What Are Paylines and How Do They Work

Paylines are the most important aspects of any online slot game. Essentially, they are in place to determine a win based on matching symbols. You can’t actually see a payline - they are invisible when a spin takes place but we need to know that they are there.


Paylines can come in many formations when you play online casino - they don’t have to be straight lines and can appear diagonally and, on occasions, there will be irregular patterns involved. In this guide, we’ll talk you through every factor of these vital components as you continue your journey towards becoming a casino guru.


What is a Payline?


Anyone who has played the online slots should know that the object, in the base game, is to match symbols in order to win a cash prize. When we line up those winning combinations, we are actually matching them across a payline. As mentioned above, we cannot see those paylines at the start of a spin but, when we do secure a matching combination, the slot will draw a line to clearly indicate which payline has triggered the cash prize.


The most common payline is placed right across the centre. In fact, many early fruit machines, prior to the digital revolution, only carried that single payline. We’re talking about the very first slots in the physical world where the object was to line fruit symbols across the middle.


Very occasionally, you will still see this with online slot machines. Double Diamond from IGT is a very simple slot with a stripped-back set of reels and just that one payline - right across the centre. Double Diamond is very much the exception rather than the rule and, as we’ll see when we move through this guide, many more paylines can usually be found.


How do Paylines Work?


The traditional way to line up matching symbols is from left to right. We don’t need all five positions on a 5x3 reel grid to be matched and in the majority of cases, a set of symbols on reels one to three will be enough to trigger a cash prize. The more matches we get, the higher the prize and on that 5x3 reel set, a match of 5 of the highest value icons is set to land the overall jackpot.


Left to right is the norm but, as with all aspects of slot machine play, there are some anomalies. Slot developers IGT have an option in some of their games known as Multiway Xtra. It’s present in titles including Wheel of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin and Siberian Storm - both the regular and the MegaJackpots version.


In these games, wins can be lined up from right to left as well as left to right. This has the effect of significantly increasing the number of ways for players to win and in the above two cases, 720 paylines are now in play.


Right to left winning combinations can be found in other slot games but they tend to only appear in bonus rounds. They can be a lucrative addition to any slot so do look out for these anomalies.


Other ways to win


Casino slot developers that provide games for Unibet UK are constantly looking for new innovations: There are thousands of titles available so why should you play one title in preference to another? Designers NetEnt are among the most creative out there and they have produced a revolutionary slot element known as cluster pays.


Slots that carry this feature are typically laid down on a 6x5 grid and they do away with paylines altogether. Instead, players are required to land nine touching, matching symbols on that grid and a cash win will be awarded.


Look out for slot titles including Legend of Shangri La and Aloha. Remember that all of the slot games at Unibet can be played for free on a demo basis. Look for a cluster pays slot and you can take it on trial to get acquainted with this quirky format.


Another, less common method is known as All Ways. In this example, symbols can line up on consecutive reels but they don’t have to line up. Let’s take one of the many slot games that uses playing card images as part of its base game symbols.


With an All Ways payout, you could have an Ace at the very top of reel one, followed by a second Ace at the bottom of reel two. Completing the match is another Ace in the middle of the third reel. On a fixed payline, this isn’t enough to won but with All Ways, a cash prize is on its way.


One point to check here is whether you need to increase your stake in order to activate additional paylines or, an additional feature such as Multiway Xtra. Full details of this should be offered in the pay table and on slot game reviews.


How Many Paylines Should I Expect?


We’ve already mentioned some examples of slots that range from one fixed payline up to 720 ways to win. The amount of paylines involved can climb even higher so, there is no fixed answer to this question.


A game that carries just 10 fixed paylines can still be a regular payer in the base game and that relatively small number may be compensated by a higher amount of bonus features. Similarly, a slot with 720 paylines may pay more slot wins but they could be smaller. There isn’t a set figure and it’s also impossible to suggest an average.


How do I know how many Paylines are in play?


All slot machines offer a pay table which underlines how much can be won for each winning combination. There should be a brief description of the gameplay and that would include listing the amount of paylines that are in operation and whether you would need to increase your bet to activate any special features.


You can also read our in depth reviews of slot games where available. These will state how many paylines are in operation and whether there is an additional feature such a Right to Left, All Ways or Cluster Pays.


You can also take those demo spins and over time, the paylines will start to become evident as you play through. It isn’t essential to know where the paylines are before you start but it will certainly help you play the game more effectively so we recommend that you establish this point before you take a spin.


How do I bet on Paylines?


The majority of players may want to place bets on all paylines. This option should be a default setting on all slots and in general a total stake will be shown. As an example, we’ll use a UK player with GBP as their preferred setting. They are playing Koi Princess - one of our most popular slots which has 20 fixed paylines in play.


The total bet amount is showing as £1.00 and all 20 of those paylines are in play. This means that our player is betting 5p per line so 20 x 5p = £1.00.


It is possible, in most casino slots, to restrict the amount of paylines that are in operation. It’s not an option that many players will take because it will always be frustrating to see high value matching symbols land on a line that isn’t in play. However, if we remember that in most cases, jackpots will only trigger for matches along the centre line, we can see why this approach might be taken.


The decision on whether to bet on certain paylines is entirely yours and once again, this is where demo play can be very useful. Play the flash version of the slot you are interested in and you can play around with the bet button, adjusting amounts and taking out paylines when you want. It’s all free and for fun only and you don’t even need to have a Unibet account but this is an ideal way to get used to gameplay before you tackle the slot on a real money basis.


Continue Your Journey


Among our many guides to playing the casino slots, this round up of Paylines is, perhaps, the most important. If you’re going to take a journey from beginner to casino guru, this is a great starting point as you need to know exactly how slot machines pay out.


As we’ve seen, paylines can be very simple, starting with a single, central line and from there, things can get a little more complex. The concept of Cluster Pays takes on board an element from certain arcade games and we may well see more of these slots appear in the future.


We should also expect new innovations: The industry is evolving at a rapid rate and by creating new ways to play the slots, developers can stay ahead of their competition. Whatever happens in the future, keep checking back to our guides and look out for updates as we bring you the latest news on paylines and all other casino developments.

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