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Interesting Facts and Trivia About Keno

Keno is one of the oldest gambling games in existence and though it may not be the most popular of all, it’s still very much around.

If you don’t know much about this fun twist on the lottery – and even if you do – here are some interesting and fun facts about Keno to introduce you properly to the game.


    • It has its roots in Ancient China. Legend has it that the original variant of Keno, – which like now, consists of a lottery-like ticket of 80 symbols (now numbers) where players got to choose both which symbols to pick and how many – was used to fund the construction of the Great Wall of China.
    • “Keno” was not its original name. It was known as Baige Piao – or as it was later anglicized, Pakapoo. The name literally meant “white dove tickets” in Mandarin or “pigeon tickets” in Cantonese, and it’s because they used to spread the winning results by way of carrier pigeons and doves.
  • The symbols were not random. The 80 symbols on a classic Pakapoo card was based on the first 80 “letters” (the Chinese alphabet is not really an alphabet, but on thousands of individual symbols) of the Thousand Character Text, a classic of ancient Chinese literature.
  • It first came to Europe in the 19th century. Chinese migrant workers brought the game to the West when they came to work on the first intercontinental railroad.
  • Keno comes from the Latin or French for “five winning numbers” (“quini” or “quine”, respectively). There was already a game called “Keno” but it was a variant of bingo, not the game we currently know as Keno. The name transferred onto the Chinese game of Pakapoo soon after hitting the West.


  •  Players get to choose how many numbers to pick. This is the big difference from other lottery games: players don’t only choose which numbers they want to bet on, but how many. Most versions of the game allow you to choose anywhere from 1 to 20 numbers, and each draw is made up of 20 numbers!
  • The chances of matching all 20 numbers is insane. If you hope picking 20 numbers will give you the best chance of winning, think again. The chance of all 20 numbers matching those drawn are approximately one in 3.5 quintillion – which is 1 in 3.5 thousand, thousand billion!
  • There is an ideal amount of numbers to pick. The way it works is that if you choose too few numbers to pick, you end up with a much too small chance of winning when measured against the payout you will ultimately receive. If you pick too many, however, your chances will be much higher but your payout would be low even if you got as many as six or seven matching numbers. The ideal amount of numbers to pick is between 4 and 8.
  • There are two kinds of Keno games available online. One of these is online keno, where you play against the computer, and the numbers are drawn but generated randomly by a random number generator. The other is live keno, which allows you to buy virtual tickets online and join in on a live draw via video stream. The best online casinos offer both, but at least the first one. 


Keno is, in short, a really fun alternative to the same old lotto games. It’s still a game of pure chance, but the option of choosing how many numbers to pick adds an extra wrinkle into the game and actually improves your chances when you pick the correct amount of numbers (between 4 and 8). Best of all, it’s available wherever you may find yourself online or in-person.

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