Guide to understanding paylines and pay tables

Guide to understanding paylines and pay tables

You’ve registered at your chosen (and trusted!) online casino. You’ve read the Ts & Cs and understand the wagering requirements. You’ve made your deposit and now you’re ready to hit the slots and start spinning for fun and profit.

But how do you know when you’re winning? How do you read the symbols on the reels? Where do the symbols line up? What is actually going on?

For newbies to the casino world, the allure of slots lies in the seeming simplicity of the game: put in money, spin the reels, wait to win or lose. But when you start looking a little closer, it can be confusing as to why certain combinations are wins and others are not. You’ve lined up three of the same symbols but there’s no win? What’s the deal here?

It may come down to how you’re playing, what paylines you’re activating, where the reels need to stop and how the symbols are organised.

A casino is a casino is a casino, right? How different can one casino be from another? All they do is exchange money for chips, offer games, and then exchange chips for money.

Well, no. No story goes, “Once upon a time, everything was simple, everything was the same, and everyone was happy. The end.”

Every casino – both brick and mortar and online – is unique. Yes, there are similarities, both legislative and game based, but there’s no way to summarise all casinos with just a few simple sentences.

Luckily for you, we have taken the time and effort to really get into the foundations of online gambling: what makes it tick, how it works, what players can expect, and so much more. Here, we offer you all the in-depth guides to online casinos and gambling you’ll need. And we take that promise seriously, which is why we are constantly working to add more guides that cover every aspect of the online casino experience.

In this series of guides, you will find information about jackpots, variance and volatility, online casinos, casino bonuses, withdrawals and deposits, and more.

Why should you use guides?

Casino guides like these can really help enhance your online casino experience. For example, jackpot guides don’t just tell you what a jackpot is; they explain the various types of jackpot, how they work, how to play to win, where to find games with different jackpots, and even who the game developers are.

Casino bonus guides are another super useful way to figure out which online casinos will work best for you. We don’t only look at the types of bonus offered, but explain how they work, the hidden pitfalls to look out for, and ways to make the most of your wagering requirements.

You’ll find enough information here to keep you busy longer than a great game of poker, so dig in, and come out the other side a little more knowledgeable. And if there’s anything you’d like to learn more about that you don’t find here on CasinoPlay, let us know. Happy reading!

A payline is the line that runs across the reels on a slot machine or game. To trigger a win, the symbols on the reels must land on this line to form a winning combination.

Different slot machines and games have different numbers of paylines and different patterns that these paylines can represent. The simplest slot has one payline. The more complicated modern slots can have thousands.

Paylines are also known as betting lines or winning lines.

slots payline

When the reels come to a stop you will see a bunch of visible symbols across the screen. The payline is a guide that groups these symbols into winning combinations. The simplest example is also the earliest example of how slot machines operate:

In a classic 3-reel slot (a slot with 3 reels and 3 visible symbols per reel at rest), when the reels stop spinning the player will see 9 symbols displayed (3 symbols per reel x 3 reels in total). If the player matches 3 identical symbols across the centre of the reels it is a winning combination. If there are no matching symbols across the centre of the reels, there is no win.

This is a one payline game. There is a single payline that runs across the centre of the 3 reels that shows where the symbols must match for a win.

A three payline game could have a payline that runs across the top of the 3 reels, one that runs through the centre of the 3 reels and one that runs across the bottom of the 3 reels. If symbols match across either the top, the centre or the bottom, the player wins.

Modern computer-driven slot games can instantly work out where symbols land and match them to available paylines. This tech innovation has allowed games developers to create slots games with 3, 4, 5 or 7 reels and show anything between 1 and 22 (or more) symbols per reel – creating the possibility of thousands of paylines.

Remember: the more paylines, the more opportunities to match symbols and win.


For simpler slots games, the paylines will most likely be displayed to the left of the reels. These will be numbered lines that show how many paylines there are and where they run across the reels.

For more complex slots games (especially those in online casinos) you will need to look for the pay table.

The pay table is the information guide that shows you what symbols win and how much. It also shows you how the symbols will need to line up to trigger the win (the paylines).

Land-based casinos usually have the pay table as a sign displayed on the front or top of the machine. Online slots games will have an information or help button that will display everything you need to know.

understanding paylines

Generally speaking, every coin or credit you bet on a single game will activate another payline. 1 coin/credit = one payline, 5 coins/credits=5 paylines, etc.

Hitting Max Bet will cost you the max amount and also activate all the paylines.

Online slots games let you choose how much you want to bet and therefore how many paylines are active.

Most progressive jackpot games require you to have all paylines activated if you want to win the big jackpot.



Paylines tell the game when you hit a winning combination. Depending on how many paylines you have activated, you could get the chance to win across multiple areas of the reels.

Paylines tell the game when you hit a winning combination. Depending on how many paylines you have activated, you could get the chance to win across multiple areas of the reels.

Not always. Running the paylines left to right (so you have to match symbols beginning on the first reel on the left and then moving across each reel to the right) is the most common format, there are slots that have paylines running from right to left or from top to bottom and vice versa. But these are quite rare.

Yes they do. A slot game is a slot game whether it’s on a physical machine in a casino or a video version at an online or mobile casino. The basic theory of slots is the random stopping of symbols to form winning combinations, and this transcends location.

Where the symbols end up once the reels have stopped is completely random. Online casinos use a Random Number Generator to ensure that there is no way the casino or the player can affect the outcome of the game. It’s all about luck.

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