Smarter Gambling

Video Poker and Keno: More Like Slots, or Not?

Video Poker Full Pay Jacks or Better Royal Flush
Written by Joshua

While most of the attention here is paid to slots, I’m very much a fan of Video Poker and play it regularly at the casinos. I also have solid familiarity with keno. So when a question came up about them that had connections to some of the topics I’ve covered here, it felt like a good time to broach them.

On one of the forums I frequent, someone asked about Video Poker and Keno, specifically whether they’re more skill-based games, or governed by a random-number generator like Vegas-style slots. Even though both games are generally i the same cabinet on a multi-game machine, the answers diverge.

Video Poker: You Control Your Destiny to Some Degree

Standard Vegas-style video poker is played with a real 52-card deck. This means there are a limited number of permutations that can take place. The outcome is not known before you make your selections – so you can throw away a winning hand and end up losing due to your decisions. As such, there is a skill-based element to it, even though there is still a randomness to which cards ultimately surface.

Because a deck of cards is a fixed set of 52 items (or with jokers, 1-2 more cards), and with predictable outcomes, smarter mathematicians than myself have done the heavy lifting of developing a proper strategy for playing the games based on the game type (such as Jacks or Better) and the pays that the casino sets. If you play perfectly to strategy, you will maximize your payouts on that game.

The casino sets what each hand pays and the pays are visible; this makes Video Poker a game where you can learn what the house edge is with perfect play, similar to table game bets where you know the pays and the odds so you can know the outcome. Video Poker is therefore much more like Blackjack or other card games. And as such, the pay tables are closer to or sometimes as good as a table game vs. a slot accordingly.

As such, knowing how to play Video Poker (or at least the version(s) of it you choose to play is critical in making sure you maximize your pay potential.

Live Keno/Video Keno: More Like the Lottery

Keno, like a lottery, is a number drawing game, so an RNG will determine which balls are drawn, but each ball has an equal chance of being drawn. Here, again, the number of permutations is predictable, but there’s more numbers, and more numbers drawn, so the number of possible outcomes is much larger.

Again, the paytables shown will govern how much the game pays back, so the casino gets what it wants, but unlike video poker, keno is not a game of skill, but luck. You pick numbers and they’re either drawn, or not.

Whereas Video Poker pays tend to be stronger than slots, Live Keno has one of the largest house advantages in the casino – the casino is going to make quite a bit off of Keno players.

Video Keno can differ from the physical version because they can be themed liked slots to games like Cleopatra, and have bonus rounds that can offer additional pays. The pay tables are also significantly better than their live keno counterparts, but because games can be completed a lot faster the wagers will run money through the machines at a much higher velocity, just like slots and other games of its sort. And the pay tables can vary from casino to casino, as this 2017 survey of casinos in Las Vegas shows.

So, while Keno doesn’t require the same level of knowledge as Video Poker – you need to know how the games pay vs. the number of spots chosen, basically – it also does not reward a studied player like Video Poker does.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.


  • HELLO !! My name is Paul and my question is this ! I have been playing a Progressive keno game and i have won my share on seven numbers hit on other machines and now I am trying for the elusive Ten spot on this nickel progressive , I have hit six numbers on this Progressive Nickle slot and have been playing the upper One to Forty numbers never hitting more than six numbers on the upper box ?? My next step in playing this machine is to play six spots on the upper as i have hit six many times and try the four on the lower forty one to eighty box until it hits because playing ten spots on the upper just doesn’t work so playing the four spots will take some doing as I’ve been starting with $100 bucks never going below $60.00 while playing ten spots on the upper one to forty box !! I’ve done this many times playing sometimes as long as 5 hours never getting more than six spots on this particular machine nobody has won on and the progressive is up to $17,988.62 playing only nickels as this machine only takes four nickels to play ten spots ! My question is this ? Can this machine be set to only pay to use the upper and lower to pay ? Or is this machine payable in the upper too ?? I’m wondering if whomever in this casino can change the way these machines pay or does the gaming commission frown on casinos making some machines to not pay at all ?? I moved here to Las Vegas January of 2020 and am still learning the ropes here so wish me luck as i want to beat this particular machine as i do think i have a chance unless this casino has set this machine not to pay out !!!

    • Hi Paul – generally speaking if a game is approximating physical objects like dice, cards or drawing numbers, it has to be as random as it would be if you were using the physical object. This is particularly the case in Las Vegas, where you are. The thing to keep in mind is that getting 10/10 is massively more difficult than 6/6 – 6/6 will happen, on average, every 7,750 plays vs. 10/10 which is once in 8.9 million – it’s more than 1,000 times more difficult. No wonder the progressive is so high on a nickel machine! So the casino has no need to set a machine to not pay out (nor do they have that sort of control on a machine) when it’s harder than hitting the top prize of a standard lotto game in a state lottery.

Leave a Comment