Slot Paylines

If you’ve ever wondered how wins are determined on slots, slot paylines are your answer. Wins come from certain symbols landing in certain patterns across lines, and that results in a payout. Hence, the names “payline” or “win line,” both of which are used interchangably. Slots paylines may be straight across the reels, crooked, or entirely random, depending on the slot and as depicted below.

Slot Win Lines Example

One thing you can count on is that every slot will explain its paylines in the game’s information or help section. On this page, we’ll cover everything you need to understand about slot paylines and add another dimension of clarity and excitement to your slot-playing experience.

Why Slots Paylines Are Important

Slots paylines are basically how many chances a player has to win on every round of slots play. For example, if a player has 30 active paylines and spins, they have 30 chances for a payout on that spin.

Setting Your Paylines

Usually, slots with multiple paylines give the player the option to set how many they want to play. Players have to set the value of each payline to determine how much they can win as well as the over all bet. Here’s an example:

  • You set the payline value to $0.20 per line
  • You play 30 paylines
  • Your total bet would be $6 per spin.

If one of your paylines triggers a winning combination, that applies to the payline value, not the total bet. So if you win a 10x multiplier on the above example, you’d win $2.

Types of Slot Paylines


Straight Paylines

Straight paylines are the most common configuration and can be found in most slots, whether they have one payline or a hundred. These paylines run straight across the reels. Any winning combination of symbols in a straight line, in this case, would trigger a win. Most three-reel stepper slots have one straight payline, and include blank spaces on their wheels that usually resu non-winning spins.


Horizontal Paylines

Lock it Link Diamonds Payline

Most slots deal with horizontal paylines. These are slot paylines that run horizontally across the reels. Winning combinations can be created by symbols from multiple reels.


Fixed Paylines

Cleopatra Paylines

Most slots deal with fixed paylines. Not to be confused with the idea that you’re playing all the lines at once, fixed paylines can mean that slots have a set-in-stone layout of paylines that remains consistent throughout play. In this case, you could look at a diagram of paylines before you take a spin and know exactly what to expect.

As mentioned, some slots offer, for example, “up to 30 paylines,” while others are “fixed payline slots,” meaning players will have 30 chances to win every spin no matter what.


Variable Paylines

Hypernova Megaways

Increasingly common are slots with variable paylines, or paylines that change during gameplay. One such example of a slot category with variable paylines is Megaways slots. These slots feature up to 117,649 ways to win or paylines, but that number varies and changes during each spin.


Other Paylines

We’d be remiss not to mention that there may be other types of slot paylines out there. It should also be noted that slots can hold almost any combination of the above types of paylines. Each slot is unique, and the payline structure is unique as well. Some classic slots may have only 1 to 5 paylines, while other modern video slots may have 10, 20, even 100, or 200. As mentioned earlier, Megaways slots have variable paylines that can stretch up to 117,649.

Breaking Down Paylines and Pay Tables


There’s more to slot paylines than their configuration. Now that you understand the different layouts and types of slot paylines, let’s dig into how they function. This includes bet amounts, symbol values, and more. Essentially, if you’re looking to determine and understand wins, slot paylines must be paired with the slot paytable. Below, we’ll break it all down into simple sections.

Bet Amount

First and foremost, your bet amount plays a major role in the calculations of paylines and pay tables. Pay tables are presented in multiplier format, as wins determined by configurations of 3+ symbols on paylines will essentially multiply your bet by a fixed amount rather than paying out a set amount. Because wins are determined by multipliers, the higher your bet amount, the higher your wins.

Symbol Values

So, how do you determine those multiplier values? The paytable of any slot will list all of the symbols that may appear on that slot’s reels, as well as the multiplier value of landing 3, 4, 5, or more of those symbols on a single payline. Often, special symbols are worth far more than the base symbols. We’ll review this in more detail below.

Number of Symbols

As mentioned earlier, the number of symbols is paramount when breaking down paylines and pay tables. The more symbols that appear on a single payline, the greater the win. For example, three symbols on a payline may result in a 20x win, while five of those same symbols on a payline may result in a 600x win.

Special Symbols

Now, let’s talk more about special symbols. These symbols are usually actual images rather than generic fruit or playing-card symbols (A, K, Q, J). Special symbols generally pay much more than those base symbols, and you can see exactly how much more by comparing them in your slot’s paytable. Of course, there are other special symbols, such as scatters or wilds, that may not always hold any value other than to trigger a bonus round that gives you more win potential.

‘Near’ Wins

When breaking down paylines and pay tables, keep in mind that “near” wins can be deceiving. On a losing spin, you may see multiple symbols in close proximity that look as if you were one symbol away from winning a jackpot. In reality, those symbols aren’t even close to being on the same payline. The random number generators that determine symbol placement know nothing of “close” wins, and one spin has nothing to do with the next. Never gamble recklessly because of a “near” win; there’s no such thing.

False Wins

Just because you’ve won doesn’t mean it’s an actual win. Slots are designed to make you feel like you’ve won big, even when the win may amount to just 10 cents or less. In reality, no win is a win unless it’s higher than the amount you wagered and withdrawn into your bank account. Understanding paylines and pay tables will help you avoid falling into the trap of false wins.

Bonus Features

Other elements, such as bonus features, also come into play when breaking down paylines and pay tables. For example, tumbling or cascading reels may result in multiple wins along the same payline as new symbols come into play without requiring another spin. Keep these additional features in mind, especially in more modern video slots.

Responsible Gambling

As you can now probably glean from our examples, understanding slot paylines is an important part of practicing responsible gambling. Make sure you understand that the wager you choose is often per payline. In other words, if you’re betting $0.01, understand that it’s most likely $0.01 per payline. Therefore, if there are 100 paylines, you’re actually wagering $1 every time you spin. On the same page, make sure you understand how many paylines you’re wagering on. If you’re only wagering on one payline, your chances to win are greatly diminished because the winning symbols only have one possible place they can appear to trigger a win. This may result in players putting in more money or upping their wager because they feel like they aren’t winning like they should. There are many responsible gambling flags to keep in mind here, and fully understanding paylines should help you avoid these pitfalls.

As always, never play more than you’re willing to lose, never chase losses, and always keep it comfortable. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call or text 1-800-GAMBLER for confidential support. Visit SAMHSA’s National Helpline website for resources that include a treatment center locator, anonymous chat, and more.

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About the Author

Craig Corbeels

Craig Corbeels

Craig Corbeels is a lead writer and gambling expert for He has been involved in the online gambling industry since 2013. Previously, he worked for Gamesys and Bally's Interactive as a copywriter and social media strategist for multiple North American online casinos.
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