Slots Paylines – Your Go-To Guide

slots paylines featured
Paylines are crucial to gameplay and can be the difference between massive payouts and small, but frequent ones. We’ve broken them down into types and you will also learn how you can use slot paylines to your advantage in any slot game.

Everything You Need to Know About Slots Paylines

The paylines in a slot game are fundamental to its setup and are one of the very basic aspects, defining gameplay. You have probably seen slot games with various numbers of paylines, and perhaps it may have gotten you wondering – what’s the difference? Is more better? Or is there more to the story than meets the eye? Let’s explain.

The paylines on a given slot game determine where matching symbols need to land in order to qualify as a winning combinations. And as we well know, winning combinations are what give us payouts. Hence, where the name paylines comes from.

Usually these paylines will crisscross the screen – always from the leftmost reel to the rightmost reel, but sometimes also from right to left, depending on the setup (more on that later). And for wins to be formed, the matching symbols need to land on the payline starting from the leftmost reel.

Now, old school slot games were very limited in this sense and only had a single payline running across the middle row of the three reels. Today it’s more common to find slots with 10, 15, 20 and more paylines.

mermaids millions 15paylines

Screenshot from Mermaids Millions Slot

Sometimes you can even find slots with up to 100 paylines. And all that means is that the game gives you more chances to win. Does this mean larger wins? Not necessarily. As a rule, the more paylines, the lesser the slot’s variance. And therefore wins will occur more frequently, but will be of lesser value.

Adjustable Paylines

Some slot games will offer you the opportunity to change the number of active paylines. And that will do two things. Firstly, it will decrease your winning opportunities. But secondly, it will also decrease the size of your stake. Hence, this is a good option for players with a smaller bankroll, because it offers more flexibility for them.

Fixed Paylines

Slot titles that have a fixed number of paylines will not allow you to choose how many or which of the paylines to bet on. In such games, your only flexibility is in adjusting the total bet size, as you are essentially betting on all of the paylines. This will mean higher stakes, as opposed to if you could bet on a lesser number of paylines. However, this will also mean that you can take advantage of all potential winning combinations.

How Adjusting Your Coins and Bet Level Can Improve Your Game

When you’re placing your bet before spinning the reels, you understand that the bet is for that spin and that it somehow relates to the paylines. But it’s actually a tad more complex than that and if you know exactly how bets are formed – you can have more control over your gaming sessions.

Generally, in slot games you bet a coin per payline. That coin have adjustable value. And very often you can even increase the number of coins per payline. For example, if a slot has 20 fixed paylines, where the minimum coin size is $0.01, then the minimum bet will be 20 x $0.01 = $0.20 per spin.

book of oz adjusting bets

Screenshot from Book of Oz Slot

If you decide to increase the number of coins you bet per line, however, then you will have to also take into account that number when calculating your total stake. So if in this same example you increase the amount of coins you bet from 1 to 3 without changing the value, the bet will be calculated as follows:

Example: 3 coins x $0.01 x 20 paylines = $0.60 per spin.

But there is, of course, a silver lining to this cloud of more expensive bets. Namely, if you bet with more coins, then the payout ratio increases as well. So whilst you’re increasing the risk, you are also bettering your winning potential. So, if you play with 1 coin per payline and land a winning combination of 3 symbols that pays 15 coins, then doubling the number of coins per paylines to 2 will also double the number of coins that are paid to 30 coins.

Slots will typically have very straightforward controls (usually at the bottom of the screen) that you can use to set your desired coin value, as well as adjust the number of coins you bet.

What about Paylines Alternatives?

The iGaming world is evolving constantly, and one of the most significant developments in slot games has been the expansion of game structures beyond traditional paylines. Software providers found ways to make room for even more winning combinations in their offerings, and eventually that opened up the need to come up with new ways for those winning combinations to be formed.

slots winning combinations

Screenshot from Pink Elephants 2 Slot

Hence, in slots where these winning combination possibilities well exceed the standard number of paylines, the paylines become known as “ways to win” because they follow a different structure. And then over time some providers decided to go beyond that even and dramatically increase the winning combinations reaching way into the thousands, giving birth to such mechanisms as cluster pays and Megaways.

X Ways to Win

Once you exhaust all possibilities to form paylines on a grid, you need to start coming up with new rules in which winning combinations are formed. And that is how the “ways to win” concept emerged. And it has since become quite popular, actually. So it’s certainly no uncommon for you to come across slot titles with, say, 243 ways to win, or sometimes even more.

243 ways to win

Screenshot from Playboy Slot

As a matter of fact, some of the most played games on the market are actually based on ways to win. And their main difference from standard, old-school paylines is that symbols are not required to follow a certain pattern on the grid. Instead, it is often enough for them to simply land on adjacent reels, starting from the leftmost reel on the screen. Position does not matter in this case, just as long as they are on consecutive reels.

One thing to keep in mind is that when there are X ways to win, bets aren’t formed in the same was as with regular paylines. Hence, you do not bet a certain number of coins based on the amounts of paylines. Instead, there is usually some fixed coin amount and players can adjust the value of that coin.

Cluster Pays

Cluster pays are among the latest innovations in the world of online slot games. And they give you even more winning opportunities than some of those with ways to win. The main difference here is that the leftmost and rightmost reels don’t matter here. Winning combinations do no land on predefined patterns, and they also do not necessarily have to land on the first three reels to pay out. Instead, they literally need to land in groups or clusters in order to be considered a winning combo of symbols.

grid slots

So whenever you land 3, 4 or more symbols (depending on the minimal requirement, which will vary from game to game) that are adjacent to one another, both vertically and horizontally, then you can enjoy payouts as you will have formed a winning combination.

With slots using the cluster pays mechanism, you will find that the games often don’t use traditional reel sets either. Very commonly they will have a grid of, for example, 6×6 or 8×8 symbols. And in some rare cases, there isn’t even a well-define grid in place either.

Megaways

Megaways is another slot game engine that aims to supercede the traditional paylines structure. And if nothing else, it certainly does wow you with the amount of possible winning combinations that can be formed in the slots that use it. As a matter of fact, the number of possible winning combos can completely blow you away – going up to over one hundred thousand! Well, 117,649 to be exact.

megaways slots

And the beauty of slots that use the Megaways engine is that they are usually very dynamic. This means the number of reels, as well as their height and hence the number of symbols on the screen, can change constantly throughout gameplay. And with them, of course, the number of ways to win and possible winning combinations will increase, as well. Furthermore, the height of the reels on the screen doesn’t necessarily need to change in uniform. The grid can be asymmetrical with taller reels in the middle and the outermost ones containing less symbols.

So it’s possible to start out the base game with, say, 243 ways to win initially. And then as the game session progresses and special features come into play, you can watch the layout change and the number of ways to win increase dramatically.

Win-both-ways Paylines

This is a slight variation on the typical notion of paylines in a slot game. And it’s kind of a stepping stone between traditional paylines and the concept of ways to win. As we discussed earlier, winning combinations in games with classic paylines are formed by landing combinations on predetermined patterns, starting from the leftmost reel.

So what happens when you decide to give more winning possibilities by introducing the “win both ways” approach? You reverse the order! So now winning combinations can be formed both from left to right, as well as from right to left. That, in turn, can double the amount of winning combinations possible in a slot game, without introducing a new engine or mechanism.

Author: Elly Furlan
Game Analyst
Elly is a game analyst who likes to dig deep into the game features and specifics. She tests the slots we review in real money mode as well as in demo free play. The newest trends in the casino games industry are her passion.