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Online Slots Paylines

Whether you're playing classic slots or the latest online 3D releases, the games are centred around paylines. Paylines are the series of winning combinations that criss-cross the slots reels.

Slots can have a single payline (in Classic slots) or as many as 1,024. Whichever type of slot you're on, it's important to not only know how many lines there are, but how much you'll be betting to play the game.

What Are Paylines?

The paylines are the winning arrangements of symbols that run through all slots. The number of symbols in a payline varies depending on the number of reels: for a classic slot with three reels and three rows, typically there will only be one payline which runs horizontally across the centre. The payline consists of just three matching symbols.

As you add more reels, and more rows, the game can offer more possible paylines. So, in a modern 5-reel slot with four rows, you may have as many as 25, 30 or 50 paylines. Typically, a winning payline here may only contain two matching symbols, or two matching symbols plus Wilds or Scatters.

Most slots let you choose how many paylines you bet on each spin. Typically, you'll have three buttons to select:

Bet One: This is the most simple option and sets the game to count the middle payline only (i.e. the horizontal payline running through the middle row)

Bet Max: This simple button automatically selects ALL paylines in the game.

Selecting Paylines: With many slots, you'll notice that the paylines are numbered from one to however many there are. You can, if you want, select any or all paylines manually. Just click on the numbers running up the side of the reels. You might select 2, 5, or 12 paylines to play. As you change the paylines, your bet size will also go up.

How Do They Work?

Typically, paylines run from left-to-right, i.e. the winning combination begins with Reel 1 on the left, which connects to a symbol on Reel 2, Reel 3, and so on. Payouts are usually made by connecting at least two symbols.

For example, it's no good connecting four symbols on Reels 2, 3, 4 and 5 if they don't connect to Reel 1 in some way.

- Using the Wilds

Of course, you can complete paylines by using Wilds. Wild symbols fill in "the gaps" in paylines by substituting other symbols on the reels. (Wilds will normally not replace Scatter symbols, however.)

Finding a slot with lots of Wilds on Reel 1 is good for the player as they fill in many more winning lines. Better still, some slots features 'stacked' Wilds on the first reel - a reel featuring three Wilds on top of one another - for even bigger wins.

- Reading the Paytable

Every slot features a Paytable where you can find out more about symbols, jackpots and bonus features. You can also study the Paytable. This will list every single payline pattern in the game, and the game's RTP - Return to Player percentage.

- Fixed Paylines vs. Variable Paylines

Paylines come in two varieties: variable and fixed. Fixed paylines means you're restricted to playing ALL the lines in the game. Fixed paylines commonly feature in multi-way slots with many hundreds of ways to win. Your stake is spread across all possible lines so that players of all budgets are included.

If you play mobile versions of some popular online slots, you sometimes find that the paylines are fixed.

With variable paylines, you get to pick the number of lines to bet on before you hit the Spin button. As you select paylines, they will highlight across the screen horizontally. You might opt for five basic paylines from a 10-payline slot, or go for all lines. While it's expensive to play every payline on each spin, it's generally regarded as the best long-term strategy.

Different Types of Paylines

From classic one-liners to slots with thousands of possible combinations, there's an online slot to suit your preferred gameplay.

1 Payline

For decades, fruit machines in the UK featured one single payline played across the three reels. Typically, single-payline slots feature low maximum bets, no bonus rounds, and a limited range of symbols. Sometimes, the interface of the slot is based on an old-fashioned Vegas one-armed bandit or UK fruit machine.

Found in: Diamond Cherries, King of Luck, Dirty Jack, Bar 7s

3 Paylines

As online slots improved, so manufacturers were able to include more paylines. 3-payline slots play like Classic Slots - played over a 3-reel format - with the horizontal and two diagonal lines of three the only paylines. As with single-payline fruities, bonus rounds in these slots are scarce but they are kinder on your bankroll.

Found in: Double Dose, Pun Fruity, Vegas 27, Bulls Eye

Multi-Payline Slots (5+)

With more bonuses and symbols like Wilds and Scatters, developers had to find a way to cram in every feature. Multi-payline slots were born, and depending on the developer you'll find thousands of slots with anything between five and 100 paylines.

Typically, the newer games come with 25-40 paylines: it's enough to reward lots of small wins for the player without making them bored and hunting elsewhere for another game. Multi-payline slots are typically played across five reels and three or four rows.

Multi-Way/Ways-to-Win

For players for whom 100 paylines isn't enough, the Multiway slots provide the ultimate answer. Developers have their own way of cramming in multiple paylines - changing the structure of the reels or awarding combinations that run right-to-left AND left-to-right - and some games can reach over 100,000 paylines. Let's take a look at a few popular multi-way slots variants.

Xtra Reel Power
Developer: Aristocrat
Number of Paylines: 1,024
How it Works: Australian developer Aristocrat were among the first developers to do away with traditional "paylines", as can be seen in the classic Buffalo slot.

Popular Reel Power Slots: Using the 'Xtra Reel Power' system, Buffalo features four rows and five reels. Instead of betting on lines, as in a traditional slot, you bet on reels instead.

The 1,024 combinations are formed by selecting anything from 1 to 5 reels, plus an extra row. The total bets are then multiplied accordingly (x1 for Reel 1 & one row, x5 for betting on Reel 1 & 2 plus a row, and so on). To bet on all five reels and every row, your total bet is 40x the bet per reel.

1,024 Ways to Win
Developer: Microgaming
Number of Paylines: 1,024
Rows: 4
Reels: 5-7
How it Works: In the late 2000s, Microgaming's Cashapillar set the benchmark for multi-payline slots. The game features 100 paylines and has two modes: Normal and Expert for added settings.

While Cashapillar remains popular, it's Microgaming's big multi-payline slots that draw in the big players. Many of the developer's 1,024-payline games feature four rows to fit in all the possible combinations.

Popular 1,024 Ways-to-Win Slots: Leagues of Fortune, Hot Ink, Secret Santa. Based on the popular sci-fi epic from James Cameron, Terminator 2 starts off as a 243-ways slot but expands to 1,024 paylines in the bonus feature.

Multiway Xtra
Developer: IGT
Number of Paylines: 720
How it Works: In a 720-payline, or ways-to-win, slot the reels consist of a honeycomb structure. This unique layout makes it possible to include more combinations.

Typically, paylines pay both ways (i.e. right-to-left, as well as left-to-right), and only two matching symbols are needed to bag a cash win.

Typically, instead of choosing how many paylines you bet on, the game will automatically select ALL lines for you. 720 paylines at £1 a spin is pretty restricting for most gamblers. Therefore, with many Multiway games you'll pay a set price on each spin which is spread out across the paylines to keep the cost down.

Popular Multiway Xtra Games: Siberian Storm, Buffalo Wild

243-Ways-to-Win
Developer: Microgaming
Number of Paylines: 243
How it Works: Many developers (Aristocrat, Bally, etc) have 243-payline slots (or "ways to win"), but Microgaming are perhaps the leading manufacturer offering the format. Paylines are fixed, meaning you'll have a set stake across all paylines.

Popular 243-ways games online: Basketball Star, The Dark Knight

Reel Power
Developer: Aristocrat
Number of Paylines: 243
How it Works: Like Microgaming, Aristocrat's 243 ways to win slots pay out from left to right when winning symbols are in any position. However, with Aristocrat's games, you choose how many reels to play at any one time. Play one reel and you'll have three ways to win, play two reels and it jumps to 9 ways to win. Playing all five reels means you'll have 243 ways to win.

Popular Reel Power games: Choy Sun Doa, 5 Dragons, Imperial House

118,700 Ways
Developer: Ash Gaming
Number of Paylines: 118,700
How it Works: Like IGT's Multiway Xtra format, Ash's games feature a five-reel honeycomb of symbols. Payouts are made based on "groups" of winning symbols on the reels rather than connection combinations. This is what makes the game pay out so many different ways.

Popular games: Midas Millions: in this popular Ash slot, Wilds can appear to substitute for another symbol in a winning group. However, Gold Wilds will substitute ALL symbols in a winning group for gold ones.

While not quite boasting as many paylines, the 117,649 lines of Big Time Gaming's Dragon Born cover six reels and a whopping seven rows. With that kind of layout it's possible to hit expanding Wilds and stacked symbols for bigger wins.

Handling a Multi-Payline Bankroll

It's true you can play multi-payline slots by picking one payline at £0.01 per spin. It doesn't take a genius to guess, however, that you won't get rich anytime soon.

Spreading the action is the best way to make sure you come out a long-term winner. Yes, the variance (swings in luck) can be brutal, but it's generally a better idea to play all paylines at once, at the lowest stakes. Once you feel comfortable moving up, increase your coin bets by 1p but keep the paylines.

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