What is Keno And Where Does It Originate?

Keno is a game that looks very similar to that of the traditional lottery ticket and Bingo combined A card with 80 numbers on it ranging from 1 to 80, in red squares. The player chooses a number of numbers, depending on the house rules. Mostly it is only 5 numbers, but sometimes it goes up to 20 numbers. Then numbers, often on balls – like in Bingo -, are drawn. The same amount as numbers that you were allowed to play in the game.

Pay-outs are decided based on the number of numbers you have on your cards, that were winning numbers. Generally, the rule of thumb is that the more numbers you were able to select, the higher the pay-out will be. This is not always the case as some numbers have a lesser probability of being drawn, especially in conjunction with other winning numbers. The pay-out for those numbers is then naturally also more.

Funding a War

 

Keno is French word coming from the root word quine which quite literally means ‘five winning numbers’. However, the original name, Baige Piao, comes to us from the Fan Tan Houses of the Peoples Republic of China, more than 2000 years ago and means ‘White Dove Ticket’. Exploring the origin of the game takes us to the rulership of Cheung Leung during the Han Dynasty.

 

It is believed that the game was almost the original form of the lottery. It was a time of war and Leung had already pushed taxes up to the limit. The people of China were struggling, but the incoming money was simply not enough to help the financially struggling country. He created a game in which the public could partake, to hopefully win a large sum of money, while some of the money was used to help the country.

Characters Instead of Numbers

 

The original game did not use numbers from 1 to 80, but used the first 80 characters of The Book of a Thousand Characters – one of the greatest pieces of literature in Chinese history. The money raised from the game was enough to save an entire city during the time of war. What some deem far greater than that, is that it is said that the funding to build the Great Wall came from Baige Piao.

 

Into the West

 

It is only as late as the early 1850’s that the game went to The United States of America. It is here that the Chinese characters were dropped and instead numbers replaced them. But to keep the exotic feel of the game it was advertised as Chinses Lottery. There already existed a similar type of game that was played especially in Denver, San Francisco and in Houston.

 

This game was apparently called Keno already but was not fully fleshed out or as widely played as Chinese Lottery. The common belief is that somewhere along the timeline, due to the similarity of the two games, they kind of grew into one game. It is only 80 years after that, that keno was placed inside casino houses across Las Vegas and it is here that it truly became the popular game that we know today.