Striking the Mother Lode – Keno and Bingo

Catching On to Keno Basics

In many casinos, keno operates 24 hours a day, and a new game starts about every ten minutes. (However, most cruise ship casinos and some smaller casinos don’t have keno.) In fact, keno runners — whose job is to zip throughout the casino gathering bets — make betting at keno while you’re playing the slots or having a drink at the bar possible. Keno is a “need-not-be-present-towing” game. So whether you choose to play in the comfy keno lounge, where cocktail servers are at your beck and call offering free drinks, or you flag down a keno runner while eating breakfast, you’re bound to find a keno game within easy reach. Before you can play, you need to know where to go and what to do. This section provides you with the essentials: how to play, how to mark your card, and how to gather your winnings (if you’re so lucky).

Playing the game

Gambling doesn’t get much easier than keno. Each keno game is a race. When playing keno, your goal is to guess numbers drawn from a large hopper that vaguely resembles an oversized popcorn popper. From 80 balls marked with numbers, the machine randomly shoots up 20 balls the winning numbers into a long gooseneck. (Some casinos, however, have modernized and now use a computer to pick the numbers.)

Filling out your ticket: X marks the spot

Keno is probably the easiest game in a casino. Mark a few numbers with an X, and cross your fingers as the keno board fills up. But you do have a few betting variations when playing keno, in addition to the standard way to play, which is called a straight ticket. This section identifies the different ways you can fill out your keno ticket as well as the important areas on the actual ticket that you need to fill in.

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Winning and collecting

A catch is any number that you mark and is one of the 20 numbers the house draws. But whether you win depends on how many numbers you hit in relation to how many you originally marked. The brochure available in the keno lounge spells out the house rules and payouts — and payouts do vary from casino to casino.

Exploring keno variations

Live keno is the keno you play in casinos, based in the keno lounge and broadcast on the large keno boards throughout. Although it’s quite convenient and accessible, live keno still requires you to be in the casino to track the results and claim your prize if you win. But other versions of keno offer even more flexibility. This section covers a few of those more popular versions.

Figuring Out the ABCs of B-I-N-G-O

Like keno, bingo is a numbers game that has been around for centuries, slowly evolving into its present form. Originating in Italy in the 1500s, bingo is very popular worldwide — not just in casinos and on cruises, but at churches and other religious institutions as a way to raise funds. Arguably one of the most familiar forms of gambling, the game of bingo may need little explanation — you play it virtually the same way whether you’re at a second-grade birthday party or in an Indian-reservation casino.

Calling Forth Winning Bingo Strategies

Bingo is another one of those games of chance. Although you have no sway over which numbers the caller announces, and no amount of skill or troll dolls, rabbit’s feet, or lucky tokens can change the outcome of the draws, you can take steps to improve your odds of winning.

Winning at bingo: Odds aren’t all that bad (sometimes)

You may be surprised, but casino bingo sometimes has excellent odds! Unlike keno’s steep 25 to 40 percent house advantage, casino bingo has a much lower house edge and can be as low as 1 to 3 percent. The game isn’t a big winning proposition for casinos, but they offer it as one more way to bring in the crowds that they hope hit the slots before (and after) the bingo sessions. Unfortunately, if you’re cruising for a mean bingo game in Vegas, you won’t find it on the Strip. But you can find one at some of the older casinos downtown.


Some of these complex patterns are more challenging to track if you’re playing multiple cards. As an aid, the rules of the game allow you to Premark your card with a different colored marker or a pencil — just sketch or outline the pattern you need in order to win. Then use the regular blotter to mark the called numbers. And always remember to mark your free square before you begin every game! However, the newer computerized versions of bingo typically display the current game pattern on a big screen behind the caller. So if you’re ever confused, just snatch a quick peek there for reference.

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