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how to play keno

The laws, regulations and platforms of lotteries around the world vary greatly but one constant is that almost every lottery offers options to play the game of keno. Keno is basically a guessing game with no skill set involved but it’s a favored gambling game worldwide. Now, thanks to the Sloto Cash online casino, players can  play keno for both high and low stakes at any time and from any location on their PC or handheld mobile device.


Keno dates back over 2000 years to China when it was called  baige piao or pai-ko p’iao . The original game was played with tickets that didn’t have numbers but instead, included the first 80 characters in Qianziwen (“Book of a Thousand Characters”), a classic in Chinese literature which contains exactly 1,000 Chinese ideograms (characters).

Each ideogram is different but all of them are well known among educated Chinese. That’s where the tradition developed of using these characters in place of the corresponding numbers from 1 to 1,000. Players would choose a series of numbers or characters and prizes would be paid out based on which chosen numbers came up in a random drawing.

The name baige piao  means “white pigeon ticket.” Baige piao games were played throughout China with local gambling houses organizing the drawings. After a draw, the results would be sent by carrier pigeon from one village to the next.

The local governor would oversee the games and take a share of the profits. The profits were so significant that they were used for many public works, including, according to some, underwriting the costs of building the Great Wall of China.

Keno migrated to the West when Chinese immigrants began to move to California to build the railroads. The game was played within groups of Chinese immigrants and slowly, it’s popularity spread to other communities. Characters were converted to numbers and the “Chinese lottery” was renamed “keno”--a corruption of the French word quine (“group of five”).

In the ‘30s, gambling houses in Reno and Vegas started to include keno in their list of offerings. To avoid state laws concerning lotteries they called keno “Race-Horse Keno” and used names of horses instead of numbers on the tickets. When the law outlawing lotteries was changed in 1951 the casinos went back to calling the game “keno”.

Today keno is available for real money gaming in all casinos around the world and in most lotteries, both online and land-based.

How to Play

As mentioned, it’s easy to play keno. To play:

  1. Acquire a keno card. Modern keno is played with cards that feature numbers 1-80. Those numbers match the numbers on the balled in the keno machine.

  2. Choose your numbers. The keno card is arranged with 8 rows and 10 columns of numbers Mark your selected numbers. There are different keno variations with different options of how many numbers you can select so check the card to find out how many numbers you are allowed to choose.

    Most keno cards allow you to choose 20 numbers but some give you 10 choices. Your selected numbers are called “keno spots”. You don’t have to make the maximum number of picks but your ticket costs the same regardless of how many selections you make so you might as well pick as many as possible.

  3. Make your bet. You can bet on individual numbers of on groups of numbers (the “way” bet.) Way bets are more complicated because they involve picking combinations from groups of numbers which can make it hard to keep track of your picks.

  4. Wait for the draw. The keno machine uses its Random Number Generator to pick 20 balls (or 10 balls in a 10-ball keno game). The numbers will display on the machine. Check to see if the numbers that you picked match the numbers chosen by the machine. If you have a match, you win, with the amount of your win depending on how much you bet and how many numbers you matched.


Keno is basically a game of luck but there are some strategies that give you a bit of a boost in your efforts to achieve a win. Keno aficionados suggest the following strategies:

  1. Use a “way” ticket in which you bet on groups of numbers.
  2. Use a “bet combination” where the numbers overlap in combinations.
  3. Use a “king” ticket where single number choices are inserted into combinations.
  4. Bet on the bonus – also called a “booster” or a “bull’s eye”. It’s a more expensive bet but the payouts are much higher.
  5. Bet on the progressive jackpot if there is one. The progressive jackpot keeps growing so, for a small bet, you have a chance of achieving a big win.


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