Paylines as the Most Important Part of Video Slots

June 16, 2021

Considering the design of any slot machine in an online casino, beginners will sooner or later pay attention to the numbers on the sides of the video slot screen, as well as to the “Lines” (or "Paylines") column. The maximum number of paylines may differ from slot to slot. In this article, we will try to shed light on such feature as active pay-lines.

Do Your Winnings Depend on Active Lines?

Everyone knows the essence of the slot game: to win, you need to collect the same images in a row. These rows are called paylines. The combination is paid only if the symbols are collected on them. But how many active lines is it better to choose? What number of pay-lines is average in video slots? Do active lines impact the game outcomes? Let’s find out!

What is a Payline in Slots?

Paylines (or active lines) are a conventional arrangement of symbols on the video slot screen. If the same symbols line up on one of the paylines specified by the manufacturers of the gambling game, the player will receive a win. If the paid combination falls on an inactive line, it is not counted.

Almost all pay tables of slot machines in online casinos contain information about the location of paylines on the game screen. After reviewing it, the player can assess their chances of winning before even starting the game.

How Do You Read the Lines on a Slot Machine?

Lines in video slots can be straight (horizontal, vertical), diagonal, and/or form complex corners. They also differ in direction. In some online slots, combinations are counted from one side, for example, from right to left, in others - in both directions. This information needs to be checked in the slot paytable.

All you need to do is click on the pay table icon, and you will see a pop-up window where everything will be explained in detail. In the pay table, you'll see the list of all the winning combinations and the direction of active lines (in most games, it’s from left to right). It will also tell you what symbols must be matched in order to trigger the bonus games, as well as what amount will be paid after certain symbols land on the reels.

How Many Paylines Can a Slot Machine Have?

The first slot machines had only 1 horizontal pay-line. The machines themselves were equipped with three reels, so 3 identical images in the center had to fall out to win. By the way, it was thanks to the slot machines that the 777 sign acquired the aura of a lucky number - this was the highest paid combination.

The limited functionality of slot machines did not allow adding many lines. Therefore, their number often did not exceed five. But with the invention of video slots, everything changed. Slot machines have ceased to depend on mechanisms and gears. Now, the number is limited only by the concept of the game. Usually, in video slots, there are from 10 to 50 pay-lines. This is sufficient considering that modern online slot machines use bonus symbols. For example, Wilds play the role of a joker: they can take the form of any symbol and form winning combinations.

There are also video slots with many lines, from 243 to 1024. This is a rare type. These slots have a limitation: the combinations must be continuous, from reel to reel.

And there are unique games with an enormous number of possible winning lines (up to 1,000,000) - Megaways. They are slot machines in which the icons on the reels do not have a constant size. This means that according to the results of the spin, in each column, there can be one or more pictures. There are no fixed cells on the screen. And there are no fixed active lines. Depending on how many characters are on the playing field, the number of potential combinations is calculated. For example, in the Bonanza slot, there can be up to 117,649 combos.

The basic principle of the Megaways system is that, in each spin, the random number generator determines how many pictures will fall in each column. The number of characters in the columns can be the same or different. Winning chains consist of the same icons, which must fall on adjacent reels, starting with the first. Naturally, the more items on the screen, the more significant the chances of getting paid.

Are More Paylines Better in Slots?

There are video slots with a fixed number of lines. In them, you can only adjust the amount of the bet, but in most machines, you can choose which lines to activate and which ones to not. The more they are involved, the higher the price of the bet is. However, the chance of catching a win (volatility) and the size of payout (RTP) doesn’t become greater.

Many gamblers believe that slots with fewer than 10 pay-lines are less profitable. Partially, this is true but not due to the active lines. Most slots with 1-9 pay-lines are old games. When they were created, the RTP of 85-95% was considered average. Surely enough, in comparison with modern slots, they pay back less. Yet, it’s not related to the number of lines.

Should You Play All Lines on a Slot Machine?

The basic principle of choosing the number of lines can be formulated as follows: the fewer lines a player sets, the higher the variance of the game is. In other words, there is a higher probability of winning more money relative to the available bet, although wins will be less frequent. But everything would be too simple if the player could be guided only by this logic. In fact, a lot depends on software developers. Those vendors that use adaptive mathematics limit the chances of winning in advance, which means that it is useless for the user to change the number of lines and the bet - it will not give any positive results.

But there are exceptions:

  • Slots similar to "Book of Ra", where the bonus game begins after the fall of any 3 Scatters, no matter where they stand. In fact, in all games where bonuses play a decisive role, it is better not to play with a minimum set of paylines and high bets. Practice shows that this way you can win more.

  • Slots where the maximum of lines is 3-5. In them, it is more correct to make high bets, but to play on only one line, hoping to win the cherished "three sevens".

If we consider the game of slots from a mathematical point, it turns out that the number of lines is an extremely insignificant factor. All that can be achieved by reducing the size of the slot field is just a rarer combination. But not more. Therefore, it may seem that it is more logical to play with the maximum set and just wait until the machine allows the possibility of winning.

Yet, pay-lines may not be used in modern slot machines at all. The mechanics in them do not consist in lining up the same symbols just in a row. If similar symbols on different reels are adjacent to each other, they form prize combinations. But even this rule can be violated. There are games that use the scattered symbol algorithm. They consider similar images that fall on the screen as a winning combo. Prize combinations are formed even if the icons are located at different ends of the playing field.

As you can see, each player can choose exactly what brings them the most pleasure. There is no clear answer to how many lines are more profitable to play slots. What’s better: to play a game with low variance and 243 active waiting for the bonus game or choose a slot with 9-15 active lines and the chance to win a large amount during the main game? It’s up to you what to choose.