The gambling game of Keno goes back a very long way, to ancient China. It was originally called boc hup bu, which in Chinese means “white dove ticket,” arising from the practice of having carrier pigeons carry the winning numbers to villages.
Legend states that the game was first devised by a Chinese official in ancient times who had embezzled funds and was looking for a way to pay the funds back. So he came up with the idea of the gambling game, and it was so successful that he not only recouped the money he stole, he became wealthy.
Keno is also said to have been used by the Chinese government to fund wars, and even to help pay for the construction of the Great Wall of China. So it goes back thousands of years and for most of that time remained a secret of the Chinese.
When Chinese immigrants came to the New World, they brought keno with them, and Chinese communities in urban areas would have several keno parlors operating, usually in the upper floor of a Chinese business. It was extremely popular within the community, and it costs a whole dollar per play back then, which was a nice sum of money in the 19th century, but this was not a game just played by the wealthy, as common folk found a way to dig deep to play their beloved game.
Slips of paper with 80 different Chinese characters were crafted, and then divided up and placed in 4 bowls of 20 numbers each. One of the patrons would then select a bowl, and the 20 numbers in this bowl would be the winners. Runners would then take the numbers around to the different Chinese businesses where bets were paid and more bets were taken on the next draw.
In 1866, the game was first seen to be offered by Westerners in Houston, Texas. Eventually it was felt that the game should be renamed, and the name keno was selected, which it is most commonly referred to today.
Keno is now widely played at casinos around the world, including online casinos, and lotteries also offer the game alongside their other lottery products.
How To Play Keno
Keno is a lottery style gambling game, which has the advantages of large potential payouts similar to a lottery but also allows the game to be run very frequently and requires far less ticket sales to make it work. Casinos generally offer keno, both in a dedicated keno room and throughout the casino on video monitors, with runners collecting bets, allowing players to play both keno and their other casino favorites at the same time.
The number pool of 20 out of 80 has remained the same pretty much over the years, although there is some variation with this, especially in variations run by lotteries. The format of the games does differ as well, although typically players will select from 4 to 10 numbers, looking to hit all of their numbers, with payouts based upon the probabilities of certain amounts of numbers hitting.
While keno at land based casinos does benefit from far fewer players needed to run the game, playing keno online completely eliminates this need, as the cost of running the game becomes rather meaningless, and you can simply play keno against the computer in this case, turning it into an on demand game.
Online keno also offers players the ability to play in practice mode, although there’s really nothing to practice here, it’s just a matter of picking your numbers and there is no strategy involved at all, much like there isn’t any picking lottery numbers. Players may go with numbers that are meaningful to them but no one selection is superior to another with this game as all numbers have an equal probability of being drawn.
The Mass Appeal of Keno
Gamblers do tend to like simpler games, and perhaps the simpler the better, and they also enjoy the prospects of bigger wins. With the odds of hitting all 20 numbers, should one be allowed to play it, being 1 in 3.5 quintillion, well this is many times all the money in the world even with a penny bet, so it’s simply a matter of how big of a payout the casino or operator is comfortable with, and the sky is the limit.
The return to player percentage with keno is a lot lower than other casino games, although this does vary, but the margins with keno tend to be quite a bit higher, with the house take typically being in the 30% to 35% range. Players willingly submit to this though due to the small amount required to bet and the high level of excitement in seeking to win bigger payouts, much like they do with lotteries.
Of course players don’t have to shoot for the huge payouts here, they can simply pick a lesser amount of numbers and go for smaller but more likely wins, and this is one of the beauties of keno, the player decides just how they want to play it, and playing keno couldn’t be easier.