Are Losing Streaks a Sign of Tighter Casinos?

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Sad Brian Christopher shows a small ticket

In a recent article, we shared some of the data points confirming that not much, at least payout wise, has changed since casinos reopened from the pandemic. One player argues that things have gotten tighter, at least to her:

Casinos in Arizona have been tighter in the past year. Has nothing to do with the Covid virus. Casinos had a bad time during the Covid. But all of a sudden, they are not paying bonuses anymore, I can put a couple of hundred dollars on four card keno and my biggest pay back was 70 quarters all night. I was always winning 7 out of 8 for $1,600.  The data shows no changes in returns, but check my purse. No tickets to cash in.  Casinos are greedy.

Amy B.

A lot of players get caught up in a mistake, and this question illustrates it pretty well – players think that because they’re losing, the casinos must be tighter.

We chose Amy’s question because specifically it highlights an example of where players get this wrong. Her example is the game of Keno. She picks 8 numbers, and she would get 7 out of 8 a lot. 

Keno is one of those games where the odds can be calculated, because the game’s structure is very specific. You pick a certain amount of numbers, somewhere up to 10 usually, out of a field of 80. Then the game draws 20 numbers at random. Based on how many of your numbers are matched to those drawn, that determines your payout.

The odds of matching 7 out of 8 numbers is 1 in 6,233. That means, on average, you’ll get that prize about that often. 8 out of 8 is a much tougher 1 in 230,115, by the way.

So what does that mean for you as a player? Let’s say you complete 10 games of Keno a minute. That’s therefore 600 games an hour. That would mean, on average, you’d see a match of 7 out of 8 numbers roughly once every 10-11 hours. But that’s an average. 

You mentioned you’re playing four cards, so with different numbers you’re looking at 2400 games an hour. (Playing the same numbers on all four cards is just amplifying the bet on the same numbers, effectively, so it’s really the same 600 games at a higher bet.)

As you noted, for a while you were always winning 7 out of 8 – you don’t note how long you were playing, just “all night,” but let’s presume a few hours, factoring in bathroom breaks and so on. Depending on how you play your four cards, your pacing and other considerations, you might have been either at or even a bit ahead of average

If the casinos wanted to change the payouts, they could change how much that 7 out of 8 pays. Maybe that $1,600 becomes $1,500. But they couldn’t change the overall odds of how often 7 out of 8 numbers come out. The randomness of numbers being drawn is outside the control of the casino.

This is what we mean by players getting caught up in a mistake. Checking your purse is almost beside the point – the reason for you not getting 7 out of 8 has nothing to do with what the casino is paying, but just luck – that 1 in 6,233 didn’t happen in your session.

Gambling is an emotional form of entertainment – real money is at stake, and it can be exciting when things go your way, and punishing when they’re not. In those times, it’s important not to blame a boogeyman for what is simply math. 

Things didn’t go your way – it’s unfortunate, but it happens. It’s not because the casino changed the payouts.

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