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Slot Machine Paylines Explained

Anyone who has ever played online slots knows one of the most critical features that these games have to offer is the paylines. They are basically a specific arrangement of symbols that triggers a win when they appear on the reels after they stop spinning. What exactly the right combination looks like or how many lines there are in total are the factors that can vary from one slot game to another. In order to fully understand payline mechanics, it is essential that you also understand all the terminology associated with it. And in this article, we will try our best to give you the deepest look into the question.
Slot Machine Paylines Explained

Table of Contents:
What are Paylines in Online Slots?
How Many Paylines Are There?
How do Paylines Work? 
How to Use Slot Payout Tables to Your Advantage

What are Paylines in Online Slots?

All pokies have one thing in common: a specific pattern or arrangement of symbols has to appear in a particular order for winnings to be paid out.

So, let’s imagine that you have launched a slot, you are now getting hypnotised by the spinning of the reels and you eagerly wait for each symbol on each reel to land. And BINGO! You see three strawberries form a straight horizontal line.
Congratulations, my friend, you have just witnessed one of the most common winning combinations and earned yourself a good portion of money.
Since the most modern and most advanced slots feature numerous winning lines, it is possible to form more than one winning combination at once. Thus, you can significantly increase your profits.
Whether you win at slots with a payline depends not only on hitting the coveted combination but also on whether you have betted on the correct line. The number of paylines offered by a machine only indirectly has something to do with the total payout size or the winning odds.

The payout amount you can get also depends on the included ways to win, possible bonus bets, and winning levels.

Today you can also distinguish between slot machines by the number of paylines present:

  • Classic 3-reel pokies
  • Standard 5-reel gaming machines
  • Modern 7-reel slots

Watch out for matching symbols on the reels once you launch the game. Usually, at least two or three symbol combinations are necessary to receive a payout.

Some games allow you to choose precisely which lines you want to bet on, while in the others, you always have to bet on all lines simultaneously, so the number is fixed. The more paylines are activated, the higher the bet will be.  

How Many Paylines Are There?

Well, just as usual, the most correct answer would be “it depends”. In this case, everything depends on the game developer and the game itself.

The number of paylines on a slot machine may differ noticeably. As a matter of fact, a slot can have between 1 and 100 paylines. Check out several facts on this matter:

  • Some retro slots only have one payline
  • Modern games often work with 10, 20, and 25 lines
  • Usually, there are about 243 ways to win at a slot game

Of course, the more lines there are, the more chances you have to win in the long term.

Many gaming machines also allow you to set the number of lines yourself. This way, you can further customise the gameplay in addition to the stakes according to your preferences.

As a rule, such video slot machines feature the “bet per line” function. Accordingly, the more lines you activate, the more you pay. Just keep fewer lines active to lessen the risk of loss. 

How do Paylines Work? 

It’s pretty easy to understand how slot lines work. They can either run straight from left to right in a horizontal line or vertically, diagonally, or even in a zigzag pattern across the reels. 

In order to be able to check if a winning combination shows up on a line, you need to remember that most of the time, the winnings are paid from left to right.
With gaming machines equipped with a large number of complexly arranged paylines, you can no longer see the individual lines themselves.

In practice, you no longer have a direct overview of whether a payline has been hit when spinning. It only becomes apparent when it lights up, and the victory screen is displayed.

Most players, therefore, look forward to seeing certain symbols, the appearance of which always has a positive effect. These include, for example:

  • Scatter symbols
  • Wild symbols
  • Symbols that trigger free spins

The larger the number of paylines, the less you will have to pay attention to winning combinations and concentrate more on regulating the bet size, bonus bets, and special functions. Thus, you can play slots without being distracted.

If you bet on several paylines, you significantly increase your chances to win. Keep in mind that such a luxury isn’t possible with slots where you’re forced to play on all the lines at once. 

How to Use Slot Payout Tables to Your Advantage

Although you don't have to figure out what you've won while playing, the paytable can help a lot when you look for that one game of your wish. It shows the course of the various paylines and also takes into account the effect of special symbols.

If you want to play a slot with a vast number of paylines, you can check that parameter on the paytable before the first spin. There are also some online casino games where you can pick the number of lines you want to play with.

So you choose either gambling with a small stake and few lines or increasing the stake and thus increasing the number of lines you play with.
Other factors such as the number of reels, rows, and different symbols also play a pretty big role in the probability of winning.


As you can see, learning how paylines work is not difficult at all. They are fundamental for any type of slot.

Therefore, you have to be familiar with it if you want to make profit in the long run. If you want to experience the pleasure of winning as often as possible, it can be worth looking out for games that have as many lines active as possible.