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Paylines can be baffling. There are so many variations on the subject that it can really be a tough one to wrap your head around. In this article, we take a look at some variations, how they work, how they are evolving over time, and how do you pick the right game for yourself according to paylines. Keep in mind, though, that this article only provides an overview, and it’s always good practice to take a look at the paytable usually available on the main screen of the game. With the precursory note of caution out of the way, let’s get to the meat (or your favourite vegetarian substitute) and potatoes of paylines!
Modern, computer software-powered slots have come a long way from their primitive predecessors such as one-armed bandits and fruit slots. Moving away from the one payline type of games, modern slots can implement tens, hundreds, and occasionally thousands of paylines! While winning formulas are made by matching symbols just like with older counterparts, they aren’t limited to a single line running through the centre-reel any longer. They usually come as straight lines traversing all reels, horizontal ones, vertical ones, diagonal ones, or in zig-zag and unorthodox patterns. Basically, this means that if you play on several paylines and win in one spin, you can pocket large amounts of cash.
Another approach to slot payline design sees games do away with traditional forms of paylines. Instead, we have a system that has each symbol on the reels act as scatter symbols. Consequently, as long as you land an adjacent matching combination of symbols, the machine will pay out. NetEnt implements this system in some of its games.
Having read what I wrote above, your intuition probably tells you that the more paylines you activate, the better. This might be true. But that really depends on your playing style, bank roll, and other criteria. So, before jumping in and selecting all paylines available, stay a while longer to find out what paylines are really about and what is the best strategy for yourself.
If you choose a machine with fixed paylines, you will be saved the headache of choosing which paylines to bet on, but on the flipside, you get less choice and flexibility. It’s a give and take situation, really.
Then, you have slots that, conversely, not only let you choose the paylines but also the amount of money to bet on each payline. Clearly, in this case, the less paylines you choose, the lower are your chances of winning. On the other hand, each spin of the reels will cost you less. But let’s say that you want to bet on all paylines. If you choose to wager 1 cent on each payline, and the machine has, say, 30 paylines, you’ll only be wagering a total of 30 cents. But if you wager €5 on each line, that adds up to a €150 spin. Is that quite a hefty stake? That depends on your playing style, that is, unless you’re a high-roller and you brush off these trivialities like the metaphorical dust on the shoulders of your suit. At any rate, this may clarify why even a game that takes pennies can also be considered a high-roller’s slot.
Some progressive slots, especially the older types, will only trigger jackpots as long as you activate all paylines and bet the highest amount on each one. So, before you start playing a progressive slot, make sure you read the paytable (usually, easily selectable on the screen) to be in the know. You don’t want to walk away flustered after a long gaming spree, wondering why you didn’t even get close to popping a jackpot.
Now, if the progressive jackpots mentioned above are not your thing, you might want to take a look at some of the newer types that trigger jackpots independently of how many paylines you select. It’s becoming common practice to also see progressive slots that trigger jackpots through a bonus game that also occurs randomly.
The bottom-line of the story is simple – always have a read through the game’s paytable. This isn’t difficult to access as it’s usually tucked away on the main screen and is just a click away. The information presented here is only intended to give you a heads up about the different payline styles. However, we’ve only scratched the surface, and it’s good to know that there are a lot of games that have their own take on the topic.
So hopefully, we’ve unravelled the mystery that paylines were and you’re ready to get rolling on slots, armed with the knowledge of how to choose the ones that suit your playing style the best. You can have a rummage around on our Casino Games and NetEnt Jackpots pages and play for free to test things out. Then, head over to our recommended casinos that stock your favourite slot pick and get spinning for real!