Discovering Paylines: How Do They Work in Slot Machine Games?

November 02, 2020

More often than not, a slot game will come with one or more paylines. Your wins are based on these lines, and different games have separate sets of paylines. However, is it true that more paylines equals more chances to win? Or does it come with a price? Let’s do some digging with us, your fellow gamblers and casino game reviewers.

What Is a Payline?

In a sense, payline is a line that pays, very straightforward and easy to understand. To complex it a bit further, payline is a combination of symbols that will give out cash reward if matched a predetermined shape or pattern. For instance, the very first slot machine called “Liberty Bell” had only one payline, which is the middle row. More advanced slots have more paylines, sometimes over 1,000 lines, or even 100,000 lines!

There’s one thing to take note, which is you can only win on your active paylines. It means that if your winning combination lies on the 21th payline and not on the first 20 lines that you bet on, you will still go home empty-handed. Consequently, it’s best to wager on all paylines, as it gives you the best chance to win something!

Paylines in Our Expert View

Let’s continue reading as we categorize the paylines into three types: Conventional, All-ways and Megaways.

Conventional Paylines

The first type that we often come across is the conventional paylines. These are defined as paylines in small amounts, i.e. 20, 25, 40 and so on. Why do we call them “conventional”? That’s because they have appeared since the first slot machine came out, and were very easy to remember. Conventional paylines can be either fixed or adjustable:

  • Fixed paylines: Players cannot change the number of active paylines in the game. Instead, they will bet on all of them, with a changeable bet per line. For example, Montezuma slot by WMS Gaming features 30 paylines, and you can choose to wager any number of credits multiplied by 30
  • Adjustable paylines: These slots have an alterable paylines system and gamblers can choose how many lines they want depending on how much they are winning or losing. A good example of an adjustable paylines system is White Orchid slot by IGT. You can either go with 1, 10, 20, 40 or all 1024 paylines altogether

All-ways Paylines

All-ways refers to winning in every possible way. It is similar to the fixed conventional paylines, except that it contains all the feasible ways to win. So, how to calculate the number of paylines in an All-ways slot?

For instance, a standard 5x3 layout slot has a maximum of 3x3x3x3x3 = 243 ways to win, while a 5x4 slot has up to 1,024 ways. If all of them are active, that slot is considered having an All-ways paylines.

The All-ways system can be further improved by including the right-to-left payouts, in lieu of the usual left-to-right method. As a result, a 5x4 All-ways slot can be paid in an incredible 2,048 ways, substantially increasing the chance for some big bucks.

Megaways Paylines

This type of paylines has just been recognized recently by the birth of the fabled Bonanza slot, the first ever slot game that introduced the Megaways feature. Apparently, Megaways is All-ways, but in a more complex manner. Let’s take the Bonanza slot as our example this time. The game has a very interesting layout, with 6 reels, up to 7 rows and 7x7x7x7x7x7 = 117,649 ways to win. It seems Megaways is just All-ways but on a larger scale. However, the reason why those two dissimilar from one another is that Megaways slots have changeable rows, while All-ways slots are more rigid in terms of layout.

The More Paylines, the Better?

As we have covered in the previous sections, how many active paylines per spin is totally up to you. Since each line grants you an additional winning chance, isn’t it more paylines will benefit the players than less paylines? Well yes, but actually no.

It is true that adding paylines equals a higher chance to win, but it must come with a cost. Let’s consider IGT’s Cleopatra slot, a famous casino game that has successfully integrated the Ancient Egypt theme with an engaging design and intensive gameplay. Cleopatra slot has 5 payline options: 1, 5, 9, 15 and 20. We will go with the last two choices, using a $30 spin. Let’s consider two situations, one in which you bet on 15 paylines (A), and one in which you bet on 20 paylines (B). 

In scenario A, a $30 spin and 15 paylines mean you will play with $2 bet per line. If you happen to land 5 Scarabs on a payline, you will receive 750x2 = $1,500 payout. The return rate will be 1,500/30 = 50x.

In scenario B, a $30 spin and 20 paylines mean $1.5 bet per line. Using the same example, 5 Scarabs will grant you 750x1.5 = $1,125 payout. The return rate will be 1,125/30 = 37.5x.

It can be seen that the rate of return in scenario B is lower than in scenario A in exchange for a higher chance to win, and vice versa. This fits with what we have learned about slot games in our Slots 101: “Higher risk, higher reward”. Once again, the decision is yours to make. Are you willing to give up 12.5x returns for 5 more winning chances?

Find Your Style

It is best to experience all kinds of slot games and their payline options by utilizing our slots free play catalog, designed to accommodate all your play styles and preferences. You could learn more about other factors affecting your gameplay such as RTP, denominations, variance and so on. Good luck on your gambling journey!

by 
casinomentor.com

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