What are slots pay tables and why you need them

Back in the days when slots were 3-reeled mechanical devices, reading pay tables was simple. There were maybe 10 or 12 combinations of 7’s or bars, with progressively higher payouts until you got the jackpot. If you wanted to play more coins then you just switched to that column instead. Nowadays, slots are amazing compared to those early machines and their pay tables have gotten much more complicated as a result. This article shows you how to read a pay table, and the key features to look out for.

I have started from the beginning, with how to find the pay table for today’s video slots and what information you can expect to find on it. Next the combination of lines and coins is covered, as this determines the size and the number of your payouts. After that you will find information on the different payouts, including the role of scatter symbols and wilds. Finally a few words about finding out how the bonus round is triggered on your favorite slots as this is where you’ll find the big money.

Finding and understanding your pay table

Most machines will give you access directly to the pay table, though some will require you to go via a rules or information button. These will be designed to look good with the overall design, and you should be able to locate them with a little effort.

Once inside you will often find two or even three pages detailing payouts. These will start with the basic symbols (often the playing card values), showing you how many credits you win for 3, 4 and 5 in a row for each. The better symbols which the slot is designed around will be at the top of this page, and will have proportionally much larger payouts.

On the second page you will find payouts for scatter symbols (which can appear anywhere on the reels). You’ll also find the trigger for your bonus round, which are often in combination with the wild symbols (which can substitute for any other symbol on the slot). The third page is where you will find information on the feature round, jackpots or free spin possibilities.

Each pay table is designed differently, though the above information will cover 90% of the tables that you see.

The role of lines and coins on payments

You’ll usually find more information in the rules of your slot covering the winning lines. For today’s video slots, 25 or 30 is standard, but there are games with up to 100 winning line combinations. These cross the screen from left to right in some crazy, twisted routes. The number of lines is multiplied by your bet amount to find the total cost of your spin, for example 30 lines at $0.05 each amounts to $1.50 per spin. It is the individual betting unit that determines the payout from the pay table. So it you hit three Aces and that is a 10 credit payout you win ten times $0.05, which equals $0.50 for that line. The balance here is that you get a lot of lines – so for many spins you will find five or even more payouts accumulating (especially when you get a wild symbol or two).

How the payouts work

The smaller wins, for example from the playing card symbols or maybe fruits, are the bread and butter of slot machines. These will pay smaller returns for 3 or 4 that will often not cover the entire cost of the spin. What these do is stop your bankroll disappearing too fast so you can play long enough to have the opportunity for bigger wins. You will often get a decent return for five symbols like this in a row – though the unique symbols for the machines in question will pay out a lot more. Five of the best symbols for a particular game can pay 2,000 or even 5,000 credits.

Scatter symbols do not need to be on any one particular line. These will pay out no matter where they appear, with three paying a nice amount on many machines and sometimes a smaller prize for two. This is cumulative to the line payouts.

Wild symbols are what every slots fan loves to see, these are extremely valuable in the middle of the reels, where they will cover the maximum number of lines. Wilds substitute for any other symbol, meaning you will suddenly have a ton of winning combinations paying out. Sometimes there are special circumstances where the wilds can be ‘held’.

The last thing to watch for on slot pay tables is the sequence that will trigger the bonus feature round. This is often three wilds, with the last reel spinning for longer (often with sound effects) to give you that feeling of anticipation ahead of a big payout.