Slots Paylines

Paylines are a central component of online gambling for real money slot machines. Some players prefer online casino games with dozens – even hundreds of paylines while others would rather play a low-key, relaxed slot machine that has a limited number of paylines. What exactly are the paylines and how does the number of featured paylines make a slot more or less exciting?

What are Paylines?

Each game has a specified number of paylines. The number can be as low as one line or as high one hundred plus. Winning payouts are achieved for matching symbol combinations on those paylines.

You must bet on a payline in order to achieve a cash payout when your spin results in 3 or more matching symbols. Obviously, the payline is a winner whether or not you’ve bet on that line but you won’t get anything if you didn’t place a bet. For instance, if you bet on 29 of a game’s 30 paylines and you spin a matching combination on that one payline on which you didn’t place a wager, you won’t receive a cash prize.

Casino observers suggest that it’s in your best interest to activate all the paylines on every spin, even when you active them at a low bet amount. If you don’t, you could miss out on payouts, progressive wins and more. 


The earliest slot machines were pub fruit machines. They were mechanical machines that were quite simple. There was only one payline on these early machines and when 3 symbols crossed the payline horizontally, a win would be achieved.

The earliest slot machine, the “Liberty Bell” featured 4 symbols on 3 reels. In order to win the highest payout  on this machine (10 nickels) the player had to get three bell symbols in a row. This machine and other early slots, had one payline and three reels.

More paylines were slowly added but when 5-reel slots came on the scene, the game manufacturers, who could now create the games with computer systems and random number generators, started to add paylines as well. Today, it’s customary for slot machines to feature about 30 paylines but there are some machines that have several dozen – even several hundred –  of paylines.

Regardless of the number of paylines, the payline will always have to cross the same number of icons. So, for example, if you are playing a three reel slot, the payline will feature 3 symbols. If you’re playing a 5 reel slot, there will be 5 symbols. Etc.

How do Paylines Work?

Paylines are fairly straightforward. Sometimes they run across the reels in a zig-zag shape and at other times they are simple and straight. Paylines can be vertical, horizontal or diagonal – the shape of the line is not important. Whichever way the line runs, if 3 symbols on the line match, you’ll win. And if you’ve activated that payline with a bet, you’ll win the payout.  

In general, winning combinations on activated paylines involve matching symbols that occur from left to right. However, some slot machines will pay a winning combination regardless of the direction on which the symbols occur. Obviously, these machines are highly desirable because there’s more chance that your matching symbols will result in a win.

In general however, if you have a winning combination but you don’t receive a payout, it means that  the symbols didn’t line up along a pay line.

You can check all the possible wins and payouts by viewing the paytable. The paytable is located within the main gaming screen and there you’ll find everything that you need to know about the game’s pay lines, winning combos, payout odds, how to play the bonus events and more.

Adjustable Paylines Vs. Fixed Paylines

Some slot games feature fixed paylines while others have adjustable paylines. Fixed paylines offer bets on all or nothing – you need to bet on all of the paylines simultaneously. You can’t adjust the lines on a fixed payline game. Adjustable games give you the option to select a specific number of paylines on which to bet.

It’s important to remember that, in a game with fixed paylines, while you can’t adjust the number of active paylines, you can adjust how much you want to wager on each spin. Basically, you can play around with the Coin Value and the Bet Level which gives you the opportunity to determine how much you want to bet on each spin. Thus, you do have control, though it differs from the control that you have on an adjustable payline game. Basically, the more active paylines you have, the more you pay to have them active.

It’s also important to keep the adjustable paylines vs. the fixed paylines in mind when you play a Progressive Jackpot slots. If you miss out on a jackpot because you didn’t  activate a payline in an adjustable payline game, the Jackpot will go for naught.

How to Choose

The more paylines that a slot machine features, the more chances you have to make a match and win a payout. However, the wager amount per spin goes up on those machines so you have to make your decision about whether you want more paylines for a higher wager or fewer paylines for a lower wager. 

A lot of the decision depends on the type of player you are. If you don’t like to risk too much money but you look for regular wins, a slot machine with lots of paylines on which you bet small stakes is probably best for you. If you’re happy with fewer wins but want the excitement of the biggest payouts, pick a game with fewer paylines and then wager more on each one.