The appeal of playing keno online is that it’s a quick game that’s easy to play and which is accessible to just about anybody without the need to learn complicated rules, betting strategy or terminology. Ultimately, it’s a game of pure chance, although it’s not entirely devoid of the need for a strategic approach based on an understanding of the odds and house edge.
One of the advantages of playing online is that these games are usually bright and colorful with a sense of fun, and the next game always comes around very quickly. In addition, keno is the ideal game to play on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet because the graphics and soundtrack tend to be relatively straightforward, making it easier to enjoy to the full on smaller screens.
Our recommended Canadian online casinos listed below offer a range of different keno games to enjoy:
History of Keno Games
Ancient China: It is believed that the origins of the game go back to ancient China (as so many games do), and was originally a form of lottery used to raise taxation to pay for civil defence. Thought to have used 120 different Chinese characters rather than numbers as in the contemporary version, players used a calligraphy pen to mark with ink the characters they wanted to choose in the draw, and the numbers players select today are still referred to as ‘spots’.
The game continued to be played in this way throughout ancient China (legend has it that proceeds from keno contributed to the building of the Great Wall) and remained largely unchanged for centuries, until it was brought to the US by Chinese immigrants in the Gold Rush of the 1850s. The game then evolved into its present format of 80 numbers, which replaced the Chinese characters that had been a part of the game for so many years.
The twentieth century: Keno eventually found its way into US casinos at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the numbers were written on paper and rolled up into tubes. It wasn’t until 1936 that the features which we would recognise today, consisting of numbers carved into wooden balls (called ‘peas’) being drawn from a machine, made its first appearance. In the 1980s this technology began to be replaced in casinos by video screens and RNGs, although the rules and how the game is played have remained largely constant.
Online keno: Emerged with the first online casinos and is now an integral part of most sites’ games offerings. When you play the game online, you are essentially playing the game as it has been played for the last century or so i.e., choosing from a board of 80 numbers, with prescribed limits as to how few or how many numbers can be chosen in any one ‘race’ (the term for a draw of numbers).
How to Play Keno Online
A kind of lottery – Playing keno online is very straightforward, and for many this is its appeal – in essence, it is a form of small lottery. Players are presented with a board containing the numbers 1 – 80 from which they select (usually) between one and fifteen. (Some games will also have a Quick Pick option, where numbers are randomly selected for you.)
The draw – The race then begins, and between fifteen and twenty numbers (depending on the game) are drawn by an RNG. Players win according to how many of their numbers, or ‘catches’, are drawn, with the size of prize that is paid out depending on how many catches are made.
Your wins – The drawn numbers will usually be marked and catches highlighted so that you can track your progress as the race progresses, and there will often also be a paytable that indicates how much you have won and which updates in real time, meaning you can watch the size of your prize increase.
Coins and numbers – Most keno games can be played for between $0.10 – $10 per race, and players have the choice to retain their selected numbers or pick new ones each time a new race begins. Most of the games at the online casinos we recommend also have an auto-play option, meaning you can keep the same numbers for a set number of games, with each new race beginning automatically without you having to take any action.
Keno Odds and House Edge
While it seems a fairly gentle, benevolent sort of game, you should be aware that the house edge is one of the most aggressive of any that you can play in online casinos. At most of the sites we recommend, the casino’s advantage will be 15%+, with the average being around 20%, and it’s not uncommon for the house edge in a game to be as high as 40%.
For the player, this can mean a RTP of between 75% – 94%, which is one of the lowest of any online casino game, and puts keno on a par in this respect with online slots games.
Strategy to Play Keno Online
A game of chance – It should always be remembered that keno is purely a game of chance; there is no formula for predicting numbers or discerning patterns from the numbers drawn in previous games. Each race begins anew, with the probability of any number or combination of numbers being drawn unaffected by what has gone before.
Keno bonus jackpots: However, this does not mean that wagering on the game online is devoid of all strategic thinking. The size of the payouts depends both on how many numbers you select and then how many catches you make. In a typical game, betting $1 per race, selecting ten numbers and catching five would pay $3, whereas if you select fifteen numbers and catch five, the payout would only be $1. On the other hand, this also means that the potential bonus jackpots are bigger if you select more numbers. In a typical $1 race, if you select ten numbers and catch them all, the payout is $1800; however, if you choose to play fifteen numbers and hit them all, then the payout is $10,000.
Select 11 numbers: In essence, keno odds mean that the potential for a jackpot is greater the more numbers you pick but, on the other hand, picking fewer numbers means you need fewer catches to get a return. For instance, if you pick eleven numbers in a $1 race, you only need to hit three to break even; if you select seven numbers, you also need three to get your money back – a 27.27% strike rate is required as opposed to a 42.86% strike rate. (If you select fifteen numbers, you need to catch five to break even, a 33.33% strike rate). In addition, hitting 11 out of 11 would earn you $3,000, while 7 out of 7 would only net you $100 (hitting fifteen out of fifteen would win you $10,000). These factors combined – strike rate required to break even + potential jackpot – would suggest that the most strategic approach to betting is to select 11 numbers.
Keno Games Tips
- Don’t be too concerned about the numbers you choose. As above, the numbers in keno are randomly selected and there is no way of predicting which will be drawn; each number has exactly the same probability of being drawn as another. Therefore, if you want to select your numbers based on birthdays, house numbers, dates, or any other numbers that have some significance for you, go ahead. These are just as likely to come up as any other.
- Ignore the Hot Numbers/Cold Numbers display. Although these can be interesting, they are in reality meaningless. Whether a number hasn’t been drawn for twenty races, or has turned up in the last five, has no bearing on the probability of it being drawn in the next game.
- Avoid the temptation to create patterns on your card. While a discernible ‘pattern’ of numbers is just as likely to come up as any other combination, selecting numbers on your board so that some sort of visual image is created is no more likely to produce a winning combination than any other method.
- Read our casino reviews. Our reviews of online casinos not only show you the best sites at which to play, but also where you can pick up a casino bonus when you sign up for a new account. At most of the casinos we recommend, keno contributes to the wagering requirements 100% and so can be a good game to play in order to clear a bonus, while also giving you the opportunity to play with the casino’s money.
Keno Online Variations
The game is played more or less the same way at all of the casinos we recommend. There are however, some slight variations; for instance, the number of selections you can make in a race is usually between 1 – 15, although at some sites it’s between 2 -10.
Auto-play – Some keno games also have an auto-play (or multi-race) option, where you can retain the same set of numbers for a pre-determined number of games, and each new race will then begin automatically.
Quick Pick – Another variation is that some keno games will give a you a Quick Pick option, where your numbers are randomly selected for you. You can retain these for as long as you like using auto play, or use the quick pick option to select new numbers for you before each race.
When you play online, you will also find lots of variations in the themes and visuals. These vary from a straightforward, no-frills approach, to fun and lively keno games with music, entertaining graphics and colourful boards and peas.
Keno is hugely popular in Canada, and there are a number of places where players can get their fix of the lottery-like game. In Ontario, Keno fans can play with OLG, which has been in existence since 1975. There are midday draws every day. In British Columbia, there is the BCLC, which has been around for over thirty years and has given back $19 billion to the community in healthcare and education.
While the house edge is tough, it’s nevertheless a quick and easy game to play that anyone can enjoy, and which also offers players big jackpot prizes. The online versions also have bright and fun themes that add to the enjoyment, and there is no need to learn complicated rules or jargon, so they are very accessible as well. Visit any of our recommended Canadian keno casinos to try the game for free, or to enjoy high quality gameplay for big jackpot prizes.