What Slot Machine Pay Lines Mean to You

Understanding slots pay lines, and their effect on bankroll and win rate.

Slots Pay Lines ExplainedThere are many, many types of slot machines on the market today. They come in different shapes and sizes, featuring every theme imaginable (and then some). They include all sorts of bonus rounds and special games that can be triggered. The one thing they all have in common is the presence of slot machine pay lines.

Not all slots games call them pay lines. It really depends on how many there are. A classic 3-reel slot could have 1, 3, 5, 8, or 14 lines to win on. A 5-reel video slot could range anywhere from 9 lines up into the hundreds, even thousands! Most slots makers call these super-high line machines ‘ways to win‘ or ‘all-ways‘ games, paying every possible line, either left-to-right, or both left-to-right and right-to-left. I’ve seen games paying top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top as well.

They can call these whatever they want, but they’re still pay lines in my book. What separates their title is usually how they are activated.

Activating Slot Machine Pay Lines

In traditional (low) pay line games, the player will pay one credit to activate each line. A 9 line game played at $0.02 would cost $0.18 per spin (2*9). At 25 pay lines, the cost jumps to $0.50, and so on.

Other games feature what they call ‘Fixed Pay Lines‘. In these games, players don’t get a choice of activating lines. For low-line games, the cost per spin will be the same as the example above, based on the number of lines and coin size. For high-line games, such as 100 line games, or 243 ways to win game, a fixed, incremental cost is applied. These games are often played in betting increments of $0.40.

In this case, payouts are calculated by dividing the bet by the total number of lines. So, on 243 ways to win slot machine, with a bet size of $0.40, the player is actually betting (0.4/243=0.001646) about $0.0016 per line. Which brings us to our next topic…

How Slots Pay Lines Effect Win Rate

Slot Machine Pay Lines and Win RateIn truth, the number of pay lines won’t effect your long-term win rate. This is decided solely by the game’s random number generator (RNG) and theoretical return to player (RTP). However, in the short term, a larger number of pay lines will usually result in more frequent wins. But how valuable are they?

Based on the equation above, we can see that only a tiny portion of each bet is applied per pay line. Because there are so many lines, chances of many lines striking a win all at once are very high. However, if you win on 15 lines in a single spin, with an average 10x per line payout, you’re only going to win about $0.24 (0.0016*15*10=0.24).

In effect, you’ve actually lost. You spent $0.40 to spin the reels, then only came away with $0.24; an effectual loss of $0.16. And that brings us to another point…

Slot Machine Pay Lines and Bankroll Longevity

Lower pay lines don’t hit wins very often. Thus, with a modest bankroll, it can be easy to run dry in a short period of time. With just a bit of luck, though, each win you get can be large enough to restock your bankroll for many more spins to come.

With higher line slot machines, you’re going to win very frequently. Most of your wins will be on a multitude of pay lines, but as the above example shows, you could still be losing money on those spins. The most common effect is a bankroll that diminishes, but at a slower rate.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can supply more longevity to your bankroll, and a much higher level of overall entertainment. Which brings us to one final, but ultimately important thought…

Beware LDWs: Losses Disguised as Wins

There’s a positive and negative side to this high-pay line set-up. On the positive side, your bankroll can last much longer when you’re frequently winning small amounts, and/or losing only a fraction of each bet. On the downside, those winning spins that are actually fractional losses can cause players to lose sight of the fact that their bankroll is still declining. These players get a sense of winning, despite actually losing.

Researchers actually have a name for this; ‘losses disguised as wins‘, or LDWs.

A player who recognizes LDWs can actually increase their level of entertainment. Unfortunately, studies show those who don’t recognize it can begin displaying signs of at-risk behavior; chasing losses, heading to the ATM for more money, spending more time in the casino than intended, becoming emotionally distraught when they lose, etc.

Knowledge is clearly power. Recognize LDWs for what they are, and you can experience a much more responsible and enjoyable session playing high-number slots pay lines.

Best All Round Betting Casino For Canadian Players

Royal Vegas
Visa, Visa Debit, MasterCard, Maestro

Editor’s Rating:



phone, desktop, tablet
Royal Vegas – $1200 BONUS

What We Like:

  • $1200 Welcome Bonus
  • Trusted Casino Site
  • Over 500 Games

Available on: Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows

Get your $1200 bonus now!

Royal Vegas is going overboard in terms of generosity and free money offers this month ! Join this trusted brand and make your safe deposit today.