How to Read and Understand Slot Payout Tables

Modern-day slot machines offer a seemingly infinite amount of reels and paylines so it can be challenging to understand payouts. The first step is finding the “Game Rules”, “Help”, “Info”, or the common lowercase “i” info icon.
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Learning how to read slot machine payouts is an excellent way to increase your enjoyment of the slot playing experience. Slots today have many different unique features and bonuses that make them a lot of fun to play, and you may miss out on the fun if you aren’t able to follow what’s going on. 

This article provides easy-to-follow instructions to learn how to read pay tables, paylines, slot symbols and winning slots combinations. and everything else you need to know about how to play slot machines.

The Basics

When it comes to understanding slot machines, it’s best to start with the basics. Every slot machine has pay structures that determine how the game’s symbols line up on the reels and how much different winning combinations pay out. 

You can review all of this information on the slot machine paytable of any slot that you are interested in playing.

Using the Game’s Info Guide

Older slot machines in casinos have information about symbols and paylines physically listed on the machine above or below the reels. Newer machines and online casino slots have a digital info guide that can be accessed by clicking or tapping a designated button that sits above or below the reels. This button can have different names including “Game Rules”, “Help”, “Info”, even the common lowercase “i” info icon.

Click on it and you can find detailed and accurate information about that game.

Symbols and Reels

Symbols refer to the images on the slot machine that you are trying to line up, such as the bars and cherries and sevens you would find on classic machines. Reels are the term for the columns on a slot machine. Older slot machines almost exclusively had three reels, but nowadays it is much more common to find machines with four, five, or even six reels.

Paylines and Ways to Win

Paylines are the lines that symbols must land on for your spin to be a winner. If you imagine a standard 3×5 slot machine (15 symbols spread across five reels with three in each reel), individual paylines like the five symbols on the top, the five in the middle and the five on the bottom should be easy for even beginners to see.

Many of these machines pay on 30 or more lines however, which include all sorts of different diagonal lines and zigzags. The slot machine pay table gives you a visual illustration of all of the different lines the machine you are playing on pays out.

How to Read Slot Wins

In most cases, you will win something on your spin when three or more of the same symbol land on a payline. The pay table displays the payout amounts for each individual symbol and the number of them that are on a paying line. There are other ways to win as well including scatter pays, which pay when you collect specific symbols regardless of where they land.

Each different symbol has a specific value, and these values are displayed on the slot machine’s pay table. Wild symbols usually match the value of the highest-paying symbol in the game, and they also substitute for other symbols to create winning paylines. 

Amount Wagered

Payouts on most line pays are directly correlated to the amount that you are wagering. For example, if you are playing a penny machine at 40 cents per spin (40 lines at one cent each), increasing your bet to 80 cents per spin will pay twice as much. Generally speaking, the more you are risking, the higher your potential payouts will be.

More Advanced

With slot machine lines and symbols explained above, let’s dive into some of the more advanced things you’ll need to know when learning how to understand slot machines.


Just about every slot machine has unique features in addition to standard line pays. These features are always explained in detail on the slot machine paytable. Some examples include:

  • Free spins – You win a set number of free spins that spin automatically and don’t require any additional wagering.
  • Hold and respin – This feature holds specific symbols in place and respins, allowing you to collect more of those symbols for bigger payouts.
  • Expanding wilds – If a wild symbol lands on a reel, it expands to make the entire reel wild on machines with this feature.
  • Win multipliers – Entire spins or specific symbols can have multipliers added to them to create much bigger wins on linepays.

Some features are available on every spin while others only take place during the bonus.

How the Bonus is Triggered

Activating a bonus is one of the most exciting aspects of playing modern slots. You’ll want to know how the bonus is triggered in the game you are playing so you know what to root for as you play. 

Some games have bonuses that can activate automatically on any spin. Others have certain symbols you need to collect on specific lines, or as scatters meaning they can appear anywhere on the board.

Jackpots Awarded

Some machines advertise jackpots of different sizes. Jackpots may be awarded on line pays or during a bonus feature, depending on the game. These details will always be available on the pay table.

How to Read Non-Reel Slots

Not all machines have standard reels and paylines. For example, the 6×5 reel game Sweet Bonanza pays when eight or more of the same symbol is on the screen regardless of their locations. Sweet Bonanza is also a cascading slot which adds an interesting twist to reading winning combos.

And Honey Rush is on a hexagonal grid that pays out symbol clusters of five or more. The bottom line is that modern slots have tons of creative formats. The biggest lesson is that all the game rules, symbols, payouts and paylines can be found on the slot’s info guide and pay table.

Slot Pay Tables Are For Your Enjoyment

Keep in mind that no strategy is required when playing slot machines. Your wins will always be calculated automatically and displayed clearly, so there is no pressure on you to study your slot machine’s pay table or to understand everything on it. But for players who want to know what they are rooting for and what their potential payouts are as they play, the pay table is a valuable resource that is always available to you.

Author: Dave Consolazio
Dave has been writing about slots for just about as long as he's been playing them. He’s an accomplished writer who has written countless articles on slots, poker, and sports betting for various publications over the past 15 years.
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