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How to Play Keno – A Simple Guide to the Rules and Variants

Keno is one of the most popular gambling games out there, as well as one of the easiest to master. Simplicity and fun are the two main pillars of the game, but when you first come across this game it may seem a little unclear how to play. So, read on to find out all about keno rules.

Jump to Your Chosen Keno Rules Topic

On this page, you’ll find instructions on how to play keno, as well as discussions on the different variants and side bets that you will find out there. Lastly, we’ve given you a glossary of important terms, as well as a few other little resources so that you have everything you might need before you play keno online.

Basic Keno Rules – Learn to Play Quickly and Easily

As we said in our intro, there isn’t a lot to worry about with keno once you get your head around the basic setup and aim of the game. The rules of keno are very similar to bingo, with a couple of differences that mean it’s a fun game all in its own right, and a little quicker to play online than bingo is. Read through the next sections to find out exactly how to play keno.

What is Keno?

Keno is a game in which players choose numbers, which are then placed on a card. Numbered balls are automatically drawn, and players win based on how many numbers they successfully matched. There are a number of different ways in which the numbers can be drawn and different payouts for different combinations of numbers, but that is the basic description of keno rules.

The Keno Card

There are some variations in how keno cards can look. But in general, they follow the same principle. Most games will have 80 possible numbers, from one to 80. These will generally be laid out in eight rows with 10 columns, with the numbers ascending from right to left. The number of picks that you can make also depends on the game, but commonly you can choose between two and 10 or one and 15 numbers on the card.

The Keno Card

An example keno card.

Below, you can click to download our simple keno rules guide. You can save it on your device or print it out and keep it somewhere handy if you’d like to check back again. This includes all of the information provided here on the basic rules of keno.

The simple rules of keno.

The basic rules of keno are all explained on this one handy pdf, along with an example keno card, so you can familiarise yourself with the game.

PDF Download

Keno Game Rules: Three-Step Beginner’s Guide

Before you start to bet on keno games with your own, hard-earnt cash, it’s essential that you make sure you know exactly what to expect. There is nothing worse than spending money on the first few games just to get to know what is happening. In order to help you out, here is a step-by-step guide on how to play keno. Afterwards, we’ve included a video showing you these steps in action.

Get Your Keno Card

A keno card.

Choose your favorite online keno game or head to your local gambling hall. Get your card and have a think about how much money you’d like to wager, and therefore how many numbers to choose.

Pick Your Numbers

A keno card, with six numbers selected.

It doesn’t matter how you pick your numbers, whether they are your lucky digits, you and your friend’s birthdays combined, or because they make a pretty pattern. Just pick them and cross your fingers!

The Numbers Are Drawn

A keno card, with six numbers selected and two of them circled.

Now the numbers are drawn. Most games will draw 20 numbers. For each match that you have, you will receive a bigger payout.

There you have it: the rules of keno. For the rest of this guide, we will focus on the variations and differences you will find between different games. The one last thing to bear in mind before you play is that the more numbers you pick, the more you need to match to get a payout. Check out our section on payouts for more information.

How to Play Keno

So that everything is as clear as possible, we’ve put together a short video. In it, we play a game of keno and show you exactly what to expect from keno rules. Have a quick watch. Hopefully everything will be clear in this, but if you still have questions, don’t worry, as there are lots of explanations still to come in this keno rules guide.

Pay Tables and All Other Keno Rules

While in the rules of blackjack – there are some advanced rules that affect how the game works in certain, specific situations, the basic rules of keno are really only ever simple. There are, however, a few other things that you need to familiarize yourself with before you start to gamble with your own money. We will take a look at the paytable and various options that you can find out there when looking for keno games.

Keno Payouts

Reading over various tables and studying up on return-to-player rates (RTP) may not seem like the most fun part of playing gambling games online. Indeed, it is something that many players – especially beginners – overlook often. However, it can be extremely important. Only if you understand how a game pays out can you know which bets will statistically reward you the most. Also, being familiar with what is normal or standard means that you will spot if a game has weird keno rules and payouts. Here is an example table, detailing common keno payouts.

Catch Pick 2 Pick 3 Pick 4 Pick 5 Pick 6 Pick 7 Pick 8 Pick 9 Pick 10
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 11 5 3 2 1 1 0 0
4 40 10 5 2 2 1 0
5 400 49 22 10 5 5
6 1,000 275 40 40 25
7 2,500 500 400 120
8 5,000 1,000 500
9 7,500 2,000
10 10,000

When you first have a look at a table like this, it can be tricky to know exactly what is going on. “Pick” refers to the numbers that you have chosen (pick 2 = two numbers have been chosen, pick 3 = three numbers have been chosen, etc.), and the catch refers to the number of correct selections that you made. So, if we take an example from the table, if you choose six numbers, and four come up then the payout will be 49:1. If you paid £1 to place that bet, you’ll walk away with £50 altogether. As mentioned before, the important thing to realise is that increasing the number of selections does not necessarily increase your chances of winning. If you pick ten numbers in this example, you need to get at least five numbers before there is a payout at all.

Different Keno Cards

There are a few variations of keno cards that you may come across, both online and in gambling halls. What’s really different about them is how you choose your numbers and indicate your choices. So, let’s run through the most popular varieties so that you will recognise the card no matter which comes up. It is worth knowing that keno cards can also be called tickets, depending on your location and the individual casino.

A keno straight card.

Straight Card

This is the most common type of keno card, the straight ticket is the standard keno card, where players indicate which numbers they want to select. There is nothing more to this one; you just make a selection and play the round.

A keno split card.

Split Card

Playing a split card means that you can bet on two sets of numbers during the same round. To do so, mark the different numbers that you want and then draw a line between the two groups. You will also need to make sure that you are aware that your bet will be double that of an equivalent straight card bet, as you are placing two bets simultaneously.

A keno way card.

Way Card

On a way card, you can place several groups of bets, rather than just two (as with a split card). To do this, simply select numbers and draw circles around each. Bear in mind that the more groups, or “ways”, that you have on your card, the more you will have to wager for each round.

A top/bottom keno card.

Top/Bottom Card

This kind of betting setup for keno is a little different. Instead of randomly selecting numbers from all over the card, mark one half as “top” and the other as “bottom”. Then, choose one or other and select all numbers in that half. These bets usually have a higher minimum bet than on individual number selection. If 13 or more selections come up in your half, then you win the bet.

Keno Side Bets

Whenever players look to try out a new type of casino game, they tend to look at what all of the possible bets are. Often, these will take the form of side bets, which can only be made as an addition to the main game itself. However, there are no possible side bets in the rules of keno. There are, however, occasionally some special betting options that are worth talking about.

Left, Right, Top or Bottom

This type of bet is similar to the Top and Bottom ticket, in which a player bets on half of the numbers. Some establishments will let the player make this bet, with any half of the numbers that they like, rather than restricting the choice to top or bottom. The return rate on this kind of bet is around 67%.


For an edge bet, the player selects all of the numbers around the edge of the card. This means choosing 32 numbers on a standard keno card. The payouts are high for either a small number of catches or for a large number of catches. The return rate, however, is overall a pretty dismal 55%.


There are certain land-based casinos that offer jackpot keno bets. These are usually based on the first few balls drawn, and require you to correctly guess all correctly, with no extra guesses allowed. The lure of massive wins can be tempting, but you should be aware that in some instances, the return rate can be as low as 27%, which is as low as we have ever heard of in a casino game.

Keno Variants

As well as some options that you can find for making different kinds of bets, or different combinations of wagers, you will also find that some sites and land-based casinos offer keno variants. We will take you through our favorites below. You can also download our guide to variants of keno rules if you’d like to keep this information offline.

A sheet detailing the various keno variants.

There are a number of popular keno variants that you can come across online and in land-based houses. Check the best out here.

PDF Download

Keno Poker

In keno poker, all of the numbers that are drawn are given a random card value and suit. After all of the numbers are up, the players also get the chance to bet on the resulting hand in a game of poker. This is one for those fans who like to mix things up between game types.

Instant Bingo

The only difference between instant bingo and the standard rules of keno is that in this variant, players shuffle the order of the numbers on the card and get a random selection of numbers. This brings the game closer to bingo.

Roulette Keno

Roulette keno follows the basic rules, with the difference being in how the balls are drawn. Rather than coming from a machine, specially designed for keno, a roulette wheel is used. Five balls are spun around the wheel to select the numbers in a scaled-down game.

Extra Draw Keno

Extra draw keno is, as it sounds, all about an extra draw that takes place after the usual 20 numbers have been drawn. Players take out a side bet on this number and if they match it, then they win, regardless of the result of their main bet.

Our Suggestions of Where to Play Keno Online

Now that you know everything there is to know about the rules of keno, its payouts, variants and side bets, it’s time to think about finding the perfect game to play online. There are different ways to choose, but we think the best way is always to consider what you are looking for from an online casino product.

For Beginners For Fun For Real Money For Something Different
The Classic Keno online casino game.
The Monkey Keno online casino game.
The Keno online casino game.
The Disco Keno online casino game.

If you are still unsure, head over to our keno guide page to find out more about the game and the different options for playing it online. You can find some tips there as well as some do’s and don’ts when playing.

What to Think About When Picking an Online Keno Game

Unfortunately, there are still some other things to think about when picking an online keno game. We’ll run you through the most important factors that can affect your experience while gambling with this game so that hopefully you won’t end up disappointed.

The Return to Player Rate

Although it is never a good idea to rely upon return to player rates, as they speak to the return from a game to the entire player base over time (and are theoretical), gauging the generosity of a game by its payout rate is always a good idea. It can at least help you to discount any outlier and therefore avoid losing out. Typical keno payout rates are in the low to mid-90s in terms of percentage. Another way to phrase this is that the house edge on keno games is usually about 5-10%.

The Different Betting Options Allowed

if you are a particular fan of betting a certain way, then you need to look for a game that accepts that wager. It may sound obvious, but it is important to prioritize things that are important to you when you are searching for a new product to try out.

Do the Specific Rules Allow You to Use Your Preferred Strategy?

In addition to this, if you have a certain strategy in mind that you want to use, then make sure that the keno rules of a specific game will allow you to practice this fully and properly. If you are looking for inspiration or guidance on the best ways to go about reducing the house edge in keno, then check out our full keno strategy guide.

Playing Keno at Land-Based Casinos

Keno is one of the many casino games that you can play either online or in person. If you’re wondering why you would ever consider playing online, there are some good reasons to consider it. The rules of keno should be pretty much the same in either iteration, but what can be different is the paytable. As online operators have far lower overhead costs per player, the payouts of their games tend to be higher than those of their land-based counterparts. So, expect slightly more favorable payouts (and therefore RTPs) from online keno games.

Helpful Resources

Starting out with a new casino game can be a daunting undertaking. Not only is there always a lot to learn, but you are also staking your own money on knowing the game, how it works, and which decisions are going to benefit you best. That’s why we’ve collated a lot of the information that we have gained over the years into this page. In the next sections, there are some more helpful resources for you.

Downloadable Keno Tools

To save you time in the future and to make things as easy as possible, we have made some handy downloadable help sheets for the rules of keno and the other major things that we have discussed on this page. Check them out below.

Basic Keno Rules Sheet detailing the rules of keno. PDF Download
Keno Variants Sheet detailing the different keno variants. PDF Download
Keno Payouts An example payout table for keno. PDF Download

These sheets are yours to use, completely free of charge, and you can save them to your device or print them out as you like. If you can, though, protect the environment and think twice before using paper. We will keep this page here if you ever need to check back.

Keno Glossary of Key Terms

If you are new to casino games, or even just new to the rules of keno, there are probably lots of terms and phrases that you see around the game that you aren’t familiar with. So, we’ve taken the chance to clear things up with our keno glossary.

    • Balls The keno numbers are usually drawn randomly by using balls, much as in a game of bingo.
    • Card Also “ticket”. The piece of paper or display (in an online game) where the possible numbers and player’s selection are marked.
    • Catch A selected number that comes up during the round; a correct selection.
    • Catch All A game in which the player catches all of their selected numbers.
    • Draw The numbers that are picked at random by the house.
    • Pay Table A sheet that details the various different payout rates for catches.
    • Race Another word for a game or round of keno.
    • Ticket Also, “card”. The piece of paper or display (in an online game) where the possible numbers and player’s selection are marked.
    • Video Keno Keno, which is played on a computer, using random number generation rather than a physical machine to draw the numbers.
    • Winning Numbers The 20 numbers selected at random by the house.

History of Keno

As with a lot of casino games, the name keno comes from French. It is derived from the word “quine”, which refers to a combination of five numbers. However, the history of keno goes back to perhaps the greatest game-inventing nation: China. The game is rumored to have been involved in the saving of an ancient city by raising funds for the municipality from players. The same is true of the Great Wall of China. This would mirror the modern uses of national and state lotteries around the world. Keno spread to the West with Chinese immigrants to the United States and has spread to casinos all over the world from there.

Related News

Here, you can find all of the latest gambling news stories that relate to keno and its rules. Of course, there probably won’t be stories in this niche coming up too regularly, so we will also include stories from all across the gambling industry that you might find interesting as well.

Recent news related to keno and casinos

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions that we haven’t answered on this keno game rules page? Well, luckily for you, we have collected lots of player questions and answered the most common below. Hopefully, that’ll help you out.

What is keno?

Keno is a simple casino game that is similar to bingo in its rules. Players select numbers on a card and if these match numbers that are randomly generated, then they win.

How do you play keno?

To play keno online, head to your favourite casino site, open a game and choose how many numbers you would like to select for a round. The game will tell you how much you will need to pay for this wager. Then, click play and hope that your numbers come up. The rules of keno are that simple. You can check out intersting variants of the game.

Can you play keno slot machines online?

Although you can play lots of online keno games, we are yet to come across a keno slot machine online. This may change in the future, but as of now, none of the major developers have released this kind of product. If you are looking for online slot games, click here.

What are the payouts in keno?

The payouts in keno can be quite different from game to game. This is why it is important that you always check the pay table of a game before starting to bet on it. However, you can get an idea of standard keno payouts here.

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Written bySimon RoseFirst Published: 26/09/2019Last Updated: 27/11/2019
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