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Slots: Know your paylines

Slot machines are popular for a reason: There’s no strategy involved, so everyone has the same chances of winning, regardless of experience. The excitement comes during that brief moment of uncertainty, when anything seems possible, just before the symbols lock into place.

That said, how much you enjoy your time playing slots depends on more than just choosing whether to play a classic 3 Reel Slot game or opting for our quick and easy to play Instant games.

Your understanding of how slots work, the odds involved, and knowing when to walk away—either because you’ve expended your set budget or reached your chosen win limit—all play a major role in the fun of the experience. But the most important factor of all might be knowing a game’s paylines.

Did you know? The slot machine’s random number generator constantly generates numbers that correspond to game symbols. These symbols are locked in place the moment the spin button is tapped.

From the invention of slots more than a century ago, the payline has always been what distinguishes a win from a loss. But paylines have evolved and now differ widely from game to game. In order to maximize the thrill of experience, it’s important to know exactly what you’re rooting for when you tap the spin button.

So let’s do a quick dive into slots. From understanding paylines to knowing the difference between real and false wins, this is your 411 on the risks and rewards of spending an evening in the slots aisles of your favourite OLG casino or playing one of the many slot games available at

Paylines and pay tables: Know the path to payouts

Paylines, sometimes called “betting lines” or “winning lines,” are the ways symbols can line up for a win. Modern slots typically feature a variety of paylines, including diagonal and zigzag patterns, and winning combinations can vary from one to thousands.

Imagine a game with five wheels and three lines. A winning payline could simply be matching five symbols across the centre line. Or it could take the shape of an up arrow with the line starting in the bottom left, then moving up and down so that it touches symbols on all three rows and all five wheels. The designs and directions of winning lines are entirely up to the game’s maker.


Payline of five symbols matched across the centre line                                             

Payline of five symbols matched across the centre line.                         Payline in the shape of an arrow.


Regardless of whether you’re playing online or at a casino, most slot games let you choose which lines you want to bet on, from a single line all the way up to “max bet,” which is shorthand for the maximum number of lines allowed. But here’s a twist: did you know that some slot games have fixed paylines? Yep! Meaning that you skip the line-picking step altogether. With each spin, you’ll bet on a preset number and type of paylines.

Picking games with more, fewer, or different types of paylines won’t increase your odds of winning, but it can affect your experience. Typically, the more paylines, the more interactive the game. However, for those who  prefer a simpler approach,  games with fewer paylines might be the perfect fit. Try different games to determine what’s right for you.

Keep in mind that while selecting more paylines can grow the ways you can win, it can also increase your bet, meaning you’ll be paying more for each spin.

Now, for a handy tip before you get spinning: calculate the cost of a spin. Slot machines convert money into credits (sometimes called coins). It’s possible to lose track of the value of your credits, so always do the math before playing a new machine. A so-called “penny” slot machine doesn’t cost one penny per spin, but rather however many pennies make up a credit.

Bonuses can also affect your experience. If a bonus symbol appears in a winning line during the initial spin, it typically leads to a free spin or a minigame, giving players one more kick at the can, so to speak. Other types of bonuses act as multipliers for matching more lines with max bets, enhancing the potential payout.

All of these features may sound intimidating to start, especially since they differ from game to game. But there’s a simple way to quickly get your bearings on a new machine: The pay table. That’s where you’ll see helpful diagrams of winning paylines along with associated payouts.

The pay table also explains in simple terms what needs to happen for a bonus to activate, and what exactly the bonus will be (a free spin, a minigame, or something else). It’s basically your complete reference guide for the game.

And one last word of advice: Don’t be fooled by what are known as “false wins.” It may seem like you’re winning a lot, but it’s possible your wins aren’t covering your bets if you’re betting on multiple paylines. Keep an eye on whether your total credits have gone up or down after each spin.

Try before you buy

Still a bit hazy on how paylines, pay tables, and credits work? Drop by the OLG slots page and boot up a demo—an advantage of the online slot experience.

Just hover over a game that interests you and click the demo button. This will give you a way to experiment so you can figure out how much to bet and how many paylines to pick in order to play for your preferred amount of time without going over budget.

Setting a spend limit is your key to keeping slots fun and playing responsibly. Playing online will also let you take advantage of My PlaySmart Tools, which means you can set up a deposit limit to help stay on budget.

Basically, go in looking to have fun and view your budget the same way you would any other night on the town: When the money leaves your wallet, it’s gone. And call it quits if you get lucky and reach your win limit—say, double your budget.

Did you know? PlaySmart Centres located inside OLG casinos have even more information on slot machines, including details on how games work as well as tips on how to keep your playing experience fun.

Keep in mind: Winning at slots is purely random. Machines are never overdue for a jackpot, there are no tricks in how to tap the spin button, and there’s no point in getting jealous if the next person to use your machine wins right after you walk away. It came down to the random number generator.

The next time you head to a casino or visit to try your luck at slots, remember to check each game’s pay table to make sure you understand how the game works and that you know what you’re playing for, and then exercise a bit of prudence in choosing paylines so that you don’t blow through your allotted budget too quickly.

Above all, set your expectations. You’re playing for the thrill of it. Winning, if it happens, is just the sugar on top.