We've Got Your Number: How to Play Keno

Ed Scimia


We've Got Your Number: How to Play Keno

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to play keno. This keno guide will cover how to play this casino classic both online and in live, brick-and-mortar settings. We’ll go over how to take advantage of keno promotions, how to find the best keno games, and even some keno tips that can help improve your results no matter where you play.

Keno 101: An Introduction to an Institution

Close view of Keno cards

Keno is a game that plays similarly to the lotteries run by governments throughout the world. The game derives its name from the French word quine, which means “five winning numbers,” though the game has its roots in China, rather than Europe.

While there are fantastical legends about the ancient origins of Keno, it more likely began in Macao shortly after lottery operators were licensed by the ruling Portuguese government in 1847. According to some accounts, the games – often played with 80 Chinese characters – would send results to outlying villages by carrier pigeon, giving it the name Baige Piao, or “white dove tickets.”

Over time, Chinese immigrants took the game to the United States and other areas, with the name eventually morphing from anglicised versions of the original Chinese name to the French/Latin-rooted Keno.

Today, the game of Keno is popular in both online and land-based casinos around the world. It offers lottery action with much more customization and faster results, making it a simple game with potentially huge payouts for players.

Let the Balls Roll: How to Play Keno

Before you step into a keno casino, you’ll want to know the basics of how to play. We’ve broken it up into a few sections below.


A bingo ball machine

The game of keno is typically played with 80 balls, numbered 1-80. Traditionally, land-based keno games would require a tumbler or other device out of which a casino employee could pull those balls, though most top keno games are now run using random number generators, and this is nearly always how you will play keno online.

Live keno games also feature cards that players can fill out to place their bets. In online games, these cards are simulated, but all the same betting options are available.


In a live keno setting, keno games are drawn rapidly, perhaps every five or 10 minutes. Players can follow the course of a drawing – or see the time until the next drawing – from boards placed around the venue, often including areas in restaurants and bars in the casino. Cards are available in these locations, with runners available to pick them up so players can easily place bets.

In online play, players can place their bets at their leisure, and start new games whenever they like. This allows you to play keno at whatever pace is most comfortable to you.

How bets are placed

To place bets, players must choose a number of numbers – or “spots” – on the keno card. Depending on the keno game in question, players may be able to choose as few as one spot, or play as many as 10, 15, or even 20 spots. In live games, players can choose to keep their spots for a certain number of upcoming games, while in online play, you will have the option of changing your selections whenever you like.

How numbers are drawn

Once a drawing begins, no more bets will be taken. At this point, numbers will be drawn one at a time until 20 of the 80 numbers have been selected. No numbers can be drawn twice, and there are always 20 unique spots chosen.

Players will have to match a minimum number of spots to win a price. If a player chooses just one or two spots, they will need to make all of their matches; however, in a larger selection, players don’t need a perfect match to win. For instance, when picking six spots, you will usually win a prize if you hit three or more matches, with more matches resulting in larger payouts. For games of 10 or more spots, you may also win a prize for hitting zero matches.

How House Edge Works in Keno

House edge is a measure of how much the casino is mathematically expected to win on each bet a player makes over the long term. From the player’s perspective, return-to-player (RTP) is a similar figure, expressed in the percentage of each bet the player expects to win back.

In keno, the house edge is determined by the pay table set by the casino. There are almost an infinite number of possible payout schemes, with no single standard applied across the industry. Thus, unlike in blackjack, where there are steps you can take to reduce the house edge based on how you play, the best keno strategies are to seek out games and bets with the lowest house edge possible.

Online keno vs. keno in a live venue

One of the best keno tips we can offer to our readers is to play online. The games offered at keno casino sites generally have far lower house edges than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. This is largely due to reduced overhead: while live keno requires a number of employees to run, and takes time to draw numbers, online keno is completely controlled by software that can handle all the details of running games whenever players like.

Tips for the Keno Beginner

One of the difficulties you’ll run into when looking for keno tips is that there’s a lot of bad advice out there. The truth is that keno is a luck-based game. There are no secret betting strategies that can suddenly making yourself a keno winner.

Playing a luck-based game doesn’t mean there aren’t many ways to improve your results. From bankroll management to taking advantage of promotions, we can help you get the most out of your keno play.

  • Take advantage of free play opportunities and other keno promotions. In many cases, this means looking for no deposit bonuses that allow you to play keno as a part of your bonus period. Thankfully, most casinos are happy to allow keno as part of their game selection during promotions.
  • Be sure to stick to a budget at all times. If you deposit money to enjoy real money keno online, stick to playing with funds you can afford to lose.
  • Start with smaller games that use fewer spots per draw. While it is tempting to go after massive jackpots by hitting 10 or more spots, these results are extremely unlikely, while smaller games with six or fewer spots are far more consistent.

More Advanced Keno Strategy

If you’re ready to take your keno thinking to the next level, we have a few more strategies that take a little more work on your part. While nothing here will guarantee you a win, these keno tips will get you the best results possible and come out ahead more often.

  • Look for keno games with jackpots or other bonus prizes. In games with progressive jackpots, the house edge will get smaller as these prizes grow, and some games can even have a player advantage with enough extra money thrown in.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop around for the game with the best odds. This can either be done by finding a generous general pay table, or looking for the game with the best payouts for the number of spots you like to play, if you consistently play the same way.
  • Bankroll management for keno should vary based on how you enjoy the game. If you’re playing just one spot at a time, starting with enough funds to cover 20-30 bets can keep you playing for a long time. However, if you’re playing high-risk, high-reward games with 8 or more spots, you may want 100-200 times your bet – or more – to absorb long losing streaks in stride.
  • Don’t get fooled into thinking you can spot patterns in the numbers that are being selected. While this is usually harmless, as every draw is independent and random, it can cause trouble if you start to spend more money chasing certain outcomes. That’s a sure way to exceed your keno budget.

Conclusion and Where to Play Keno Online

The information on this page should be more than enough to teach you how to play keno. We hope this keno guide will help you enjoy this popular game, and give you the tips you need to have fun while playing safely and confidently.

The best way to get started on your journey is to play keno online, where you can get better odds and more customizable gameplay. Our team has done extensive research to come up with our list of recommended online casinos where you can play keno and other great games. Check them out and start playing keno today!