How to Play Keno

If you are looking for a fun and relaxing way to gamble, Keno might just be your game of choice. We are talking about the simplest form of gambling- just picking numbers. What can be easier than picking numbers and seeing if they match up to the ones that pop up on the screen.

Mass Appeal

Keno BallsKeno appeals to nearly everyone. Like simple to understand? How about super easy follow? If so, you will fall in love with Keno. Forget about specific odds. Throw strategy out the window. We pick numbers. We wait to see if they match the numbers on the screen.

Keno is so relaxed and entertaining, we thought an organized guide to Keno seemed appropriate for our readers. Any questions you have about the games and its rules should be answered in the following sections.

What’s Keno, How Do I Play?

When Did Keno Start?

It’s hard to pinpoint when the first game of Keno was actually played. Some say 3000 years ago during the Han Dynasty in China is where the game first originated. What we do know is the Macau region of China began to grant lottery licenses in 1847, thus sparking the beginning of regulated games being played.

It didn’t take long for the game to be transported from China into America. By 1866, records state that Keno was being played in Houston, Texas.

How Do I Play?

Before we get into where we can play, we have to talk about how to play. Like we said, we just pick numbers.

Each sheet of paper or virtual screen has the numbers 1-80 available. The bettor gets to pick numbers. How many numbers get picked is up to the player. Most casinos will allow you to fill out between 1-20 numbers.

20 of the 80 numbers are chosen at random. A random number generator program will literally spit these numbers out in no specific order. The numbers will start popping up one-by-one, similar to bingo. Once the random numbers are shown, you count the number of matches.

The payouts will be determined by two variables- how many total numbers you selected and how many of your selected numbers were chosen. The example below shows the odds in a game where you select 20 numbers. This list explains the true likelihood of getting your numbers right.

Correct Matches / Odds:

  • 0 / 1 in 843.380 (0.11857057%)
  • 1 / 1 in 86.446 (1.15678605%)
  • 2 / 1 in 20.115 (4.97142576%)
  • 3 / 1 in 8.009 (12.48637168%)
  • 4 / 1 in 4.877 (20.50318987%)
  • 5 / 1 in 4.287 (23.32807380%)
  • 6 / 1 in 5.258 (19.01745147%)
  • 7 / 1 in 8.826 (11.32954556%)
  • 8 / 1 in 20.055 (4.98618021%)
  • 9 / 1 in 61.420 (1.62814048%)
  • 10 / 1 in 253.801 (0.39401000%)
  • 11 / 1 in 1,423.822 (0.07023351%)
  • 12 / 1 in 10,968.701 (0.00911685%)
  • 13 / 1 in 118,084.920 (0.00084685%)
  • 14 / 1 in 1,821,881.628 (0.00005489%)
  • 15 / 1 in 41,751,453.986 (0.00000240%)
  • 16 / 1 in 1,496,372,110.872 (0.00000007%)
  • 17 / 1 in 90,624,035,964.712
  • 18 / 1 in 10,512,388,171,906.553
  • 19 / 1 in 2,946,096,785,176,811.500
  • 20 / 1 in 3,535,316,142,212,173,800.000

You can see we did not even mention the percentages of the last four. If you hit 17+ numbers, you don’t have to worry about the percentages. Just focus on which island you are booking your one-month vacation rental because you will be rich!

The experience playing in a live setting vs. playing online are a little different, so let’s explain both.

Live Keno

Whenever you see someone in the casino coffee shops in Vegas with that black crayon and a square sheet of paper, best believe they are playing Keno. It’s a great way to pass time after ordering one of those $7.95 steak and lobster specials. Just start filling out the little sheet of paper that’s already waiting at your table. Pick your numbers, hand it to the waitress and you’re done. You may end up winning more than you spent on that surf and turf!

It’s really that easy. The simplicity of the game is what draws so many people in. When you can win money without thinking while you are eating dinner – it’s going to be a winner.

This basic form of Keno is the most popular and prevalent type you will find at a land casino. However, depending where you are, different versions of Keno will be available. Slight variations of the game may be added so be sure to check the rules on the back of the sheet before you play.

The amount we bet per game of Keno is up to us, sort of. Most casinos minimum bet per game will be $1, while the max bet is typically $20.

Online Keno (Online Casino)

Getting dressed, getting in the car, parking, all that stuff- forget about it. One of the beauties of playing online vs. at the casino is the ability to skip all the steps we just mentioned. It can’t get much easier and more comfortable then playing keno from your couch in your pajamas. If that’s something you may be interested in, welcome to online Keno!

Playing keno online at any of the top sites will be a different experience than playing at an actual casino. First and foremost, you won’t have to wait the five minutes between games. The faster you can pick numbers and fire off entries, the more games you can play.

Like casinos, the online sites will generally allow you to select up to 20 numbers. Some sites may cap that number at 12 or 15, but 20 is a pretty round number for what most online casinos will allow. The betting amount online differs as many sites will start the betting as low at $0.01 per game.

Dropping the min bet from $1 (in a live casino) to $0.01 means players can simply play more games by risking the same amount of money. This is terrific because bettors love choices and options. The sites will also offer different variations of keno. They make small changes in the settings and appearances to make their version stand out to potential players. Higher volume at a higher rate is something the online casinos surely won’t be complaining about.

How Do the Payouts Work?

The best way to explain this is that it varies. Dependent upon which version of keno you are playing and where you are playing at-the payouts may differ. It really comes down to the different types of Keno that are offered. Because so many iterations of Keno are out there, the rules end up being tweaked around. Consequently, the payout returns will be different.

An example is the Keno games available in the state lotteries across the United States. A different structure is set in place compared to the ones found in casinos both live and online. Each state will have variations to their rules and payouts. Let’s look at the Keno lottery in Massachusetts compared the one in Kentucky to show you a clear case of differences in rules and payout structures.

In Kentucky, a person may select up to 10 numbers. When selecting one number, their payout is 2:1, meaning if they bet $1, they win $2.

In Massachusetts, a person may select up to 12 numbers. When selecting one number, their payout is 2.5:1, meaning if they bet $1, they win $2.50.

Keep in mind, selecting one number is not a good proposition for us. Our true odds of hitting one number are 4:1, or 25%. The casino paying out a measly 2:1 or 2.5:1 is their way of charging rake to players.

To take this point further, check out the follow table breaking down the odds if you were to select five numbers.

Correct Matches / Odds:

  • 0 / 1 in 4.40 (22.727273%)
  • 1 / 1 in 2.46 (40.650407%)
  • 2 / 1 in 3.70 (27.027027%)
  • 3 / 1 in 11.91 (8.396306%)
  • 4 / 1 in 82.70 (1.20919%)
  • 5 / 1 in 1550.57 (0.064492%)

To reiterate what the true odds are compared to what the casinos, sites, or state lotteries will pay out, you need to visually see them. You can see the odds of picking five out of five numbers correctly are over 1500 to 1. The Massachusetts and Kentucky Keno state lotteries for example only pay out 450 to 1 and 410 to 1 respectively for selecting five out of five correct numbers. The house, in this case the state lottery, uses that large discrepancy between the true odds and the actual payouts to make their money.

We like to make note that the payouts are almost always better online than at a casino. This is because the volume of games that can be run online is so much greater than at the casino. In turn, the online sites don’t have to “rake out” as much money from the players.

Variations of Keno

Playing Keno at the casino vs online is not the only choice we have to make. The online sites have so many versions of the game, it’s hard to keep track of them all. The important thing to note is the odds of picking numbers stays the same.

The payout structure changes based on the version of the game being played. How many games being run will also affect the payout structures. The more games of Keno being played, the less of a rake per game the site needs to take from the players. Finding a fun form of Keno online will surely be your best opportunity to win money playing Keno.


No calculator or brainpower needed here folks. Remembering the birthday of your child or spouse is the hardest you will have to think for Keno. Pick your favorite, lucky numbers and wait to see if they pop up. There is no rhyme or reason as to the order the numbers will appear, so don’t spend any time trying to figure it out. This is purely a game of chance.


Now that you know how to play keno, picking your numbers is the only thing left to do. Once you pick your numbers, forget it about it and move on.

To be fair, if your goal is to win money, Keno isn’t your best option. Collecting a rake anywhere from 20%-40%, Keno is not our most hopeful shot at glory. Games like blackjack and craps offer the player a much more realistic chance and winning money.

What can’t be taken away from Keno, is the pure pleasure we can attain from playing it. Seeing our lucky numbers pop up and winning money from that can’t be replaced. The convenience and ease of the game has been around for centuries, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.