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Slot Paylines Explained: Top Slot Machine Pay Tables Guide for 2024

Slot paylines are the lines on which a slot game's matching symbols must land to create a winning combination. Behind the scenes, there’s a complicated mechanism made up of various mathematical formulae. But don't let that intimidate you – let’s take a closer look below!

Slot Machine Lines Explained How Do Slot Machine Lines Work? Multi-payline Slots

What Are Slot Paylines?

Slot playlines are a pattern on the reels where winning symbol combinations land. Although some classic slots still feature a single payline, game developers have become more innovative, introducing to the market slots with cluster pays, 243 paylines, Megaways™ slots with 117,649+ paylines, and even InfiniReels with potentially limitless ways to win.

A graphic showing how paylines work across the reels of a slot game.

When paylines pay

To put it another way, paylines are the components of a slot game that determine whether you achieve a win or not based on the symbols that land on them. As can be seen from the image above, different slots can have different payout patterns. Furthermore, while new symbols can appear, the paylines on a slot always remain the same.

How Do Slot Paylines Work?

Slot paylines and their configuration are set by the software provider during a game’s development. Once the paylines are set, they cannot be changed unless the developer updates the game. Therefore, they will be the same every time and no matter on which site you play the game. This consistency is key because it allows greater understanding of the game's mechanics without having to follow a different set of rules every single time.

While the paylines will always be the same, the symbols that appear on the reels change constantly. This is because all certified slot games will have been implemented with a Random Number Generators (RNG) to ensure that every spin is fair and completely random. As a result, each spin is entirely independent of the previous one, so there is no way to predict which symbols will appear on the reels.

The reels and rows of a slot can follow any pattern across the game's grid. If had to take a five-reel, three-row (5×3) setup as an example, the payline may be a straight horizontal line, a straight vertical line, a Z formation, or any other pattern that fits onto the layout. On each spin, the symbols will fall onto the reels and, if a winning combination lands on an active payline, you win.

Yet, it is essential that the symbols land in the exact same pattern as the payline. All online slots have a specific number of paylines, so you usually have more than one chance to win. Some games may have 10 slot paylines, others 20, and some, like Megaways™ slots, will even have thousands.

When you bet, you are setting a wager on a payline and can adjust the value of paylines by increasing or decreasing the coin/bet amount. The higher the bet, the more paylines become active and the more chances you have of winning.

You’ll also need to consider whether the slot game has fixed or variable paylines. A slot with fixed paylines means you must bet across all available lines during a spin. Alternatively, a game with variable paylines will allow you to select which lines are active during a spin.

Modern online slots you’ll find at the best online casinos, including innovative live slot games and Bitcoin slots, boast both variable and fixed paylines. However, what you end up choosing will depend on your personal preferences.

Now that you know the fundamentals of slot machine paylines, let’s take a look at the various configurations available.

Single Payline Slot Machines

Single-payline slot games are where it all began. In fact, the first slot machines ever made in the 1800s were single-line games with just three reels to spin. Because of this, there was no need for additional paylines. Back then, all you needed to do was match the symbols on one row to win.

In spite (or perhaps because of) this simplicity, the first slot games to appear became hugely popular. However, as with all things, they evolved to become more complex and challenging over time. Newer slot games have much more to offer players in terms of paylines, mostly thanks to exciting features created by top software developers constantly pushing boundaries within the industry.

Multi Payline Slots

If you want to maximise your fun and winning potential, multi-payline slots are definitely for you! Simply put, these games have more than one slot payline and give you more ways to win. This is because you can wager across multiple paylines at the same time. Most multi-payline slot games feature a 5×3 configuration, which means they have five reels and three rows.

However, game developers love to be creative, so many other grids are available, such as 5×4. When there are more reels available, there are also more slot machine lines available. How many paylines you get depends on the game, but the amount can range from 1 to over 100,000 ways to win.

It’s good to note that in such instances, developers may opt for one of two avenues:

  • The first is to give you the chance to decide how many paylines are active by adjusting your bet.
  • The second is for any bet to activate all paylines.

The majority of modern slots follow the latter model but, with thousands of online slots available, there is no universally prevalent number of paylines. That said, most games you play will have 10, 15, 20, or 25 slot paylines on average.

Top Multi-Payline Slots

Due to the immense amount of choice, selecting the best of what's out there can be challenging. To save you the hassle, our team of industry experts, including professionals with decades of online casino experience, have rigorously tested and evaluated the best real-money slot games online.

Through our in-depth online slot reviews, we have gone the extra mile to cover dozens of titles, checking metrics such as RTP, number of slot paylines, game type, volatility, and features.

To narrow things down even further, you can check out some sure-fire hits in our list of top multi-payline slots below:

Gonzo’s Quest

Gonzo's Quest Logo
 Software: NetEnt
  •  Return to player (RTP):  95.95%
  •  Volatility:  Medium
  •  Release date:  2011
  •  Game type:  5x3
  •  Features:  20 Paylines,Expanding Wins, Avalanche Reels, 37,500x Max Win

We recommend playing at:
More options:
Gonzo’s Quest Review

Mega Moolah

Mega Moolah Logo
 Software: Microgaming
  •  Return to player (RTP):  93.43%
  •  Volatility:  Low
  •  Release date:  2006
  •  Game type:  5x3
  •  Features:  25 Paylines, Progressive Jackpot

We recommend playing at:
More options:
Mega Moolah Review

Pinup Girls

Pinup Girls Logo
 Software: Pragmatic Play
  •  Return to player (RTP):  96.44%
  •  Volatility:  High
  •  Release date:  2023
  •  Game type:  5x4
  •  Features:  20 Paylines, Progressive Multiplier Wins, Fixed Wild During The Bonus

We recommend playing at:
More options:
Pinup Girls Review

Ancient Disco

Ancient Disco Logo
 Software: Red Tiger Gaming
  •  Return to player (RTP):  95.74%
  •  Volatility:  High
  •  Release date:  2023
  •  Game type:  5x3
  •  Features:  20 paylines, Bonus Buy, Respins

We recommend playing at:
More options:
Ancient Disco Review

Gifts of Fortune

Gifts of Fortune Logo
 Software: Big Time Gaming
  •  Return to player (RTP):  96.29%
  •  Volatility:  High
  •  Release date:  2023
  •  Game type:  6x7
  •  Features:  117,649 Ways To Win, Treasure Pot, Free Spins, Win Exchange

We recommend playing at:
More options:
Gifts of Fortune Review

Pharaoh’s Gaze DoubleMax

Pharoah's Gaze Double max slot logo
 Software: Yggdrasil Gaming
  •  Return to player (RTP):  96.1%
  •  Volatility:  High
  •  Release date:  2023
  •  Game type:  5x3
  •  Features:  20 Slot Paylines, 15,000x Jackpot, Dropdown Feature, DoubleMax, Pharoah’s Gaze Wilds, Scarab Free Spins, Bonus Buy

We recommend playing at:
More options:
Pharaoh’s Gaze DoubleMax Review

Type of Slots Paylines Explained

Knowing how to read paylines – all forms of them – allows you to have more control over your betting. Below are the different slot machine lines explained:

One-Direction Fixed Paylines

No, we're not referring to the boy band! One-direction fixed paylines can be considered standard paylines, because you get them on the reels of most slots you play. They work left to right, which means you must match at least three symbols from the leftmost reel to win. It is worth noting that some games have right-to-left paylines, but they are not as common.

One of the reasons why this configuration works best is because reels always land left to right, so it just makes sense for the paylines to line up the same.

Discover more about our favourite one-direction fixed payline slot in our Book of Dead slot review.

Book of Dead screenshot

The Book of Dead base game (Source: Play’n GO)

Pay Both Ways

An alternative to a one-direction fixed line are those that run in both directions, which are known as pay-both-ways paylines. This means matching symbols that give wins can land from left to right or right to left on the reels. In this configuration, you get two ways to win on each active payline. While not as common as one-direction paylines, some of the latest and greatest online slots use pay-both-ways mechanics. Discover our  favourite slot that uses this model in our Starburst slot review.

Starburst Screenshot

The Starburst base game (Source: NetEnt)

All Ways

Also known as 243 ways to win, all-ways payline removes are less rigid, giving you a chance to win by landing at least three matching symbols anywhere on the grid.

In this case, you won’t be betting on fixed or adjustable lines, so your total bet will go towards your winning prize, not just the payline wager. 243-wins is one of the most popular niche payline features and is available on numerous popular online slots. You can explore our two favourite ones by reading our Immortal Romance slot review and our Thunderstruck II slot review.

Cluster Pays

The easiest way to think of Cluster Pays™ is as a payline mechanic that allows you to build wins on top of each other. The reel mechanics work differently in these games because you win in clusters instead of a line. When multiple symbols land next to each other, you win, whether it is left to right, right to left, up to down, or down to up.

In many versions of Cluster Pays™ slots, the winning symbols will fall away and be replaced by new symbols. The first win is stored, and you can stack wins on top of each other as long as symbol combinations keep landing. In Cluster Pays™, symbols must be next to each other and touch one side to win.

We've reviewed a number of such games, but our favourite is the Good Luck Clusterbuster slot review.

Good Luck ClusterBuster screenshot

The Good Luck Clusterbuster base game (Source: Red Tiger Gaming)

Megaways™

Megaways™ is a unique mechanic that was originally created by Australian software provider Big Time Gaming (BTG), and which has since been adopted by many other leading developers.

These games have six reels, with the Megaways™ engine allowing the number of active paylines to change randomly on each spin. Big Time Gaming’s core mechanic offers 117,649 ways to win. However, other providers who license the technology have custom Megaways™ ranging from 15,625 to a massive 248,832 ways to win.

Among our favourite reviews here you can find the Bonanza Megaways™ slot review and the Musketeer Megaways™ slot review.

Musketeer Megaways™ 1forAll Mode Screenshot

The Quad Feature in Musketeer Megaways™ (Source: iSoftBet)

InfinityReels

InfiniReels™ slots were introduced to the market by Swedish developer, NetEnt, and they are essentially what they say on the tin: an expanding reels mechanic that can give you an infinite number of reels.

Games with this feature start as classic Vegas-style games with three reels, three rows, and 27 slot paylines. Then, once you land a winning combination, a new reel will be added on the right-hand side of the grid. This, like cascading reels, will continue to happen until no more wins are possible in that spin, at which point the grid will return to its base 3×3 format.

Our favourite review here is undoubtedly the Odin InfinityReels™ Featuring Megaways™ slot review, which unites both of these fantastic mechanics into one.

Odin Infinity Reels Megaways™ Screenshot

The Odin InfinityReels™ Featuring Megaways™ base game (Source: ReelPlay)

How to Bet on Slots Paylines

Online slot games are dynamic, with loads going on at the same time: animations, features, sounds, bonus rounds, and different configurations. Factors such as reels, symbols, and slot paylines dictate how much money you can potentially win, so giving yourself as much knowledge as possible is a great way to have the best experience playing slots.

What is a pay table? What is a pay table?

If you are unfamiliar with a paytable, it is a chart that details everything you need to know about a game. The paytable shows game rules, bet limits, winning symbol combinations, and how much they pay out. You can find the paytable through the information button or in the settings of all slots.

We recommend reading the paytable of every single slot you play. You can also apply the knowledge you gained about paylines from this page to inform your betting when spinning the reels. Knowing how paylines work lets you determine the coin value and bet level across paylines. There is a maximum and minimum bet amount on slot games, and you can tweak the value anywhere in between.

  • Coin Value: This is the amount you bet on each active payline. Higher coin values mean you will be betting more on a payline.
  • Bet Value: This is how many coins you spend on each line. Higher bets mean you can potentially win more if the symbols fall in a winning combination.

So, if you bet 0.04 coins on a payline with a bet level of 2, the actual coin value becomes 0.08. Therefore, if you play a game with 20 slot paylines, you’ll need to bet 1.60 to cover all lines (if they are fixed).

Having this basic knowledge can help you make the best decisions about how you use your bankroll. For example, betting with a higher coin/bet value is best if you want to win big prizes. Bettors on a budget may wish to bet lower values. However, you will not win big prizes.

Once you have set your coin value and bet value in accordance with your budget, just hit the spin button to start playing. The reels will now spin, and symbols will lock. If you get a winning combination, you can claim a cash prize.

Online slots also have modifiers such as wilds and scatters that help you to win by opening bonuses or changing symbols.

Step-By-Step Guide

  1. Select one of our recommended online slot casinos. Our team of experts choose reputable casinos with the best slot game collections. Click the link to head to your preferred site.
  2. Click ‘Register’ to start the sign-up process. You’ll need to provide your name, date of birth, email address, and phone number before agreeing to the casino’s terms and conditions.
  3. Once you verify your account, head to the Cashier section and choose a payment method. Set up the amount you want to deposit to fund your casino account.
  4. During your registration and first deposit, you can opt into the welcome bonus if the casino asks. Some operators automatically enrol new customers into their promotions.
  5. With your account funded, go to the games’ lobby. Pick from the collection of slots based on your preferences for genre, theme, mechanics, and/or slot paylines.
  6. Open your favourite game and check out the paytable to better understand the winning combinations. You can even play for free to learn the game and practise your chosen strategy. To find out more about this, check out our online slot strategy article.
  7. With your budget in mind, input the amount you want to wager. Remember to always gamble within your means, and never spend more than you can afford to lose.

A Brief History of Slots – How Slot Paylines Have Evolved Over the Years

Slot games have a long history that dates back to innovative machinery of the 19th century. In fact, it was in 1899 when Charles Fey created the Liberty Bell, the first slot game with three reels.

To avoid falling foul of lawmakers – gambling was illegal in the US at the time – people would play slots for fruit sweets. Yes, that’s where the name fruit machine comes from! Over the following decades, mechanical slots expanded around the globe, including one-arm machines on the casino floors of Las Vegas. Games with video screens followed in the late 1970s, pointing to the future of online slots.

In the UK, the heyday of pub culture meant a slot machine was found in every bar during the 1980s and 1990s. However, in the latter decade, the gambling world changed forever as the first online casinos began to appear, with software creators there to provide virtual games. With the birth of the online slot, there has been no end to innovation as developers continue to move with technological advancements.

Thanks to their creative animations, immersive gameplay, bonuses, and huge wins, online slots are the ultimate expression of what slots can be!

Liberty Bell Slot Machine

A 1899 Liberty Bell slot machine (Source: Wikipedia)

Online Slot Paylines vs Land-Based Slot Paylines

Online, the possibilities for slot paylines are endless. Modern software allows game developers to let their creativity flow and provide innovative ideas and gameplay. These days, you have simple games with traditional paylines alongside numerous interesting mechanics that transform how you can play slots.

You’ll also find online slot machine forums that you can use to help improve your casino experience. Additionally, the dynamic nature of online slots means you can win in so many ways and potentially claim massive prizes.

While land-based slot machines have also evolved, they are still limited by their mechanical nature. So, while video slots are available at brick-and-mortar casinos, these are now essentially online game inserted into a physical machine. Even so, there is no doubt that classic-style slot games are excellent in their own right and provide an a different kind of gameplay experience that's just as enjoyable.

Online Slot Paylines: Our Verdict

Now that you have a good understanding of what paylines are and how to read them, it's time to put your newly found knowledge into action! We recommend trying out the games we have listed and recommended above, which have all been vetted by our team of industry experts.

Before you do so, however, we'll remind you that there are many different types of paylines, and there is no one “best” option. However, if you choose a game with a high RTP (Return to Player) and flexible slot paylines, you will have more control over your betting and a better chance of landing bigger winnings. Good luck and happy spinning!

Slot Paylines FAQs

A slot payline refers to a specific line or pattern on the reels of an online slot game that determines how much a player can win if certain symbols land on it in a specific combination. In other words, it's the section of the slot where you place your bet.

There are various types of paylines: straight, diagonal, zigzag, as well as varying numbers of paylines on different slot games.

When you open the slot game, you can bet across the available paylines by selecting the coin value and bet value. Some games have variable paylines, so you can choose how many lines to wager on. Other games have fixed paylines, meaning you must bet on all of the available lines.

It depends on your budget, but playing more lines can increase your chances of hitting a winning combination. We suggest betting small stakes across as many lines as possible to boost your chances of success. However, as always, never bet more than you can afford to lose.

Sometimes, but not necessarily. All online slot games generate totally random outcomes, so really, you only need one spin to win (along with a good dose of luck!) However, the more paylines there are, the higher your chances of success. Furthermore, you can also land bigger winnings if more lines are available.

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Jake Schembri

Jake Schembri

Author Expert

With well over a decade’s worth of writing experience under his belt, Jake has created content for some of the most prominent casino operators in the industry, most notably Betsson and Betsafe. He enjoys getting into the nitty-gritty of what an operator is all about, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to providing candid, comprehensive, and objective insights.

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