How Paylines Impact RTP, Volatility and Hit Frequency

How Paylines Affect RTP, Volatility and Hit Frequency in Online Slots

Paylines (sometimes called paytable) is an inherent part of the gameplay in any slot game you can come across: no matter online or offline. Being such an important piece of the game implies that paylines affect gaming experience at least in some way.

With that being said, let’s learn about the impact of paylines on such crucial parameters of online slots as RTP, Volatility (Variation) and Winnings Hit Frequency.

What paylines are in short

Think of paylines as some set of rules which determine in what order particular online slot counts paying combinations.

I believe an illustration is going to do a better job of getting us on the same page than any explanation in words.


Here you can see based on which patterns a particular online slot (Dead or Alive slot in this case) is going to distribute the winnings.

Also, it is worth mentioning that some online slots allow casino players to change the number of paylines, but another part does not. That’s how we can divide paylines into Adjustable and Fixed based on that criterion.

The last thing I would like to say is that Adjustable paylines slots (mainly in land-based casinos) used to be more popular in the previous decades, but nowadays Fixed paylines slots are dominating the gambling industry.

Well, let’s take a look at how paylines settings affect the most important parameters of the online slot and discuss everything depicted in details.


How paylines influence RTP

Fixed paylines do not have any impact on slot’s RTP. I presume this statement does not need to be further explained since if there is no opportunity to change settings, then there is no causation between paylines and RTP to be expected, obviously.

Speaking about if there is any connection between how many paylines a particular online slot has and what level of RTP it can boast with, as far as I can judge, there are no patterns as well. Hence, you can easily come across many online slots with an enormous number of paylines and very shitty RTP, online slots with a small number of paylines and very decent RTP and vice versa.

Adjustable paylines do not have any impact on the slot’s RTP as well, but this is a less obvious point, and I feel like I should elaborate on it more.

Each payline in online slots has some probability to hit winning, though an online casino player has to pay more money per spin to be able to have more paylines active. Thus, increasing the number of active paylines makes your chances to hit the winning higher, for sure, but it also increases your spin cost at the same pace.

For instance, you play in some slot with the only one payline active which costs you 1 EUR per spin. Let’s imagine we know for sure that the next spin you will get 2 EUR of the winning per line. Hence, a player’s profit, in that case, would be 1 EUR or 100% of the initially invested money. What will happen if a player decides to have 20 paylines active? He/she is going to get 40 EUR of total winning, but the spin cost now is 20 EUR (20 lines x 1 EUR per line = 20 EUR). Here we can see very clearly that even if nominal winning increases, but ROI (return to investment) stays intact, the same 100% (a player gets 20 EUR profit which is 100% of initially invested 20 EUR).

Hence, adjust paylines or not, RTP still stays the same.

How paylines impact Volatility (Variation)

Fixed paylines do not have any impact on the slot’s Volatility, because what really matters is how much of a probability to hit winning paylines have. For example, you can have a slot with only 3 paylines and probability to hit winning 10% for each line (10% x 3 = 30% in total per spin). Or a slot with 9 paylines and probability to hit winning 3.33% for each line (the same 3.33% x 9 = 30% in total per spin).

So to speak, there is no correlation between a number of paylines and the slot’s Volatility. Volatility of each online slot should be estimated independently based on other criteria (highest paying symbol, winnings hit frequency, etc.), not a number of paylines.

Adjustable paylines do not have any impact on slot’s Volatility as well. A casino player can increase or decrease the number of active paylines, but it does not make the slot more or less volatile. Though it will affect Winnings hit frequency about which we are going to talk in the next chapter.

How paylines affect Winnings hit frequency

Fixed paylines can not have any impact on Winnings hit frequency, no question about that, since there is no room for maneuvers.

Adjustable paylines impact the Winnings hit frequency in a big way, and this is basically the only one situation when changing the number of paylines affects online slots’ crucial parameters.

For example, if a slot has Winnings hit frequency of 5% per line , then increasing the number of active paylines will result in more frequent winnings, for sure. However, it would not make a slot better in terms of RTP, as I explained in the chapter devoted to RTP.


Now you can see how little impact paylines settings have on online slot’s crucial parameters: RTP, Volatility and Winnings hit frequency. Basically they influence only Winnings hit frequency having no effect on RTP and Volatility at the same time.

That’s why many software developers feel like they do not even need to let players adjust paylines number producing only Fixed paylines slots. As a result, the online gambling market is flooded with Fixed paylines slots, and that tendency keeps going.