Keno - How To Play


Keno is a very simple yet greatly popular lottery-type game which has kept players entertained since the ancient Chinese period. The legend goes that keno originated during the period of Cheung Leung around 200 BCE and was developed by this famous general as a method to raise money for his ongoing battles.

Based on an ancient Chinese rhyme, people chose a selection from 120 characters and if their choice came up in a draw, they would win money. This form of ‘gambling’ raised plenty of money for the general’s warfare and it is also rumored that the money helped pay for the construction of the Great Wall of China.

Click for details on history, payout schedule, terminology and Keno ticket layout.

How to Play Keno

Keno booths are located around a casino and a player needs to collect a keno card from the booth in order to begin play. A player will see a chart of numbers from 1-80 and he needs to decide how many numbers to select (usually no more than 15). Each selection is called a spot – if a player makes a selection of 5 numbers, he is playing a 5-spot game. In order to select the numbers on the card, a player must mark or circle the numbers – this can be done with the special keno crayon provided by the casino.

Once a player has selected his spots, the card is handed back to the keno booth along with a wager and the selected numbers are transformed into a computerized duplicated ticket. Within a few minutes of one’s selection, the 80 keno balls are thrown into the air within their cage or barrel and 20 balls are selected by a random number generator (RNG). If enough of a player’s selected spots are drawn then they receive payouts accordingly.

The winning results are generally on screens, called keno boards, all around the casino. A player has a limited amount of time, usually five minutes, in which to claim their prize. In most cases, players who do not follow closely and do not manage to get to the keno booth within this time period (before the next round begins) lose their claim to their winnings.

Keno Online

Online keno is a very simple form of the much-loved land-based game and the remote gambling industry has facilitated the game being enjoyed by millions. In the online form, a player will be presented with a box of 80 numbers, with a betting stake selector on the side of the screen. This selector needs to be clicked in order to increase or decrease the wager stake. Once a wager level has been selected, a player can start choosing which spots (numbers) he wishes to submit for the draw – this is usually done with a simple click on the number with the mouse.

Once the minimum number of spots has been selected, the player will be shown the payout odds on the side of the screen. As more spots are selected, the payout odds will be adjusted accordingly – the more selection a player makes, the more stretched the payout scale becomes. After all the selections have been completed, the player clicks on the PLAY button and the balls are drawn. After all twenty balls have been drawn, the winnings or losses are displayed. A player is then asked if they want to play again with the same numbers or if they want to clear the board and play an entire new game.

Keno is a great leg-up into the world of online casinos, for players who are not familiar with the industry. This simple, yet fun game will provide players with hours of fun and allows new players to try it out with very low minimum wagers.

Different Keno Tickets

Straight Ticket:
The simplest form of a keno ticket whereby the player selects the numbers he wishes to play, with a usual maximum of 15 spots. Once the spots have been selected, the amount to be wagered needs to be decided. For example if a player bets $5 on $1 ticket they will receive five times the winnings. Most players know that the best odds lie in a selection of between 4-8 spots.

Split Ticket:
A split ticket allows a player to play a number of games on one ticket. A player simply splits the ticket down the middle with a line and selects numbers on each side. The advantage is that it is a time saver and a convenience, but the disadvantage is that the same numbers can not be selected in each field and a split ticket reduces the amount of the potential payout.

Way Ticket:
A way ticket is similar to a straight ticket, yet cheaper. Unlike the straight ticket where a player picks the numbers he wants, a way ticket allows a player to pick multiple sets of numbers. All the selected numbers can be played at once and there is no need for multiple tickets. Way tickets facilitate playing more than one ticket at a time. Way tickets contain a number of separate bets which can be one individually or together on a single game. Way tickets generally allow for higher payouts than other keno tickets.

Combination Ticket:
A combination tickets gives the player more ways to win on a single ticket than any of the other types of keno tickets. Combo tickets offer a cheaper option and allow straight wagers to be combined on one ticket, or straight and way bets in one ticket.

King Ticket:
On a king ticket, one of the numbers is circled and is referred to as the King. The King number is not used alone but rather in conjunction with other numbers to make up straight, way or combination tickets.

High-End Tickets:
High end tickets differ from other types of keno tickets and they look for as many matching numbers as possible – a high risk, yet high payout form of the game.

20-Spot Tickets:
A player selects 20 spots on a keno ticket and has as many as 18 ways to make a win. If a player matches 4-6 numbers he does not win, and if he matches 2,3 or seven numbers, he gets his money back.

Top/Bottom Tickets:
With this ticket, a player splits the ticket in two halves – top and bottom - and selects numbers on one half of the ticket. In order to win, a player needs to match at least 13 numbers – the more numbers matched, the higher the payout.

Left/Right Tickets:
As with top/bottom tickets, the player selects numbers either on the left or the right hand side of the ticket.

Edges Ticket:
As with the top/bottom ticket, the player selects numbers only around the rim of the ticket. With eight rows of ten numbers, there are 32 numbers which are selected.

Keno Ticket Layout

Keno Ticket Layout

Why is Keno so Popular?

When looking at the bare facts, one would not think that keno would be such a popular game. Keno offers one of the worst odds than any other casino game and the chance of making a complete catch on your spots is almost minimal. However, keno has managed to stay an extremely popular casino game over the years for a number of reasons. Firstly, despite the low odds, the potentially high payout is a major attraction – in some cases a player can win up to 10,000 their original bet!

Secondly, the fact that keno does not demand high wagers in order to win these potentially high payouts is a big plus. Not many games allow a player to place bets as low as 0.25c. While some casinos demand a minimum of $1, this is still not a lot of money in the casino world. A further reason for keno’s popularity is its simplicity. Keno is purely a game of chance and does not require smart tactics and hours invested in reading how-to guides. Keno is a game that can be played by everyone and the rules can be grasped within 2 minutes of walking into a casino.


As one of the simplest games, yet offering some of the greatest payouts, keno has certainly established itself as a keeper in the casino game world. From its ancient Chinese roots, keno has come a long way, maturing in keno lounges and in online casinos.

Once a player has grasped the differences between the various tickets and betting options, keno is easy to play, fast-paced and exciting, offering amazing payouts for minimum wagers. The online form of keno is just as exciting and a great introduction into the remote gambling world for novice players.

Posted by CCJ Team

Keno Resources

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