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# Video keno is random too

3 August 2010

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Electronic games are never "due" to hit, nor are they due to miss. Results are as random as humans can program a computer to be.

OK, just about everyone has heard it before. I've written that often in regards to slot machines and video poker, but I don't write as much about video keno. It's not for lack of interest. It's just that video keno doesn't have strategies to learn and fine points to dissect like video poker, nor does it have a constant flow of new games and trends like slot machines.

Still, video keno games are just as random as the slots or video poker. And it was a video keno player named Sal who posed the question to me a couple of weeks ago.

"Will the machine make sure one or two of my numbers won't come in if it is not due to hit?" she asked. "Or if it due to hit, will it allow all of them to come in?"

Keno numbers are drawn by a random number generator, just like slot reel combinations. There is no "due" about it. The RNG doesn't know how what has happened in the past. It just keeps picking random numbers, and the odds are the same on every play.

It's not a matter of the game deciding it's time for her to win or time for her to lose. The numbers the RNG generates are the same no matter what numbers the player picks. If the RNG spits out Nos. 1-2-3-4-5 and others, then you'll see Nos. 1-2-3-4-5 regardless of whether the player picks 1-2-3-4-5, or 6-7-8-9-10, or any other combination. The RNG does not know your picks and does not take them into account.

Sal thought she saw a pattern where, after changing numbers, her old numbers would hit. I suggested that if she kept track, and wrote down results over a long period of time, the pattern would disappear. We humans are really good at selective memory, and a few trials that fit the pattern we've seen stick with us.

Still, she couldn't believe her outcomes weren't being influenced by past results.

"So are you saying that the machine doesn't pick its random numbers based on the numbers I've already picked? I also assumed the machines have control over when it is going to hit. Otherwise, how can a casino brag that they have 97% payback if they can't control whether it hits or not?"

Those are things every slot/video poker/video keno player has suspected from time to time. But no, the random number generator does not base its numbers on past numbers at all. Past results have no effect on future outcome.

Casinos can advertise specific payback percentages because the odds of the game are programmed so they will yield that percentage given normal results over hundreds of thousands of plays.

Let's use a really simple example — a one-spot play in which the player picks only one number. The player bets \$1 and if his or her number is one of the 20 generated, then the player gets back \$3. If it's not, the player gets nothing.

At that pay table, keno is a 75% game. On the average, your single number will be one of the 20 numbers generated once per four plays. Per \$4 wagered, you get back \$3 — 75% of your wagers. If the pay table is changed so you only get \$2 on a win, the payback percentage decreases to 50 percent, and if the payoff is increased to \$4 you get 100%.

If you're getting the common \$3 for a win and you win three times in a row — which with a one-spot ticket will happen an average of once per 64 plays — then for that short stretch, the machine is paying 300%. You've wagered \$3 and gotten \$9 back.

What happens then? Does the machine have to go cold to get back to 75%? No. It just keeps playing as normal, and in the long run the odds of the game will bring the payoffs somewhere very close to the 75% figure.

No matter how many spots you play, there doesn't have to be any makeup time after a big win. Over hundreds of thousands of plays at the normal odds of the game, a big win will fade into statistical insignificance.

Nor does there have to be a big win or a series of small wins to make up for a losing streak. Over hundreds of thousands of plays, normal results will cause the cold streak to fade into statistical insignificance.

The programmer sets the possibilities that lead to the odds of the game. Then as long as results are random, there will be some winners — and without winners, no one would play the games. There will be some losers, and in the end the house will collect its expected percentage.

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.