What is Keno – How to Play this Game

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Keno is an old game, history traces it back to ancient China. Is it actually that old, we cannot confirm. Legend says that it was invented to save an ancient city during a war. Its success in ancient China was supposed to be the main source of income for the building of the Great Wall of China. This, however, is countered by the fact that lotteries were not used to fund public institutions until the 19th century.

Regardless, the game found its way to the west through Portuguese explorers in Macau. The game was played as a lottery and the results were distributed by carrier pigeons. One of the game’s early names was pakapoo, which is a westernized way of describing the game, the actual meaning being “white dove ticket”.

Immigrants from China came to the US in the 19th century and brought the lottery game with them. While helping build the railroad, the First Transcontinental Railroad, the game spread among the west. In Texas, especially, it became immensely popular and got the name Keno.

Playing keno today is possible in casinos and on many online lottery sites. There are lottery specific casinos where you can play games like bingo and keno, including other lotteries, which usually have less of a house advantage.

How to Play Keno

Keno is a relatively simple game where you have to choose 20 numbers ranging from 1 to 80, usually. The numbers are then drawn by using a random number generator or a ball system similar to that of the lotteries and bingo.

Depending on how many numbers you hit, you can gain more or less money. Interestingly enough, if you manage to hit 0, 1, 2 and 3 numbers out of 20, you will still get paid, especially if you hit 0 numbers. The probability of hitting 0 numbers is much lesser than hitting 6, for example. Hitting all 20 is virtually impossible if only 20 numbers are drawn so usually the jackpot prize is also achievable by hitting 19 numbers.

Do note that you don’t always get to pick 20 numbers but sometimes 10. A game of keno, or race, as it is known, does not have to draw the exact number you can pick. They usually draw more numbers than you can pick because the odds would be very unfavorable for the players otherwise.

Do note that often you can pay to have your ticket run for more than one race. That means that the ticket will play in more games of keno than the one you first purchased it for. The exact same numbers you picked will be played more times, depending on how many races you decide to enter.

Look for different keno games as casinos can have a varying house advantage. Talk to people to find a great spot to play and never limit yourself to just a specific casino. Look around for more casinos which might get you better odds.


Never overdo it, even with keno. Remember to play responsibly and good luck in the races.