Keno is OK, but the horses are a better bet

DAN RODRICKS

January 05, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

So we're running low on milk, the baby needs another delivery from Nu-Dy-Per and I have a turn-off notice from BG&E in my pocket. So where do I go? I go play Keno.

I had to.

Yesterday was an historic day. Not since the installation of new drapes in the Governor's Mansion has there been such a momentous day for the state of Maryland.

It was either the day we moved into the big leagues of "revenue enhancement" through state-of-the-art casino-like gambling, or the day we became the gambling sewer of the East Coast.

Either way, I had to be there.

I went to Pat & Mike's in Towson, a very appealing restaurant with frontings from USA Today posted over the urinals in the men's room, and a big bar.

Now it has Keno monitors. These are TV sets with 20 numbers across a screen of royal blue -- the latest numbers picked by the Keno computer in Columbia.

I arrived after the big lunch crowd had left, just in time to play the 104th game of the day.

But I didn't play 104. I didn't play game 105, 106 or 107.

They came too fast -- five minute intervals -- and I needed the time to book up on Keno. (Whaddaya think, I'm stupid?)

Of course, one can take caution to an extreme.

The guy sitting next to me sipped Southern Comfort Manhattans with a twist, and he had a calculator, and he studied the Keno brochure as if it were the Racing Form.

It took him forever to make the plunge.

Me, I jumped into this sewer with my wallet wide open.

I bet $5 on each of two consecutive games: 108 and 109.

I marked off my own numbers on the card: 8, 12, 27, 30, 43, 49, 59, 62, 63, 78. I handed the card and $10 to Richard, the bartender.

Now, in Keno, after you make your picks, you don't do anything. You don't step up to the rail to watch the ponies. You don't scream obscenities at jai-alai players from Spain. You don't roll dice and yell: "Yo, Nickie needs a pair of shoes!"

You just sit and wait for the numbers.

My first time out I matched five numbers. Badda-bing!

That means I won my money back. Play 10 numbers, as I did, for $5 and the payoff for matching five is $10.

The second game was a bust. I only matched 3 out of 10 numbers.

I handed my ticket back to Richard, the bartender, who slipped it into the Keno terminal.

"You won $50," he said.

"What?" I said. "That can't be right. I only matched five numbers."

"That's what the machine says you're due," he said.

Was I going to look a gift horse in the mouth? If there was a glitch in the works on Keno's first day, was I going to make the state pay, or was I going to take the money and run?

Tell you the truth, folks, I was seriously thinking about giving $40 back to the lottery.

Out of a sense of honesty.

A sense of civic duty.

A sense of stupidity!

Fortunately, Marty Goldman, The Man From The Lottery, walked in.

Badda-bing! Just like that! He was checking up on Keno at Pat & Mike's. There was a beautiful woman with him.

Turns out, Marty, The Man From The Lottery, had a special Lottery Phone Number! So he called and got the winning numbers for Game 108.

And whaddaya know? It turns out, I had six out of 10 numbers. That means I was due the $50.

Badda-bing!

I played the same formula -- 10 numbers, 2 games, $5 per game.

I won another $10 in the next two games. That put me $40 ahead for the day.

Then, of course, I started losing.

I ran the same formula two more times, and lost both times. That left me $20 ahead for the day. Had I been drinking, I would have kept betting. Which is exactly what the Keno schemers want.

Was it fun? Sure, winning is fun. But I won't be going out of my way to play Keno again. Keno is boring.

If you want to gamble to have a little fun, go to the track and play the horses. It's a lot more exciting than sitting at a bar watching numbers on a TV set. And you get a bigger bang for your buck.

Is Keno what we want in Maryland? Hey, the only argument against it is a moral one, and what has that argument produced? Six hundred Keno machines, and counting.

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