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Published date 07 January 2021

What are Paylines?

A fundamental feature of all slot machines is the payline. The simplest way to explain a payline is that a payline is a line upon which the game will look for winning combinations and reward these with a payout. The game will only pay rewards for winning combinations found on paylines on which you have placed a bet.

The number of pay lines on a slot machine tells us how many different ways you can win. A basic slot game provides a single pay line that runs left to right across the middle of the slot reels, and others feature slots above and below this and even in patterns across the reels.


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How Slot Paylines Work

Patterns of Paylines in Online Slots
The yellow squares show the various combinations in which paylines can appear in online slots

Paylines can be simple, straight lines that run horizontally across the reels. To increase the number of paylines (and ways to win) slots can also include paylines that run vertically, diagonally, in zigzagging patterns, and even lines that form shapes like trapeziums across the reels. We describe slot games as having fixed or adjustable pay lines.

Payline Winning Chances

If the slot game you are playing on has 25 possible pay lines, and you bet on 10 paylines, and a winning combination falls on a pay line that isn't bet on (or activated by a bet) you won't be rewarded. A rule of thumb states that it is your best interest to activate every payline to avoid missing out on big wins or progressive jackpots.

If the slot game you are playing on has 25 possible paylines, and you bet on 10 pay lines, and a winning combination falls on a payline that isn't bet on (or activated by a bet) you won't be rewarded. A rule of thumb states that it is your best interest to activate every payline to avoid missing out on big wins or progressive jackpots.

Helpful Tip!

It is important to note when checking for winning combinations that most slot machines reward you for winning combinations lined up from left to right on a payline. Some slots pay for combinations running in any direction, and others consider the same line running from right to left as an additional pay line. It is a good idea to have a look at the paytable to ensure that you are aware of all possible paylines. The main gaming screen usually contains this paytable which includes information on paylines, payout odds, winning combinations and details of bonus events.

Mechanical Slot Machines vs Modern Slot Machines

Early fruit and slot machines were mechanical and frequently only offered a single pay line across the middle of the reels. Many of these machines are still in use today, and many popular slots in Vegas are still classic 3-reel mechanical machines.

Computer systems and random number generators run modern slot games. The use of technology and the transformation of the mechanics behind a slot machine have dramatically increased the number of pay lines that slot machines have. This technology allows for many more reels and multiple pay lines. Some slot games offer over 100 paylines, with some as many as 243 ways to win. These additional pay lines allow many more ways to win (with the extra bets required to activate each line). On modern slot games, the most common range is between 25 and 30 pay lines.