How to play Keno? Tips to play Keno for Beginning

What is keno?

Keno is a gambling game and is a primitive form of lottery. The gambling games of lottery, bingo, and keno all have a common ancestor called beige piao, which originated in China. Unlike the lottery, where the player buys a ticket with numbers printed on it, keno consists of cards containing numbers one through eighty. The player can pick ten numbers of their choice (some variations also allow them to choose 12, 15, or 20 digits). A set of randomly drawn numbers decides the prize based on how many numbers the player has picked and how many of them match with the randomly drawn numbers.

Origin and history

The roots of the game keno can be traced back to ancient China, where it is believed that the widespread popularity of the game aided financially in the construction of the Great Wall of China. But the word keno is a corrupted form of the French term ‘quine’ (meaning five winning numbers).

The Chinese version consisted of sheets containing Chinese characters from which the winning characters were decided. The game was introduced in the west by immigrants from China in the 19th century. The Chinese characters were replaced by numbers, from where it acquired mass appeal and came to be known as keno.

How to play keno?

Traditionally, keno was played in casinos, but it has been played on online platforms like and offered as a game by some state lotteries over the years.

Players wager by choosing numbers from 1 through 80. A player can choose as many numbers as he wishes up to the permitted maximum by circling the individual numbers on his ticket or by clicking over the numbers in case of an online platform.

Then, 20 numbers from 1 through 80 are drawn at random either with a ball machine or with a random number generator. The prizes are decided based on the number of selections made by the player, the number of matches among those selections, and the wager made by the player.

For example, imagine you are playing a game of keno in one of the casinos of Las Vegas. Consider a game where the maximum selection limit is ten numbers. You can choose anything between one number to ten digits. Let’s assume that you decided on five numbers. These could be the numbers that hold some special meaning to you or those chosen based on your intuition or randomly selected numbers. Then you make a bet or wager of a specific sum of money that the numbers selected by you will be present in the set of the drawn numbers.

When all the players present around the table have made their predictions and have made their wager, 20 random numbers are drawn with the ball machine.

In case all the numbers that you chose match from the set of drawn numbers. Then you’ll receive, say, 800 points (the points mentioned here are just for analogy. In reality, you’ll receive a fixed amount for every match). Whereas if only three of the numbers of your choice had matched, then you would have received just 3 points. As you can see, the rewards are not equally distributed over the number of matches but are based on probabilities of those outcomes.

Now, had you selected seven numbers out of which five were a match, you would receive just 22 points, whereas a game of three numbers would have gotten you 1 point. But, a game of all seven numbers would have given you a reward of 7000 points.

It is easier to hit five matches out of seven selections than to hit all five games out of five selections. To put it across in simpler words, you are more likely to get five games when you have made seven selections than when you have made only five selections. And the lesser the probability of the outcome, the higher is the reward for that outcome.

Digging deeper

Although most game variants pay more as the number of matches by a player increases, some forms of the game do the opposite. The player receiving a considerable sum when none of his selected numbers is a game is a reasonably usual occurrence. In this form of the game, you need to choose numbers that won’t be present in the randomly drawn lot of numbers. Kind of like a minesweeper.

In the usual keno, a player managing a ten out of ten matches is virtually impossible. For this reason, the following two highest number of games receive the same rewards as that of a ten on ten games. In other words, getting an eight of eight or nine of nine matches would get you the same rewards as if you had gotten ten of ten matches.

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It means a player can win the highest reward in the game without obtaining the least probable outcome of the game, as would have been the case. A player would not choose more than eight numbers in his ticket, as choosing more means that he needs to match more numbers without getting any more rewards. Also, even if he manages to get eight of nine matches, he would receive fewer rewards than an eight on eight-match, as it is not the least probable outcome when selecting nine numbers.


If you are intrigued enough to try out your hand in keno, you need not worry about going to casinos in these times. Some online platforms and apps let you try out your luck both for free and with a wager. So go ahead and get busy finding your matches.