Paylines are an important element in online pokies. They are the patterns zigzagging across the reels that determine whether a combination of like symbols will result in a payout or not. If the combination of like symbols falls on a payline then there will be a payout, otherwise not. The paylines are specified in the payout table.
When the first online video slots were created, they usually had 9 paylines. Gradually the online casino software providers began to increase the number of paylines in their online pokies. Increasing the number of paylines has the effect of increasing the frequency of winning combinations. In order to compensate for this the software providers reduced the line payouts. Hence, though players would win more often, they would win smaller amounts. Other things being equal this would maintain the average return to about 95%. This process carried on till the number of paylines was increased to about 40. Then the pokies developers adopted another mechanism to balance the average payout.
The theoretical total number of paylines in an online pokie with five reels and three rows of symbols is 243. 40 paylines cover about 16% of the total combinations. With 50 paylines online pokies, the software developers added a fourth row to the reels. This increased the theoretical number of paylines to 1024. So even with 50 paylines only 5% of the total combinations are covered. This allowed the pokies developers to raise the line payouts. In this manner there are numerous combinations of number of paylines, number of rows and line payouts that still result in an average return of about 95%.
There is another relationship involving paylines that needs to be understood. Generally you will first select the bet per payline and this will be multiplied by the number of paylines activated to give you the total bet per spin. The line payouts are multiplied by the line bet and the scatter payouts are multiplied by the total bet. In most online pokies you will have the choice to activate any number of paylines up to the maximum defined. Perhaps, the only strategy in playing online pokies is to always activate all paylines. There is a very strong reason for this. Combinations of like symbols will pay out on a payline only if it has been enabled. You get five like symbols on an inactive payline and you win nothing.
Today you have 5×3 online pokies with 243 ways to win. You must have realized that these pokies are suited for conservative players who do not like to take much risk. If you want to chase bigger payouts and are willing to take risks online pokies with 25 paylines or less would be suitable.