Guide to Keno

Guide to Keno

Anyone who has ever bought a standard number-draw-style lottery ticket will quickly recognise which category of games Keno falls into… or does it? Is Keno just a straightforward number game, or is there more to it? Keno is unique in that it is widely played as both a casino game and a lottery game, giving it a far wider audience than many other casino games. Its simplicity means its appeal is across the board, transcending societal barriers and finding fans among a wide spectrum of people

A casino is a casino is a casino, right? How different can one casino be from another? All they do is exchange money for chips, offer games, and then exchange chips for money.

Well, no. No story goes, “Once upon a time, everything was simple, everything was the same, and everyone was happy. The end.”

Every casino – both brick and mortar and online – is unique. Yes, there are similarities, both legislative and game based, but there’s no way to summarise all casinos with just a few simple sentences.

Luckily for you, we have taken the time and effort to really get into the foundations of online gambling: what makes it tick, how it works, what players can expect, and so much more. Here, we offer you all the in-depth guides to online casinos and gambling you’ll need. And we take that promise seriously, which is why we are constantly working to add more guides that cover every aspect of the online casino experience.

In this series of guides, you will find information about jackpots, variance and volatility, online casinos, casino bonuses, withdrawals and deposits, and more.

Why should you use guides?

Casino guides like these can really help enhance your online casino experience. For example, jackpot guides don’t just tell you what a jackpot is; they explain the various types of jackpot, how they work, how to play to win, where to find games with different jackpots, and even who the game developers are.

Casino bonus guides are another super useful way to figure out which online casinos will work best for you. We don’t only look at the types of bonus offered, but explain how they work, the hidden pitfalls to look out for, and ways to make the most of your wagering requirements.

You’ll find enough information here to keep you busy longer than a great game of poker, so dig in, and come out the other side a little more knowledgeable. And if there’s anything you’d like to learn more about that you don’t find here on CasinoPlay, let us know. Happy reading!

Keno as it is played today relies on 20 numbered balls being randomly drawn and matched to the players’ tickets (sound familiar?). However, in its early iterations, it was a game played with tickets and homing pigeons. This was over 2000 years ago, in China, where the game was called bai ge piao, which means ‘white pigeon ticket’.

In modern China, the game still thrives, but the tickets now bear the first 80 characters in the Qianziwen, or Book of a Thousand Characters. In the meantime, its ancient ancestor inspired not only Keno, but also Lotto and everyone’s granny’s favourite, Bingo, in the West.

When it first showed up in the USA, along with Chinese immigrants, it quickly gained popularity among non-Chinese gamblers, who substituted numbers for the traditional characters. Because of its similarity to lotteries, when it made its way to Reno, Nevada, they switched out the numbers for racehorses, to avoid contravening state lottery laws.


Keno requires two pieces of equipment to work: a ticket and a draw machine. The draw machine usually comprises a familiar round, transparent container filled with several numbered balls – 80, to be precise. The ticket contains the numbers 1 to 80. In an online casino environment, or when playing video Keno, the ‘ticket’ will likely appear as a table.

Game play

Players select up to 20 numbers on their ticket that they believe will be drawn.

Next, the numbers inside the draw machine are tumbled or spun, and 20 are drawn. In some cases, players are allowed to choose how many games they would like to participate in with the same ticket.

Finally, players’ tickets are compared to the numbers drawn, and, depending on how many numbers the player predicted accurately, they can claim winnings. If the player has selected multiple games, then they keep the ticket in play for subsequent rounds.

Once again, much as with the standard lottery we’re all familiar with, the operator of the game can set up the bets and pay tables at their own discretion. There is no one fixed formula for calculating what their payouts should be, so it varies considerably from casino to casino, and even game to game.

Playing online

The major difference between online Keno and traditional Keno is that the numbers are selected by a random number generator (RNG). In fact, many live Keno games now also use an RNG instead of a physical draw machine and balls.

Keno rules are flexible, much like the payouts. Not all rules will be applied equally across all operators, but here are some of the more widely-used and recognised ones.

Choosing numbers

The maximum amount of numbers you can usually choose on a ticket is 20. The minimum amount can vary, with some casinos allowing as few as one, but most casinos set the range at 15-20. Choose any numbers you want, you can pick up to 10 numbers. The ideal choice is between four to eight numbers.

Take note of the Match/Win table – this will show your potential winnings for the ticket before you purchase.

Betting variations

Again, the casino will set the rules on bet variants that are allowed. For example, combination tickets allow you to play combinations with various groupings; or, there is the king ticket, with one number assigned as king, which is added as a bonus number to all combinations.

Keno is an incredibly straightforward game in its pure form, but, of course, we humans like to spice things up now and then. As a result, there are a few variations on Keno. Because of its flexibility, there are so many variations with their unique spins on the game that we cannot possibly cover them all. Here, though, are a few of our favourites.

Roulette Keno

Combining two of the casino’s most popular number games of chance, this version uses a roulette-style wheel instead of drawing balls from a hopper.

Mini Keno (40-Ball)

The only real difference between this and classic keno is that the grid has only 40 numbers, and players select a maximum of 10. Think of it as the T20 of Keno.

Online Keno

The creativity and ingenuity that goes into online casino games is legendary and, as a result, you will find many Keno games online. Some of these follow the strict classic Keno format, while others go wild and crazy with ways to choose the numbers, special extras and bonuses, and loads more.

Progressive jackpot Keno

Of course, you can’t mention online Keno without talking about progressive jackpot Keno. Due to its lottery-like game play, Keno lends itself to progressive jackpot play, and this is offered by some casinos and game designers. The jackpots don’t always tend to reach the stratospheric amounts that progressive slots do, but they can nevertheless be handsome.

Live dealer Keno

Surprisingly, Keno didn’t feature as a live dealer game in online casinos until very recently – 2020, in fact –  when Mega Ball first appeared thanks to Evolution Gaming.

If you have ever tried to out-think the state lottery, you will realise quickly just how impossible it is. Keno is a game of pure chance and therefore immune to strategies that try to guess the right number. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of your chances, however.

  • Avoid choosing numbers that have significance to you. These all too often include dates, limiting your scope significantly. Rather go with a randomised approach, or some equally random pattern that you select to ensure you cover all bases.
  • Pay close attention to the individual game’s rules and specifications. As games differ, there may be something beneficial to you within those specs, such as groupings, bonuses, etc.
  • Study the pay tables. As these vary considerably between operators, it is worthwhile to study them. This can help you determine whether the potential of a big win is worth the ongoing cost, or if you’d be better off going for smaller bets and wins.
  • Manage your bankroll. Consider putting a limit on bets or losses, either through the casino itself, or by tracking expenditure carefully.
  • Remember that Keno is a game of chance, and predicting its outcomes is impossible. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to figure out the best odds, as this is a waste of your time and energy.


Keno may be a simple game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a unique vocabulary associated with it. Some of the important terms include:

  • Aggregate limit: the maximum total payout for a round that the casino is liable for, even if the winners’ total winnings exceed this. In this case, winnings may be reduced.
  • Balls: the 80 numbered balls from which the winning numbers are drawn
  • Draw: the 20 numbers that are drawn and displayed each round
  • Ticket: the form on which players select their unique numbers

Keno is by far one of the simplest casino games available, both in terms of game complexity and player interaction. This may be just why it is incredibly popular in its many variations and the plethora of lottery games based on it. It is one game that pervades society without us necessarily knowing its origins or name. Even in its simplicity, it is an exciting, fun game that speaks to the pure nature of games of chance.

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