Paylines in Online Casino Video SlotsBy: Joe Valentino, Friday July 2nd 2010
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A video slot game is one that usually has five reels aligned one after another in sequence. More than 90% of the video slot games have this format. A payline is a particular alignment of symbols across the reels that can result in a payout. One example of a payline could be the symbol in the first row in the first reel, the symbol in the second row in the second reel, the symbol in the third row in the third reel, the symbol in the second row in the fourth reel and the symbol in the first row in the fifth reel. A simpler example of a payline is all the symbols in the second row across all five reels. A payline will result in a payout only if it has a winning combination as specified in the payout table and if the payline has been activated by the player.
Video slot games form the largest category of online casino games. The number of paylines ranges from 5 to 1024. What impact does this vast range of paylines have on the outcome of video slot games? One thing is evident. The greater the number of paylines, the more frequently will win combinations appear. The more important question is whether this would necessarily translate into greater average returns to the player.
In order to understand the situation we take a simple example of a video slot game with 15 paylines. Now, without changing any of the rules or the payout table if the number of paylines is increased to 25 then the average return to the player will increase considerably. In fact the return could go well beyond 100% and clean out the online casino. However this does not imply that every video slot game with 25 paylines will have a greater average return to player than a video slot game with 15 paylines.
The number of paylines is only one of the factors that contribute to the average return to the player. There are other factors like the payouts in the payout table, the propensity of the bonus games to offer payouts and even the relative frequency of different symbols on different reels. If a video slot game has a very large number of paylines then the other factors are suitably adjusted so that the average return to the player remains in a narrow range around 95%.Therefore opting to play on a video slot game with greater number of paylines in the hope of winning more is an incorrect strategy. If this is so then what purpose is served by this wide range of paylines? The simple answer to this question is that online gaming software developers have kept on increasing the number of paylines in order to differentiate their games from others and offer some innovative attraction to the players.
Most video slot games have paylines between 9 and 50. Microgaming has consistently taken the lead in offering video slot games with larger number of paylines. In 2008 it released Cashapillar, the first video slot game with 100 paylines. Then in 2009 it released a slot game called Burning Desire which had 243 paylines. In fact in this slot game the concept of paylines became immaterial because every possible alignment is covered in 243 paylines. Recently Cryptologic released a video slot game called Striker Fortune that has 99 paylines. What is unusual about this is that the paylines are formed by symbols in adjacent reels that are on the same horizontal level or one diagonal space away. If the entire payline is occupied by players from the same team it results in an animation of passing the football from player to player and scoring a goal.
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