Slot Paylines and How they Work

When you read up on a slot game, you will undoubtedly find information on the slot paylines - how many there are, how they work. But what exactly are they, and what should you be looking for?

Simply put, the symbols need to land on an active payline to generate a win. However, is it a case of ‘the more, the merrier’, or is it better to pick games with fewer ways to win?

Let’s have a look at what slot paylines are and how they impact your gameplay!

slot machines paylines win

What are Paylines on Slot Machines?

Slot machine paylines are the lines on which matching symbols need to land to get a win. You usually need 3 or more matching symbols on a payline. The symbols need to be on adjacent reels, starting from the very leftmost reel. However, slot machine paylines come in all different shapes nowadays.

In the time of the first land-based slot machines, there used to be only one payline - running in a straight line through the centre of the reels. However, this rarely applies anymore. These days, paylines come in all different shapes - and there are usually lots more than just one.

Standard online slot machines tend to have around 20 to 25 paylines - and some even offer 243… which means that every possible combination on the reels is considered a payline. Then, of course, there are Megaways games with hundreds of thousands of paylines. What matters is that how much you win will depend on which symbols land on the paylines (and how many of them). Three lower-paying symbols on a payline will pay out less than five high-paying symbols on a payline.

Some of the common paylines you will find, aside from the horizontal line through the centre, include V shape, X shape, W shape, diagonal up, or diagonal down. The possibilities are endless.

There are two different types of slot paylines. Firstly, there are fixed paylines. This means that you have no option to change the number of them you bet on. So, if a game has 20 fixed slot paylines, whether you bet £0.10 or £10 per spin, you will always bet on all 20.

Other games allow you to choose how many paylines you activate. This will affect how much you must pay per spin. If you choose to bet £0.10 - you are betting £0.10 per payline. So, if you want to activate 5 paylines, your spin will cost £0.50 (10p per payline).

The more paylines you activate, the more ways to win there are, so you must weigh up the pros and cons. Whatever you choose, the slot game will always display your total bet per spin, and you can adjust it as you want.

Your win will be calculated on the amount you stake per spin and the number and type of symbols you land. Let's take an example. Say you bet £1 and you get 3 symbols on a payline with a payout of 2x your stake. You will win £2. If you only bet 20p per spin, you will only win 40p.

slot payline example

Types of Slot Paylines

Video slots have become increasingly more unique, with the number of ways to win growing immensely. No longer is it always about getting 3 matching symbols from left to right. There are now all-ways to win games, cluster pays games - and you are spoilt for choice.

However, it is important that you understand what game you're playing so that you understand how to hit the wins. Here we will look in-depth at the different types of slot paylines.

Fixed Slot Paylines

As we mentioned earlier, some slots have a fixed number of lines. This number cannot be altered or changed depending on your bet. Most slot games now have this structure, as it simplifies the whole process. You simply put your stake in and spin.

You don’t need to worry that your budget won’t be enough to activate as many paylines as you want. This is also why most players prefer this type of game.

If you want to see how many paylines there are and their shape, there are two ways to see them. You can see them on both sides of the screen or within the information button of the slot. You won’t need to memorise them though - as they will pay out automatically.

There are numerous advantages to this type of game. They are much simpler than adjustable payline games. You simply enter how much you want to stake per spin and start playing.

What’s more, the number of paylines in some video slots can get unbelievably high - into the thousands!

Most top providers offer fixed payline slot machine games. Here are some examples from NetEnt:

  • Starburst: Starburst is a classic game that offers 10 fixed paylines. This is a classic game, with no free spins. However, the game features expanding Starburst wilds which help to trigger wins. This low variance slot pays out up to 600x your stake.
  • Twin Spin: This NetEnt medium to high volatility game has a few more fixed paylines, with 243 ways to win. The game is played on a 5x3 grid and includes wilds, Twin Reels, and Expanding Free Reels - with the chance to win 1080x your stake!
  • Butterfly Staxx: Another NetEnt classic is Butterfly Staxx, which is played on a 5x4 grid and offers 40 fixed paylines. There are different bonus features, including Wilds, Stacked Symbols, Re-Spins, and Butterfly Respins. You can win up to 640x your stake.

Adjustable Slot Paylines

This is the type of slot game that allows you to choose how many paylines you want to activate. You can choose to bet on just one or all of them. However, the more you activate, the more it costs you on every spin.

This way of playing was more common in older online slot machines and has decreased in popularity with newer games.

Although many prefer fixed payline games, there are some advantages to adjustable paylines. The biggest one is that they give you more control over your risk vs reward ratio. You can understand how much you want to bet per payline and adjust the total to suit your budget. It’s worth checking out this type of slot machine. It is crucial to understand how it works before playing.

Here are some of our favourite adjustable payline slot games here at Pink Casino:

  • Book of Dead: This Play’n Go Egyptian-themed slot machine offers 10 adjustable paylines and is played on a 5x5 grid. It is a high-volatility game with expanding symbols, free spins, wilds, and a Gamble Feature. You can win up to 5,000x your stake.
  • Rise of Merlin: Another high volatility slot from Play’n Go is based on the mystical wizard, Merlin. The game is played over 5 reels and offers 10 adjustable paylines. Rise of Merlin has free spins and expanding symbols - which can be retriggered up to 9 times. You can win up to 5,000x your stake.
  • Lord of the Ocean: This high volatility game has an underwater world theme and a 5x3 grid. It includes 10 adjustable paylines, as well as free spins, expanding symbols, and a gamble feature. You can win up to 10,044x your stake in this slot from Greentube Novomatic.

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Various Numbers of Slot Machine Paylines

The beauty of slot games these days is that the number of paylines from slot to slot varies tremendously… from just one single payline up to thousands. It is useful to know that no matter whether you play on a 5-payline slot or a 243-paylines one, the results will always be random.

You won’t guarantee a win, no matter what type of game you choose. There are advantages and disadvantages to low and high numbers of paylines, so don’t automatically think that more is better.

Single payline slots

The old-fashioned and more traditional slot machines would be the ones to offer only one payline - just like the ones you would see in a land-based casino, like a pub fruit machine.

This type of game is usually played on a 3-row, 3-reel grid, with one payline running in a line straight through the centre. One line slots are the perfect games for more traditional players - and the appeal is in their simplicity. It’s pretty easy to see if you have hit a win and how you hit a win.

Take 888 Dragons for example. This is a Chinese-themed slot by Pragmatic Play, and it is the embodiment of simplicity. There is just one payline, and the 3x3 grid only has 3 symbols. There are no bonus features, no scatters or free spins. You get 3 matching symbols on the one payline. That’s it.

Slots with 40 Paylines

This is quite a jump - and would only be available on games that are played on a 5x3 grid or bigger. If a slot has 40 paylines, there are lots more ways you can land a win.

This can make it a lot more appealing - as wins will come in a lot thicker and faster than with one line slots.

However, most of those wins will likely be worth a lot less than a win on a 1 payline slot. These are perfect for players looking to get the wins more steadily. This type of game will usually offer lots of great bonus features as well!

Some of our favourite 40 payline slots include:

  • Dragon Shrine: This is a stunning medium volatility game from Quickspin, played over a slightly odd grid - 5 reels with 3, 4, 4, 4, and 3 rows with 40 paylines. The main feature is the Dragon Stack respin, and there is also a free spins round where players can win 10 bonus spins (which can be retriggered).
  • Neon Staxx: This NetEnt game is played over 5 reels, 4 rows, and offers 40 paylines. It takes us all the way back to the 1980s, when Neon was the order of the day. The game is all about the Super Staxx feature, which helps you maximise your winning potential!

Slots with 1024 Paylines

Multi line slot machines are quite popular too. The most common category is of the 1024 payline games. This is only possible on a larger game grid - and it means that you can land a win no matter where the symbols land on adjacent reels.

Basically, any way that they land is an active payline. As such, those wins come in very frequently, but they are usually a lot smaller wins.

Here are some of our favourite 1024 payline slots at Pink Casino:

  • 3 Secret Cities: This 4ThePlayer slot is an Aztec adventure-themed game that offers 1024 ways to win - and includes the bonus up system. There is a Scatter Pick game that upgrades the bonus round to the next level up. Each tier comes with a progressive multiplier and a super stacked symbol, and you can win up to 50,000x.
  • Battle Maidens Cleopatra: Take a journey through Ancient Egypt with this 1x2 Gaming slot, and take some wins from Cleopatra and Anubis. Enjoy excellent graphics, Egypt free spins, and 1024 ways to win - up to a maximum of 10,000x your bet!

slot win example

Other Ways to Win

Left to right adjacent reel paylines are no longer the only ones available. There are now numerous other ways to start landing those wins, including:

Pays Both Ways

Pays both ways slots do exactly what they say - they pay out from left to right and from right to left. This effectively doubles the number of ways you can win.

Check out these pays both ways slots:

  • Starburst: As we touched on earlier, Starburst has 10 fixed paylines - but these are pay both ways - which is all part of its appeal. So, whether you land those expanding wild wins from left to right or right to left, you get the chance to win the ultimate game prize!
  • The Invisible Man: Another NetEnt cult classic is the Invisible Man, which plays on a 5x3 grid and offers 20 paylines - Pays Both Ways. The cartoon-style game offers pick and click bonus features and the chance to win up to 1,000x your stake.
  • Siberian Storm: This is an IGT game, part of the MultiWay Xtra series. It has a 3-4-5-4-3 layout - and it pays out whether you land wins from left to right or right to left. There are 720 ways to win, and you can win up to 1,000x your bet.

All Ways Wins

These are usually referred to as 243 ways to win or 1024 ways to win. These will pay out simply for landing matching pay symbols anywhere on adjacent reels, starting from the left (and sometimes also right) hand side. So, every single combination of adjacent reels is a payline. These are highly appealing because the wins are easy to come by.

Our favourite all ways wins here at Pink Casino include:

  • Immortal Romance: This is a video slot from Microgaming with 243 paylines, played over 5-reels. The game looks amazing and features cult characters and great graphics. There are free spins and various bonus rounds. You can win up to 12,500x your stake.
  • Thunderstruck II: Another popular Microgaming game is Thunderstruck 2 - the popular sequel to the original. This Ancient God-themed slot has high-volatility and plays out on 5 reels and 3 rows with 243 paylines. It offers Wilds, Multipliers, Substituting Symbols, and Free Spins, with wins up to 8,000x.
  • Game of Thrones: This medium to high-volatility game is played on a 5x3 grid and offers 243 paylines. The slot is based on the famous TV show. There are scatter bonuses, free spins, wilds, and Gamble Trails with up to 121,000 coins up for grabs.

Cluster Wins

Another popular paying mechanic is the Cluster Pays. To land wins, you need to land clusters of matching symbols (usually 5 or more) anywhere on the grid. The more symbols in a cluster, the bigger the pay. This means that there is a limitless number of winning ways.

The groups can be huge - and the potential expanding reels can mean bigger wins. The potential for wins is attractive to players looking for something a little different.

Our top Cluster Pays slots at Pink Casino include:

  • Reactoonz: This is a cute and quirky alien-themed game played on a 7x7 grid. It offers not just cluster pays but also avalanche symbols, a Quantum Leap feature, expanding symbols, and mega symbols. The wins are up to 4,570x your stake.
  • Sweet Bonanza: This sugary slot is played on a 6-reel, 5-row grid and uses the cluster pays mechanic. You need to land sets of 8 or more symbols to land a win. The slot offers cascading reels, free spins, multipliers, and wins up to 21,175x.
  • Aloha! Cluster Pays: This pretty holiday slot requires you to land clusters of 9 or more to hit a win on the 6x5 game grid. With free spins, respins, and wilds, you can win up to 2,000x your stake.


What makes Megaways games unique is that the number of ways to win changes with every single spin - and often increases even more in the bonus rounds. There are usually 6-reels, but the number of rows changes per spin - with a maximum of 7 rows on each reel possible.

This means that there can be as many as 117,649 ways to win. These modern slot machines are now hugely popular because every single spin is different - which adds to the excitement and the winning potential! Our top Megaways games include:

  • Ted Megaways: Join your favourite talking teddy in this Blueprint Megaways game. There are cascading wins, mystery symbols, free spins, and multipliers. The winning potential is up to 50,000x your stake.
  • Megaways Jack: Based on the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale, this cool Megaways game by Iron Dog features magical beans, golden harps, and progressive win multipliers. There is a maximum win of 25,000x your stake!
  • Spartacus Megaways: Join the famous gladiator Spartacus in this WMS game, and enjoy features such as Avalanche reels, expanding symbols, free spins, and multipliers. The max payout is up to 125,000x your stake.

Slots Paylines and Winning Odds

Given the number of paylines available, it may seem that the more paylines there are, the better the odds of winning. While this may seem to be true to a certain level, it is not always the case.

Indeed, all slot games are based on Random Number Generators, no matter the number of paylines and ways to win. Ultimately, the best indicator of how likely you are to win when playing a slot is the RTP percentage and the volatility - not the number of paylines.

For example, a 20-payline low volatility slot machine with an RTP (Return to Player) of 97% will give you better odds of winning than a high volatility game with a 95% RTP.

So, choose a game with lots of paylines for the experience, but don’t choose it thinking you will get more wins. If you want more frequent wins, choose low volatility. If you want a better payout percentage, choose a game with a higher RTP.

Slot Machine Paylines FAQs

Q. What Payline Number Is Better?

A. This is all about personal preference, there's no general answer. Many players like video slots with more paylines, as they are more interactive. Traditional players tend to prefer a smaller number. Try out different types and see which ones you fancy.

Q. Should You Choose a Slot According to the Payline Format?

A. You can, but this depends on what you want to get out of the paylines. If you want to try traditional games, go for a lower number or adjustable paylines. If you want more modern games, try out Megaways or Cluster Pays slots. However, don’t make your choice based on how many wins you expect. Volatility and RTP are more relevant for this.

Q. Where Can I See the Paylines of a Slot?

A. You can see the paylines and how they work in the information tab of the game. Look for a button marked with "i", "info", "?", or "Paytable".

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