Keno is a gambling game played using cards with numbers ranging from 1 to 80. The game is played like a lottery, with players choosing numbers to bet on before 20 numbers are randomly drawn using a ball machine or a random number generator. The players are paid based on how many numbers are drawn, how many numbers match the player’s picks, and how much money the player wagers. The game is popular in casinos, online, and is offered as a game in many lotteries. This guide will walk you through the basics of the game and the keno strategy to play keno online.

Keno History


The word “Keno” originated either from the French quine meaning “five winning numbers” or the Latin quini meaning “five each”. While the exact origin of the modern name is uncertain, it is well known that the game began in China over 2,000 years ago.

Legend says that the invention of the game saved an ancient city during a war by funding the war effort, and its increasing popularity helped pay for the construction of the Great Wall of China.

The original game was known as baige piao, which translates to “white pigeon ticket”, and is a reference to the carrier pigeons that delivered results of the games from gambling houses to outlying villages. Baige piao didn’t use numbers like today’s Keno, but instead used the first 80 characters from the Thousand Character Classic, a Chinese poem used to teach Chinese language characters to children. Baige piao is still popular in China today, and is the ancestor of Keno, bingo, and the lottery.


During the 19th century, Chinese immigrants brought baige piao to the West when they traveled across the Pacific Ocean to help build the First Transcontinental Railroad. The name was then westernized into “boc hop bu” and “puck-apu” and gained popularity into the 20th century.

In the beginning of the 1900’s, the game adopted the name “Chinese lottery” and gained further traction across the United States. During this time it also acquired the name “Keno”. In 1933, Keno was brought to Reno, Nevada and featured in casinos as “Racehorse Keno”, using the names of horses instead of numbers due to the state’s laws concerning lotteries at the time. In 1951, Nevada laws changed to outlaw track betting. The game then featured numbers and the official name “Keno” – the game has only gained in popularity ever since, and people started to develop keno strategy.

Keno Terminology

Ticket – the Keno betting cards that players use to pick numbers

Race – a Keno game

Spots – the numbers that a player picks

Catching a spot – when a number randomly drawn matches a player’s pick

Pay table – a casino’s set series of payouts; normally depends on how many numbers are drawn total, how many spots a player chose, and how much money was wagered

Example: If you choose eight spots on the ticket, depending on the pay table you might have to catch five spots before you win any money during a race.

How to Play Keno

Choose spots

Out of the 80 numbers typically offered on a Keno ticket, players can usually choose from 1 to 10 spots, though many casinos offer players the opportunity to pick up to 12 or 15 spots per race. Payouts change depending on how many spots a player chooses, how many spots a player catches, and differ from casino to casino. When playing online, players can often see the payout change in real time depending on how many spots they choose.

play online kenoChoose a wager

While many gamblers typically stick to a lower wager for a higher number of spots and races, others might up the bet and choose a fewer number of spots and races. The wager is per number of races – if a player wages $1, chooses 10 spots, but only one race, the player is wagering $1. Choose whatever works for you and stick with it as part of your keno strategy.

Choose a number of races

In online keno casino games, players have the option of using the same set of spots for multiple races. While many players may choose to keep their chosen spots for only one race, it is possible to use the same spots for 5 or even 10 races in a row. Online games often feature “play 5” and “play 10” buttons, and players can continue pressing these for unlimited games with the same spots.


Payouts depend on a number of factors and differ greatly from casino to casino, whether they’re brick-and-mortar establishments or online. A casino’s pay table is calculated by the number of spots the player chooses and how many spots a player catches, which is multiplied by the ratio of the player’s original bet to the base rate of the pay table.

Sounds complicated, but all you need to know is that the payout ranges depending on how many spots you pick, how many you catch, and how much you wager. Generally, the more spots a player chooses and the more numbers he catches, the greater the payout. Though there are some pay tables that pay for hitting a lesser number of spots – some casinos offer $500 or $1,000 for a catch of 0 out of 20 spots with a $5 wager.

Keno Strategy


Keno isn’t known for having a low house advantage – in fact, it normally hovers around 20%. It’s helpful to study the odds of Keno in advance to know how likely it is to catch a certain number of spots in certain situations. If anything, studying the odds will help players understand why the pay tables operate the way they do.

Find a Good Game

To ensure you’re getting a good pay table, you might have to shop around for a while. For example, one online Keno game may offer a 12:1 payout on a $10 wager if you pick two spots and catch both of them, while another game may offer a 7:1 payout for the same situation. The second casino sounds worse, but this casino may also offer a smaller amount for catching only one of the two spots, while the other offers nothing. When you find an online casino that offers free play, jump on it – the free play will allow you to mess around with the pay table and see if it’s worth pursuing before playing keno online for real money.

Make sure you look around before settling on a particular casino and it could seriously help your bankroll.

Pick a Way to Play

keno strategyIf you want to win big amounts, the best way is to bet higher on fewer games. And, depending on the pay table, picking fewer numbers isn’t necessarily a bad idea. When you study the odds you see it – at a certain casino, catching 2 out of 2 spots has a payout of 12:1, and catching 8 of 15 spots has a payout of 25:1. However, getting 2 out of 2 spots has a chance of 1 in 16, whereas catching 8 out of 15 spots has a chance of 1 in 136. However, if players want a chance at winning the jackpot they must pick the maximum number of spots to qualify.

If you want to extend the length of the game, do the opposite keno strategy– bet smaller amounts of money on more games.

Remember It’s Random

The numbers that are picked during Keno are completely random. They either come out of a ball machine or they’re generated by a random number generator, meaning there’s no pattern or magic trick. Just because a number hasn’t shown up in five races doesn’t mean it’ll show up in the next one; just because a number has shown up for three races doesn’t mean it’s a lucky number. Chance is what makes Keno risky and exciting, so the best advice is to sit back, relax, and have fun. If you go into Keno thinking you’ll win big money every round, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Remember it’s random and you’ll actually enjoy yourself.

Ready to try your Keno strategy out for yourself? Play real money Keno or for free at Planet 7 today!

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A staff writer at Planet 7, Kate Church is an avid reader, professional writer and lover of games. After taking her Bachelor of Arts degree in English writing and a minor in journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, Kate has traveled the world, seeking out adventure, knowledge and games of skill and chance.