Friday, February 18, 2005

Gambling: The Worst Odds On The Strip

Casino gambling works like this:

A whole bunch of people show up each day and give a bunch of money to the casino. The casino gives part of it back. Then, people give that to the casino, too. The casino gives part of that back.

People still keep giving more and more of that back to the casino, though. Know why? Because they think that once they won, they're playing with casino money. It becomes play money to them, and so they don't feel it so much when they give it back, a little at a time, to the casino.

The amount that the house gets to keep (this is called the P.C., or the "Percent to Casino") is often regulated by law. In Atlantic City, it's required that all slot machines have a maximum P.C. of 17%. This means that for every 100 dollars that gets put into the machine, it has to give back 83.

So which game has the highest P.C. of any game on the strip? Which game does the house keep the most money on? Poker? Blackjack? Slots?

Nope. It's Keno.

On Keno, the house keeps 25%. In other words, for every dollar that's played, the house keeps a quarter.

Keno works like this: You get a little paper with numbers on it from 1 to 80. You pick a bunch of numbers, the casino picks a bunch of numbers. If picking numbers is too much of a mathematical stretch for you, the casino will often pick your numbers for you, too. The casino pays you based on how high a percentage of your numbers match with their numbers.

Keno winnings are often called "Miracle Money," by gamblers, who know that's what it would take to get it in any great quantity.

Please note--I'm not saying you won't get any of it. You will. What you won't do is win big. If you play enough, the casino will graciously give you back about 3/4 of what you put into it, and they'll call it "winnings."

Keno is a game with no strategy, no luck, no skill involved.

Does it have any redeeming qualities? Sure. Because the game takes longer than most other casino games (figure about 10 minutes to get all the cards and pick the house numbers, versus having the cards tossed down right then) you lose your money more slowly.

However, in this busy, fast-paced world of ours, it may be more efficient to follow Harry Anderson's advice to would-be Keno players: "I'd suggest simply asking for the manager of the casino and handing over a quarter of the money in your wallet, sucker!"

Want further proof of the difficulty of winning big in Keno? has a keno-like game they run daily called "Pick 7." They've been running this game daily for years. Everybody who goes to the site can pick seven numbers, click an ad, and have a shot at $70,000.

Guess how many times, in the last five years, they've had to pay out a winner? 10 times? Five?

Twice. Once April of last year, and once back in 2001. That's it.

If you're looking for something to do at a casino while you're eating lunch that involves numbers, try this instead:

1. Get a keno form for you and a friend. Or two sheets of notebook paper. Even a couple napkins will work fine.
2. Each of you pick a bunch of numbers.
3. Give each other a buck for each one you match.
4. Repeat as often as you wish.

You get the same effect without losing any money! I'm sure this game will be all the rage at lunch appointments all over the nation by the end of the week.

I mean, if people are willing to pay to play it, how much more exciting will it be to get to play for free!

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