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Why Is Keno So Popular?

Keno may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of gambling games. Poker, blackjack, slots, roulette, even baccarat are all games that represent gambling to most people well before they think of keno. And yet, in many respects, keno is actually one of the most popular gambling games in the world.

How is it so popular, though, and more importantly, why is it so popular?

Before getting to that, let’s take a look at what keno is.


An Overview

Keno is a lottery game that stretches back all the way to Ancient China, where the legend has it that it helped finance the Great Wall of China. It has changed very little in all that time with the only major differences being when it hit the west and Chinese symbols were replaced with the numbers 1 to 80 and the name of the game changed from baige piao to keno. In fact, keno may well be the original lotto game.

Like all lotto games, the point of keno is to pick a certain selection of numbers on the keno card and to hope that they match the numbers drawn during the keno draw. You get to pick any numbers between 1 and 80, but what separates keno from other lotto games is that not only do you choose which numbers you hope to win, but the amount of numbers.  

That’s right, in keno you get to choose anywhere from 1 to 20 numbers, as each keno draw involves the drawing of 20 numbers. The more those numbers match the more you win. That said, the way the winnings are worked out is based on how many of the numbers you picked match the winning numbers as well as what the numbers are. So, for example, if you pick 20 numbers and 8 match, you end up winning much, much less than if you pick 9 numbers and 8 match. Which is why most experts recommend only picking between 4 and 8 numbers to maximize your win.

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Keno’s Popularity

Once you begin to understand what keno is, where it comes from and how it works, it’s not hard to see why it is as popular as it is.

Here are some of the chief reasons for this:


  1. It’s available even in places where other casino games are illegal. As long as state or national lotteries are legal, keno usually is too.  
  2. China is known for its gambling, for better or worse, and with keno both originating in China and still being very widespread both in China itself and in Chinese expat communities around the world, just by sheer numbers, it’s obviously one of the most popular games in the world. 
  3. It’s available all over the place. You can buy keno tickets not just at casinos, but you can also usually get it from state or national lotteries, and you can play it online, both in a computer game form, where you play for real money, against a computer program that uses a random number generator to “draw” the winning numbers or through a live game that you access via a webcam. 
  4. Draws happen repeatedly, unlike conventional lotteries. Some sites have live keno draws every few minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Casinos have multiple draws a day too, as do lottery companies. 
  5. It’s a much more interesting game than traditional (or Western, to be more accurate) lotteries. The fact that you have to measure up how many numbers to pick against which numbers you pick and the vastly different payouts that are based on the amount of numbers you correctly pick against the total number you picked.  
  6. It’s very, very easy to play. Aside for knowing how many numbers to pick to maximize your winnings (and again, most agree that between 4 and 8 is optimal), it’s all as simple as picking a few numbers and seeing if they match up with the winning draw. 
  7. Keno is normally pretty cheap to play, with tickets costing roughly the same as your average lotto ticket. It’s also versatile in that if you want to get much bigger payouts for much bigger bets, many keno games, especially online, offer the use of a multiplier for the chancier keno fans.


So, no, keno may not be the casino game staple that poker or slots are, but in its own way, it’s every bit as popular and arguably even more accessible. There’s a reason it has survived thousands of years virtually unchanged, after all!

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