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Desert Companion

Field Notes: The Caveman Cometh


Predawn at 711
Photo by Brent Holmes

Predawn at 711

If you’re gonna play convenience store keno, this is the place

Please allow me to preface these remarks with the disclaimer that, yes, I am aware of the potential repercussions of the information I’m about to divulge. Vegas is supposed to be unbeatable, everyone knows that. If you start to beat Vegas, you get kicked out of the casino. But the thing about Vegas is, the casino is everywhere. Need groceries? How about some Caveman Keno. Need gas, or a hot dog? How about some Caveman Keno.

But, you see, the thing is, Caveman Keno? That painfully slow game you always regret playing because who has the patience for it? Well, I have the patience for it, and Im pretty sure Im in the black — but only at the 7-Eleven. If you’re gonna spend time earning money via Caveman Keno, you should only do it at the 7-Eleven.

Why? It might be the company: the tall old man who moseys in every evening around the time the pizza scent begins to waft, bellowing “How is everybody?” in a joyous baritone; the gallant night clerk who inevitably addresses female customers as “Milady”; the occasional baffled tourist desperately trying to get to the airport. Or perhaps it is the ambience: fluorescent lighting to keep you awake, top-40 radio to keep you up to date. 

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Photo by Brent Holmes

Dawn at 711


Photo by Brent Holmes

Afternoon at 711


Photo by Brent Holmes

Dusk at 711

But to be honest, it’s a question of odds.

A car might plow through the front windows, pinning me beneath the machine I’m sitting at. My friend Mike assures me this has happened at both locations on this intersection, Spencer and Trop, within the past year or so. Other keno-heads report that any particular machine might pay off once a year. Thus, I can deduce that any time I play Caveman Keno at one of these 7-Elevens, I’m running about even odds of catching the seven of seven with three dinosaur eggs, making $2,000 on a 10-cent wager, or getting run over by a stray automobile drifting into the shopping area.

I don’t know about you, but I like those odds. I guarantee, I’m gonna catch that jackpot long before I get run over by some fool. How can I make such a guarantee?

It all comes down to the dinosaur eggs. They multiply your big wins, sometimes, but they also multiply your small wins. Meaning you could whittle away two hours just working on a twenty at two nickels a pop. You play normal keno, and that sucker’ll just sap your dimes away. But the Caveman, he shows his face every once in a while …

Stick with the seven-spot. Group it, scatter it, who cares. I recommend scattering it. Most of the time, when the numbers come out on the grid they’re scattered. But sometimes they’re grouped.

With two nickels bet, wins might look like 10 cents, 30 cents, 40 cents, $1, $1.20, etc. You try to hit more of these small wins over the evening because the more chances you have, the closer you get to that big one. It’s coming, don’t worry. The dinosaur eggs help keep you alive. If you catch six of the seven numbers, you’ll make $22.50. With two dinosaur eggs, that’s $90. With three it’s $225, for those who aren’t that good at math.

Things get interesting when you catch all seven. Two hundred. Eight hundred. Two thousand.

The closest I’ve gotten is the $800. It happened at this 7-Eleven, on the northwest corner, the night my grandmother died. The clerk counted out a huge pile of twenties.

Grandma was old Henderson. Coincidence? Part of me wonders if it isn’t the Vegas gods trying to tell me something, in their usual oblique manner. Something about Fortune ...

Meanwhile I’m back to work, making my slow return on a small investment. The guy next to me is tapping relentlessly on the “Repeat Bet” button. Come on, come on. He might be on drugs.

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

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