on the online keno card.
  • Balance: The amount of money you have available for betting in the game.
  • Balls: Representations of the numbers drawn, corresponding to the numbered boxes in the game.
  • Bet: The amount of money you place for one or multiple rounds of online keno.
  • Catch: The numbers you choose match the numbers drawn in the keno game.
  • Draw: The process of randomly selecting twenty numbers in a keno round.
  • Multiplier: A factor that increases the payout rates, typically ranging from 1.5x to 5x.
  • Number: One of the eighty options available for betting on the online keno card.
  • Odds: The likelihood of matching numbers or winning in a keno round.
  • Online Keno Card: The grid displays the eighty keno numbers where the game is played.
  • Payout: The prizes you receive for matching numbers in keno.
  • Payout Chart: A table that shows the available prizes based on the number of selected numbers.
  • Pick: The act of selecting numbers from the keno card for the next draw.
  • Quick Pick: A function that rapidly selects random numbers for a quick game of keno.
  • Random Number Generator (RNG): Software used to ensure fair and random keno results.
  • Spot: One or more numbers chosen by you on the online keno card.

How to play keno and win: Basics

If you’re looking for a low-risk gambling option, keno is an excellent choice. Similar to the lottery but with better odds, keno allows you to select numbers on a ticket, and you win if a combination of your chosen numbers is selected. It’s a straightforward game that is widely enjoyed and available in various establishments, including bars, casinos, and online platforms. In this article, we’ll guide you through the game and provide valuable tips to help you maximize your winnings.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Start by filling out a keno card, and selecting numbers (or keno spots) that you believe will be randomly chosen. Aim to guess as many out of ten numbers as possible.
  • Consider buying “way” keno cards if you want to bet on groups of numbers in addition to individual spots. Matching multiple numbers within your group will result in higher winnings.
  • If you want to increase your potential jackpot, place bets on additional bonus numbers. These bonus numbers require extra wagering, but if they are selected, the payout percentage is higher.
  • Join keno games that have a substantial number of participants. The payout for each game is influenced by the number of players involved.

By following these tips and strategies, you can enhance your keno experience and increase your chances of walking away with more money than you started with.

Step by Step Keno Guide

  1. Obtain a keno card, which can be found at designated keno lounges in casinos or displayed on your screen if playing online. The card contains numbers from one to eighty, matching those on the balls in the keno machine. Some casinos may use a computer to select winning numbers, and this method is commonly used in online keno games. It’s also worth inquiring about different types of keno cards, including bonus or “jackpot” cards, that may be available.
  2. Select your desired numbers and mark them on the keno card. Each number you choose is called a keno spot. The card is typically organized into eight rows and ten columns of keno spots, and there are restrictions on the number of numbers you can select. Some cards allow from one to ten numbers, while others permit up to twenty. It is advisable to choose different numbers to increase your chances of winning. Don’t be swayed by “hot” or “cold” numbers displayed on result boards, as every number has an equal opportunity of being selected.
  3. Decide on your betting amount and the number of games you want to play. You have the option to play multiple games with the same numbers on a single keno card. Additionally, you can increase your potential winnings by multiplying your betting amount. Indicate your choices on the keno card, considering that the total cost will depend on the number of games and the betting amount.
  4. Submit your keno card to a keno worker. Hand over your keno card to an official who will include your selected numbers in the upcoming game. You will receive an electronic copy of your card to follow along as the numbers are announced. Before handing over your card, double-check your choices for accuracy.
  5. Await the results determined by the keno machine. Keep an eye on the electronic keno boards in the venue to see the outcome of your keno games. The game number will be displayed on your ticket and on the screen. Find a board showing the results of your game and compare the numbers on your ticket to those on the screen. If there is a match, you win! The amount of money won depends on the number of matches and your wager. Payout information for different numbers of spots matched is usually displayed on the keno boards. Each game’s payout varies, so it’s helpful to inquire about specific payout rates.
  6. Claim your winnings by notifying a keno worker or taking your ticket to a keno retailer. Present your ticket and, if necessary, an electronic keno card to confirm your matches and collect your payout. Once you’ve received your winnings, you can continue playing additional games. Keno games typically occur at intervals of four minutes, ensuring non-stop action.

Betting on Combinations

  1. Utilize a “way” ticket to place bets on combinations and individual numbers. Request a special “way” ticket from a keno worker, which allows you to bet on different number sequences. For instance, you can select six numbers and group them into two sets of three. On the side of the ticket, indicate “2/3” and “1/6.” This means you are wagering $3: $1 on the first group of three, $1 on the second group of three, and $1 on all six numbers. If all the numbers in your group are chosen, you will receive higher payouts. Each number combination requires an additional wager, and you can choose as many combinations as you desire from your selected numbers. Experts recommend grouping numbers in threes and fours for the best chances of winning.
  2. Bet on overlapping number combinations and separate sets to increase your chances of matching. Use the same numbers in multiple combinations. For example, if you have a group of two, a group of three, and a group of four, combine them to create a group of 5 (three and two), a group of six (two and four), a group of seven (three and four), and a group of nine (all the numbers). Betting $1 per group, this would cost $7 with seven potential payout structures. Some way tickets may allow you to bet fifty cents on groups instead of $1, resulting in half the original payout. It’s important to note that there is no evidence suggesting certain overlapping number combinations are more likely to be selected, as the results are entirely random. However, larger combinations decrease the likelihood of matching the entire set.
  3. Add a “king” to your number combinations for a more daring approach. A “king” refers to a number that stands alone. You can insert individual numbers you bet on (kings) into other sequential number combinations. Using the previous example of 2/3 and 1/6, let’s assume the groups you bet on are 7, 8, 9, 62, 63, and 64. By adding a king (such as a number 6 or lower, between 11 and 60, or above 64) to these combinations, you can create 2/4 and 2/7. Since the king now joins each group of three, it is counted in the final total, resulting in 7 spots instead of 6. To indicate a number as a king, simply label it on your card and draw an arrow to the group of numbers you wish to add it to.

Keno Variations

  • Increase your potential payout by placing an additional wager on the bonus feature. Many keno games offered by state lotteries or casinos have a bonus option. To participate, choose an extra number and bet more on that bonus number. The additional cost can range from $1 to double your initial wager. If the bonus number is selected, you can win big. It may be referred to as a bull’s eye, booster, or simply a bonus. Make sure to inquire about the specific bonus rules at your keno station to understand how it works.
  • Consider playing keno online or in video format instead of face-to-face games. Some casinos provide keno through touchscreen terminals, while others offer fully online keno games. Online games typically offer higher payouts, but the gameplay is faster. Video keno allows you to play at your own pace, although the payouts are usually less impressive. Evaluate which type of game suits you best. Keep in mind that certain video keno games may require only penny or nickel bets, so check the minimum bet requirement before starting a game.
  • Keep an eye on the progressive jackpot when placing your bets. Many casinos feature progressive jackpots in keno. In this type of jackpot, if no one wins a significant payout, the jackpot keeps growing until someone matches the required criteria. Progressive jackpots can exceed 100% of the betting value. One of the most effective widely known strategies to increase winning chances is to join a game after the progressive jackpot has already accumulated a few times. It allows the player to maximize the value of the wager.
  • Explore packaged keno options when purchasing your tickets. Similar to buying in bulk, packaged keno allows you to bet on multiple games at a lower price, typically around 25 to 50 cents per game instead of $1. With packaged keno, you can play your keno cards at your convenience, even from the comfort of your home, as long as you provide your ticket to a keno retailer beforehand. Keep in mind that packaged keno games are only available in select casinos and apps, so consult with a keno worker at your local venue for more details.


How does Keno work?

Keno is a game where you can choose up to 10, 15, or 20 numbers from a pool of 80 options. The game then randomly selects 20 numbers. If your chosen numbers match a sufficient amount, you receive a payout based on your bet.

How many numbers do you need to win in Keno?

The number of required matches to win in Keno depends on the game and its rules. In most Keno games with a maximum of ten selections, you need to match at least three numbers to win. The more numbers you match, the higher your payout.

How do you play Keno and increase your chances of winning?

To play Keno, you can join a reputable online casino and start the game. Simply select numbers by clicking on them and then initiate the round. Additionally, practicing with free casino games is an excellent way to prepare before applying Keno tips to real money games.

Is there a strategy to improve your chances of winning in Keno?

While there is no guaranteed strategy to win in Keno, effective bankroll management and specific betting patterns can enhance your results over the long term. We recommend playing responsibly and avoiding chasing losses.

Can you predict Keno numbers?

Keno numbers are selected through random number generators, making it impossible to predict the best numbers. The results of Keno are entirely random, which adds to the excitement of the game. If luck is on your side, you can win.

Which numbers are most frequently drawn in Keno?

In Keno, every number has an equal probability of being selected by the game. However, you may notice that certain numbers hit more frequently than others in the short term. These are referred to as hot Keno numbers and may be displayed in some games.

How much can you win in Keno?

Keno payouts can range from 1x to 200,000x your initial bet, depending on the game and its jackpots. We recommend Keno games that offer payouts for landing just a few numbers, as they provide more opportunities to win.