Tips On How To Play Keno For Beginners

Keno For Beginners

Keno has been around for basically forever, as the origins of the game date back at least a couple thousand years. The exact history of the game can be debated, but what can’t be debated, is that keno is the oldest casino game around, and it has been played by countless generations of gamblers.

Keno offers fast-paced excitement and potentially massive payouts, which have kept gamblers coming back for centuries.

For those of you that have yet to try your hand at a game of keno, the game might be a bit intimidating at first, as there are lots of numbers, bouncing balls, and different ways to bet. But in reality, keno is actually one of the simplest games you are ever going to find on the casino floor.

And now that most online casinos are offering keno games as well, you can play the game from the comfort of your home, and at stakes low enough that you won’t have to spend a bunch of money to learn the game. In this article, we are going to show you how to play keno for beginners, so when you do finally take your shot at the game, you know exactly what you are doing!

First, we are going to explain what the game is and how it is played, and then we are going to provide you with some beginner’s tips on how to play keno and win!

With that, let’s jump right into breaking down the gameplay of the world’s oldest casino game, keno!

What Is Keno?

For those of you out there that have no idea what keno is, think of it as a mix between a lottery and bingo. Similar to bingo, there is a hopper that has numbered balls. These balls are numbered 1-80 and are drawn randomly, one at a time from the hopper.

Numbers will continue to be drawn until 20 of the 80 balls have been called. As far as the gameplay goes, that is basically everything.

Now, there are a lot of different ways to bet the game, but every game will start with you making a bet, and then 20 of the 80 balls being drawn from the hopper. One of the main reasons that keno has survived the test of time is how simple the game is and how easy it is to play!

How To Play Keno

Now that we know what keno is, we are going to tell you how to play keno, by explaining some of the different betting options. The most basic way to bet keno is to pick a number and hope that it hits.

Please Note:
In keno, you can generally play as few as 1 number, or as many as 20 numbers, with the more numbers that you play, giving you chances at winning the biggest payouts.

We are going to go into more detail on just how many numbers you should be playing per game, but betting numbers is the core of the game.

If you are playing just 1 number, all you have to do is hit it to get paid.

But as you bet more and more numbers, you have to hit more of them to receive the minimum payout. Please see the below example on keno pay tables and odds.

Numbers Played Min Numbers Matched To Win Payout Odds Odds Of Winning
1 1 2-1 1 in 4
3 2 2-1 1 in 8
8 4 2-1 1 in 13
10 5 3-1 1 in 20

Now, this certainly isn’t the entire set of odds and payouts for a keno game, but it does show you that if you bet more numbers, you need to hit more numbers if you want to get the minimum payout.

Now that we have shown you the minimum payouts for some of these bets, we are going to switch gears and show you what happens when you hit all of your numbers!

Numbers Played Numbers Matched Payout Odds Odds Of Winning
3 3 25-1 1 in 73
5 5 500-1 1 in 1,551
8 8 15,000-1 1 in 230,115
10 10 200,000-1 1 in 8,911,712

As you can see, these payouts get huge in a hurry as you play more numbers! The exact pay tables are going to vary depending on where you are playing the game, but keno offers lots of opportunities to get rich on small upfront wagers.

But, buyer beware, as you may also notice that the odds to hit these payouts are significantly higher than the odds you are going to be paid out when they hit.

Keno has one of the highest house advantages of any game, as the casino charges you a hefty premium to chase those jackpot payouts.

Tips On How To Play Keno

Now that everyone should have at least a basic understanding of how a keno game works and the potential payouts that you are playing for, we are going to dive into our keno tips for beginners.

Please Note:
There is never going to be a surefire to win when you are playing keno, but if you follow these tips, you are going to give yourself the best chance of having fun and getting paid, while you learn how to play keno!

Play 6-8 Numbers

It is very easy to get tempted to play as many numbers as you can when playing keno. The casino advertises life-changing money for just a single dollar wager and that can be tough to resist.

But the reason that the casinos can offer in upwards of million-dollar jackpots on a keno game, is because you are never going to hit it anyway! No player in the history of regulated casinos has ever hit 20 out of 20 on a game of keno.

We already talked about how long the game has been around, and the fact that nobody has ever done it, shows you just how tough it can be.

Please Note:
That doesn’t mean you can’t win money playing 20 numbers, but just know that if that top payout is what you are after, it just isn’t going to happen. The sweet spot when it comes to how many numbers you should play falls in the 6-8 number range.

Playing 6-8 numbers gives you ample opportunities for big payouts, without having to hit the lottery to win. Hitting 6 out of 6 is far easier than hitting 20 out of 20, and you can still snag payouts of up to 1,500-1, which is still a massive payout when compared to hitting a blackjack for instance, that pays just 6-5.

For Example:
When you are learning how to play keno and trying to decide how many numbers to play, think of the fairy tale Goldilocks. But instead of porridge that is a little too hot or a little too cold, we are looking at the number of balls that aren’t quite enough or are far too many.

You want to find that perfect spot in the middle and playing 6-8 numbers is the keno version of the porridge that is just right!

Where To Play Keno Online:
Do you like what you see here? Make sure that you check out TheSportsGeek’s online keno page, where we bring you exclusive offers at all of the top online casinos. You can’t win if you don’t get in on the action and swinging by our online keno page is the perfect place to start your keno journey!

Play Consistent Numbers

This next tip isn’t a tip that is going to necessarily make you money, but it will stop you from going crazy while playing keno! Let’s say that you take the advice from above and play 7 numbers on a game of keno. You make your picks and you hit only 2 numbers, which isn’t good enough for a payout.

  • What do you do for the next game?
  • Do you stick with the numbers that just lost?
  • Or do you switch it up and give new numbers a try?

Mathematically, there is no difference, as the keno hopper, or random number generator if you are playing online keno, isn’t going to remember what happened in that last game. But as a player, there are few feelings worse than switching your numbers up and watching the numbers you had played the previous game come in.

Please Note:
Since there isn’t any strategic reason to keep your same numbers or try new ones, I would suggest picking out your lucky numbers and sticking with them to avoid any disappointment later. Don’t punish yourself with what could have been had you not made the change, and regret changing up your numbers and missing out on a jumbo payout.

That’s not to say that you can never switch things up, but I would discourage you from doing it too often, as it is only going to frustrate you later on. Pick your numbers, and let it ride, or suffer the consequences later when you are filled with regret while watching your previously selected numbers get called.

Play Numbers That You Know

This tip piggybacks off of our last tip, as you want to play numbers that you know. The most exciting part of playing keno is watching the numbers as they are called. This is a lot like squeezing out your final cards on a Pai Gow table or screaming for your horse down the homestretch of the Kentucky Derby.

In gambling circles, this is known as the sweat.

For most players, it is the most exciting part of gambling. We all like to say that we gamble to win money, but we say that knowing that in the long run, we are going to lose. So, in reality, we aren’t gambling to make money, we are gambling for the sweat.

Numbers That You Know:
What do we mean by numbers that you know? These are the numbers that are instantly recognizable to you. Numbers like your birthday, wedding anniversary date, or the year that you were born. These can be your lucky numbers, your favorite athlete’s jersey number, or really any number at all, that when it comes up, you immediately know that you are playing it.

The best way to maximize that sweat is to play numbers that you know. That way, as the numbers start to slowly drop in, you always have a good idea of how you are doing. Are you 1 ball away from a jackpot? You want to be aware of that so you can enjoy the max sweat and celebrate when it happens.

Similar to our last tip:
Playing numbers that you know isn’t going to be something that gives you better odds of winning, but it will make playing keno a lot more fun.

And at the end of the day, while we may all think that we are playing to win money, we are actually playing to have fun, and playing numbers that you know is a great way to have a ton of fun while playing keno!

Don’t Play Bonus Keno Games

When you have a game that has been around for as long as keno has, casinos are always looking for new ways to keep the game fresh.

We see keno side bets, bonus keno offerings, and progressive keno games amongst a bunch of other ever-evolving ways to bet on the game. But, as a long-time casino operator, I will tell you that if the casino comes out with a new way to bet on keno, you can be sure that the odds are not going to be in your favor.

Keno is already one of the highest hold casino games, but casinos are always looking for a way to make even more money, despite hold percentages of well over 25% on basic keno.

Please Note:
These games are typically more fun and exciting than basic keno, but the casino charges you for that additional fun and excitement with lower odds and payouts.

Basic keno is already going to be a tough game to beat with its high casino hold, and you aren’t going to want to venture out and try newer versions of the game, as they can make it nearly impossible to win.

I’m not saying that you should never give a game like caveman keno, Cleopatra keno, or multi-card keno a try.

But if you do, just know that the odds of winning are going to be much worse than the basic version of the game.


There has never been a better time to give keno a try than now, as online casinos will give you a chance to get in on the action for as little as pennies per game. Gone are the days when you had to drive to a casino, make your plays, and sit in a smokey lounge waiting to see if your numbers are drawn from the hopper.

Now you can play keno from your living room:
With online casinos offering better payouts, lower minimums, and better perks than brick and mortar casinos, playing keno online is a fantastic alternative, or replacement, for in-person live keno games. Has your favorite brick-and-mortar casino replaced the keno lounge with rows of slot machines?

Then you need to swing by TheSportsGeek’s online keno page right now, to get in on exclusive offers for our readers and get back in on the action! Thanks for reading and now that you know how to play keno and more importantly, how to win at keno, the time is right to give online keno a shot!


Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

  1. I like playing 9 spots. I’ve hit 8/9 over 30 times in the last 15 months, never 7/7 or 8/8

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