The amount of paylines on a slot machine can make a huge difference to how it plays and how expensive it is to play. Experienced players tend to look out for the number of paylines on a machine when deciding whether to play, and in general terms, the more paylines a game has the more chances there are to win on each spin.
How do Paylines Work?
The traditional one-armed bandits and fruit machines feature three reels and just one payline. This is the central line where you have to match symbols to achieve a win. These machines are still hugely popular in land-based and online casinos, and they are the most basic type of slot as far as paylines are concerned.
Modern games are powered by computer software, and can feature any number of paylines across five or seven reels, with some games featuring hundreds of them. A winning combination is still made by matching symbols, but the paylines can run across the reels in a variety of different ways. There are straight ones across all reels, not just the centre reel; and they can also run horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or in a zig-zag line across the reels.
This means that when you spin the reels there are potentially multiple winning combinations across hundreds of different paylines. Winnings on each spin are accumulated and added to your bankroll, and if you hit several paylines on one spin, you stand to win large amounts. However, the more lines you play, the more each spin will cost, but more of that later.
There are plenty of games out there that still feature just one line, while the most common number of lines are 3, 5, 9, 15, 20 or 25. There are some multipayline machines out there though, that feature 243 or 1024 paylines, and they are referred to as ‘243 ways to win’ slots, or ‘1024 ways to win’ slots.
These games do away with the concept of paylines, and every symbol effectively acts as a scatter symbol. The slot will pay out as long as there are matching symbols on adjacent reels, no matter what position they occupy on the reel. Microgaming was one of the first companies to introduce this type of slot, and Net Entertainment and Playtech have followed suit.
Betting on Paylines
You need to give careful consideration to betting on paylines before you start playing online, as this can have a huge effect on your bankroll, winnings, and enjoyment. Each line is classed as a separate bet, so if you are staking a cent on each line and there are 25 paylines, each spin will cost you 25 cents.
Some machines are fixed – you have to play the full number of lines – but others are variable and you can select not only how many paylines to play, but also how much you want to bet on each line. Obviously, the less paylines you play, the less chances you will have to win, but each spin will cost considerably less also.
It’s vitally important therefore, to know how many paylines a machine has and how many you intend to play. In the example above 1 cent wagered on each payline results in a 25 cent cost per spin, but if you upped that to $10 per payline, you would be looking at a total stake of $250. This is why some ‘penny’ slots can also be classed as high roller slots. It’s essential to check what stakes are set and how many paylines you are playing before you start, or you could end up wiping out your bankroll in one spin!
Checking the Pay Table
To help understand how a specific slot works you should check the pay table, which can usually be accessed from the main game screen. This will tell you how many paylines there are and how they appear on the reels; it will also tell you what the winning combinations are, and how much each one pays out, as well as giving you information about the bonus games or free spins.