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What is keno tracking?

27 June 2009

Dear John,

On my last visit to my local casino, I had two security guards come up to me and accuse me of "tracking" on the keno machine I was playing, and threatened to take the cards "away" on which I had some favorite birthday numbers written down!

Long story short, I refused to give them the cards and asked for a supervisor, to whom I did give the cards, and the matter was dropped.

What is keno tracking?

Respectfully,
Robert

Dear Robert,

Keno tracking is keeping track of the numbers drawn in order to use that information to choose what numbers to play.

You might be looking for a bias in the selection mechanism that causes some numbers to be drawn more often than other numbers. On the other hand, you might be looking for numbers that haven't been drawn as frequently as probability predicts, so you might want to play them under the theory that they are due and thus more likely to be drawn than other numbers.

I worked in New York City many years ago. The New York lottery had a keno game and I thought I would write a program to keep track of the numbers drawn to see if any numbers were drawn more frequently than others. I never finished the program. Good thing. I know now the measures the New York lottery takes to ensure that each drawing is fair and unbiased and that every number is equally likely to be drawn.

Some casinos have strange (perhaps even paranoid) ideas about what personal items should be banned from tables and machines. I've always played with a small blackjack strategy card on the table when I've played blackjack. And many times I've had a small notebook or clipboard with me when I've played slot machines.

My experience has been that the longer gaming has been available in a jurisdiction, the more relaxed the management is. I've never had a problem in Las Vegas or Atlantic City because the guards and the management know that there's nothing I can do to affect the results on a machine by keeping track of the results. On the contrary, they think I have a system and casinos love systems players because they'll blindly follow their system despite all evidence that the system doesn't work.

In San Diego, when I was researching the different machines available in the Native American casinos there for an article I wrote in the late 1990s, I was questioned about why I was writing in a notebook. I wasn't even sitting at a machine, but they were concerned about what I was writing.

You didn't say which casino this happened in, but you did say you were in California and this happened in a local casino. I think once they get more experience managing a casino, they'll realize that having a card with birthdays written on it isn't going to affect their hold on a keno machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots