Are you chasing the wrong jackpots?
By David Stratton
Why would you chase an 800-1 jackpot, when you can pursue a 7,000-1 prize with about the same chances of hitting it?
Video keno has traditionally taken a back seat to video poker in Las Vegas casinos. One of the reasons is the keno machine’s relatively low 92 percent payback percentage. But that’s just one measure of a game. A closer inspection of the jackpots, and the odds to achieve them, reveals that keno payoffs are actually better than video poker jackpots, and they’re more easily attained.
Let’s use the royal flush as an example. The odds of hitting a royal on a Jacks or Better or a Deuces Wild machine are about 41,000-1 (they’re slightly higher on a joker machine because of the 53rd card). However, the standard payoff is only 800-for-1 or $1,000 on a quarter machine with five coins bet (if you bet less than five coins, the payoff drops to a paltry 250-for-1!).
A comparable video keno jackpot (in terms of odds) would be hitting seven out of seven numbers, with a probability of about 41,000-1. Yet the keno payoff is a healthy 7,000-for-1. On a quarter machine that translates to $7,000 for a bet of four quarters (a single quarter returns $1,750!).
Obviously, there’s a lot more math involved when you take the entire game into consideration and factor in the other hits, but the bottom line is this: why would you chase an 800-1 jackpot, when you can pursue a 7,000-1 prize with about the same chances of hitting it?
Since the royal flush is such an elusive jackpot, it might be more practical to compare some of video poker’s smaller – and more reachable – jackpots to their video keno counterparts. In the process, we can also see just what significance the payback percentage of both games really means.
Deuces Wild is a popular video poker game, based on the “intermediate” jackpot of catching four deuces, which pays 200 coins (or credits) for each coin bet. The odds, however, of catching four deuces is about 4900-to-1, which is three times higher than catching 6-of-7 or 7-of-9 video keno jackpots, but which pay 400 coins and 335 coins, respectively.
Similarly, Joker Poker has a 200-coin jackpot for catching 5-of-a-kind (four of a kind plus the joker), but once again the odds of 10,700-to-1 make the jackpot a relatively rare occurrence. A comparable video keno jackpot would be catching 6-of-6 numbers with odds of 7700-to-1, but whose payoff is 1600 coins, eight times the Joker Poker award!
In recent years, Double Double Bonus Poker has probably become the most popular video poker game, based on the intermediate jackpots available. They include catching four aces, four aces with a kicker, four twos, threes or fours and four twos, threes or fours with a kicker.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds to hit those jackpots, and how the payoffs compare to similar video keno jackpots.
Four aces with a kicker (the fifth card is a two, three or four) pays 400 coins, half the royal flush award, but the odds of hitting it are about 16,000-to-1. Two video keno jackpots, catching 6-of-6 and 7-of-8 numbers, have odds about half the four aces odds (which means they occur twice as frequently), but with payoffs of about 1600 coins each!
Catching four aces without the kicker pays 160 coins, as does catching four twos, threes or fours (with an ace through four kicker), but their odds are 5700-to-1 and 7000-to-1, respectively.
What does all this mean to the player?
Video poker pay tables are heavily weighted on the minor or “lesser” awards, such as catching two pairs, three-of-a-kind, straights and flushes, whereas video keno pay tables are heavily weighted to the higher jackpots, such as the aforementioned 6-of-6, 7-of-8 and 8-of-9 jackpots.
I’ve reproduced the pay tables for Double Double Bonus Poker and 9-spot keno games, so you can have a side-by-side comparison of the jackpots and the odds to attain them.
The tables also include a column called “return,” which measures how much the payoffs contribute to the overall return of the machine. The total return is sometimes called the machine’s “payback percentage,” which is often (and mistakenly) construed as a measure of whether or not the game is worth playing.
Notice that the payoffs for the video poker game – which has an overall return of 100 percent – are heavily weighted to the smaller jackpots, whereas the video keno game – which has an overall return of only 92 percent – returns more for the larger payoffs.
If there is a bottom line in comparing a 100 percent video poker machine and a 92 percent video keno machine, it is this: You will probably hit more smaller jackpots on the poker machine, which might tend to make your bankroll last longer. But if you can catch the intermediate and larger keno awards, they pay off much more handsomely and at odds that are easier to overcome than their poker counterparts.
And that’s the reason why video keno has developed a loyal legion of followers – higher jackpots at lower odds.
In the next issue of Casino Player, we’ll look at video keno strategy and how to best pursue those elusive jackpots. And finally, we’ll examine keno variations such as multi-card keno games and keno with bonus features.
Video keno vs. video poker pay tables
Video keno 9-spot pay table
Double Double Bonus Poker pay table
* requires five coins bet