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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Think of keno as a spectator sport

4 May 2015

Dear Mark: My wife has an upcoming convention in Las Vegas, and I have decided to tag along. As I am from Vermont, where at least for now there are no casinos, my experience in gambling is very limited: none! Considering this, and with me needing to kill time, along with an unwillingness to spend a lot of money, which game or games would you advise I can stay at for the longest period while having some fun? Johnny F.

For the low, low roller and those on a limited budget, the keno lounge has always been an oasis in the Vegas sea of sand. Besides, while any casino action is monetary servitude to the house, played right, you can lose less money per hour at keno than at any other form of gambling.

Unfortunately, since the poker rage took over, keno parlors are becoming scarcer — which is sad commentary in and of itself — as many former keno lounges have been sacrificed in order to make room for expanded poker rooms. Nevertheless, there are plenty of casinos in Las Vegas that offer you the chance to play keno in the comfort of a lounge.

Luckily, you can also still buy a keno ticket for as little as a buck, drink free hooch and watch sports in cushy chairs, and the most you can lose on a game with a 28 percent house edge is about $15 an hour. Plan on a profit or smart wagering NOT being your motive, Johnny, but you are definitely gambling on the cheap.

Another splash of stimulation is a $2 wager on a long-shot equine overdue for the glue factory. Sitting in a sports book betting horses can also be an inexpensive diversion from a $10 minimum blackjack game. Just spend ten minutes with the Racing Form, and then start guessing.

The true entertainment value isn’t betting the horses, but the cast of characters that you will be sitting next to who play the ponies. To fit in, rent the movie "Let It Ride" with Richard Dreyfuss and Jennifer Tilly. You will thank me later.

Then there is plan C: While comfortably sitting in the sportsbook waiting for your next cocktail, how about a point-spread wager on your favorite type of sporting event, and then watching it? There, Johnny, you just killed three hours — double that when you place another $11 wager on a follow-up West Coast game.

Any time you place a point-spread type wager, you lay $11 to win $10. This commission, also called a vigorish, is the compensation taken by the house on every sport bet wagered.

Finally, you can always stretch your legs, join the camaraderie of a crap game, and Place the 6 and 8. This is a favored bet of mine for killing time because it can be had for as little as $6, plus, when Placing the 6 or 8, you are involved in less than 50 percent of the decisions with the house edge being but 1.5 percent.

Although the neon-clad casinos of Las Vegas have become much more dependent on nongaming revenue in recent years, freebies still exist. Abuse them. Stretching out poolside in a lounge chair, Johnny, is Nevada at its best.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In the case of an earthquake hitting Las Vegas, be sure to go straight to the keno lounge. Nothing ever gets hit there." — An anonymous casino boss.
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.