When virtual horse racing first came out back in the early noughties, the “game” was a huge success. It was at a time where horse racing online was growing and whilst these days we get hundreds of races every day, there used to be a limit on how many races you could access.
Virtual racing allowed bookmakers to offer a similar sort of buzz on a more frequent basis. Virtual horse racing was gambling in its purist form, but it was fun, fast and engaging, three vital aspects for any gambling product.
Roll on some 20 years and it’s still a popular option online. The increase in the number of real races means that we probably aren’t at the numbers of the peak, but it’s still draws in big crowds and clearly makes big money for the bookies or it wouldn’t be so prevalent throughout pretty much all of the major bookies in the industry.
If you’re totally new to this then you are likely going to be sat scratching your head and not know too much about what we are going on about. Well, virtual horse races are races that are ran based on a computer algorithm and then converted into an actual race that you can watch on your computer or even on most betting apps.
The technology for the races has come on loads within the last few years and the graphics now are superb. In fact, you could stand back from the screen and if you didn’t already know, could quite easily convince someone that this was real life. It wasn’t always like that though and for the video gamers amongst you, it’s a lot like the revolution of Grand Theft Auto from the first to the most current. If you’ve no idea what we’re on about, let’s just say they’ve improved a lot!
How Does it Work?
The process of placing a bet on these races is just the same as if you were placing a bet on a real race.
The first thing that you will be greeted with is a number of race meetings that take place around the clock. The tracks are so popular that they are actually well known, with the like of Victoria Park, Festival Downs and Britannia Way being some of the more prestigious tracks. They rotate each day, just as they would in real-world racing.
Racing takes placed every couple of minutes. The majority of bookies will have 2-minute intervals between races, but this can range up to 5 minutes.
Each meeting will be either a jumps or a flat meeting. The races for the jumps are a little longer so they take longer to run, but horses can fall just as they would in real life, so bear this in mind. It’s also worth noting that the meetings are the same for each bettor, so you might have hundreds of people all betting on the same race and they are not just unique to you.
You then get to choose from a list of runners in the race. There is no form card and results are not recorded, so it’s not like you can find value from certain runners. Having said that, you will often see the same horse names if you play for any period of time and the prices will change each time for the same horse.
You then place your bet just as you would any market within that bookmaker. You can watch the race live within the bookmaker and then you collect your winnings if your pick comes in.
How are Winners Decided?
How the races run and how winners are picked is one of the most common mistakes that people get wrong about how virtual horse racing works. The thing to note here is that each race is random and as stated earlier, there are no form guides or results recorded for virtual horse racing.
You’re going to need to know how a Random Number Generator (RNG) works before we move on. We’ve spoken about these a lot in other articles, so we will keep this brief here.
An RNG is a complex mix of algorithms and seed numbers that throws out results each time it used. It’s highly unpredictable and can’t be cracked. It’s commonly used in pretty much all online casino games and it’s applied to virtual horse racing as well.
For example, you might have a bag with 100 numbers in it. Each number will have a result for that game and if called, that will be the result. The algorithm does it’s thing for each game and then spits out a number between 1 and 100 for that game. Whatever the result attached to that number is, is the result you will see from your bet.
Let’s apply this to virtual horse racing.
First thing that we need to note here are the number of runners in the field. Most have from 6 to 12, but you can get more than this for certain races. Let’s assume we have a race with 10 horses.
The algorithm will apply the odds to each horse which will be the chance that the horse has of winning. The favourites have the bigger chance and the odds drift for those with a lesser chance.
Let’s take our ball analogy and apply this again to make it a little easier to grasp.
100 balls are distributed between 10 horses. If each horse had an even chance, each would get 10 balls or 10 chances of winning. But, to create a mix in the odds, the balls are distributed unevenly. The greater the number of balls that one horse has, the lower the odds. It’s worth noting that the favourite for virtual races tends to go off around the 3/1 mark.
All the balls are numbered from 1 to 100. As stated, the more balls one horse has the greater the chance of them being drawn to win. The RNG then pulls out a number and whichever horse has that number will be declared the winner for that race.
The RNG will keep pulling numbers until all horses in that race come out in order. It’s important they do this in order to make sure that they cover any place, forecast and tricast bets as well.
The race is then played out over the virtual screening. This is to add a little drama and excitement for the viewer, but the result has already been pulled before the race even starts. The clever software that is used to stream these races means that they are able to move horses up and through the field for dramatic effect and makes it an actual event for the viewer.
The RNG works in a split second, so there is no time to wait for this, which is why you can get a race every couple of minutes.
Can You Predict the Winner?
You may or may not have come across stories online about people giving tips for virtual horse racing or even getting tips from people within a bookmaker. This is totally false as it’s a totally random occurrence as to who wins each race.
Certain horses are weighted in terms of the odds to try and reflect some virtual ability, but they do this just to make the process as lifelike as the real thing and to attract people to play. The ability of a horse priced at 2/1 and that of 100/1 is exactly the same, but they will be given less chance to win on the algorithm from the RNG.
We’ve also – worryingly – seen stories online people who have claimed to work in bookmakers stating that they were able to quickly spot a trend for which traps are the most popular on any given night.
It may be so that they were able to spot a turned over a small sample of races, but there would have been no trend here and it’s completely random.
Who Provides the Software?
As we’ve mentioned a couple of times already, the graphics for these races have come on leaps and bounds. They look amazing right now and are likely only going to get better.
The bookmakers actually hire the software from game developers and then host on their site. This is why you might see the same sort of set up on multiple bookies as they have likely been able to use the same software developer for each.
One of the biggest and best right now is that Inspired Gaming Group, who work with a wide range of bookmakers. You’ve also got the likes of Betradar, Kiron Interactive and Golden Race who are all offering solid virtual racing software.
It’s worth noting that all of these sites offer virtuals in a range of sports including greyhounds and football.
Can You Apply a Strategy?
Not really. The only thing that you could do is side with those who are shorter odds as you know they have a factual higher chance of winning. This may seem obvious, but when you get shorter odds in real races, the chances of winning for the horse are subjective and this why you can get value from bookmakers offering odds that are higher than they might be. Or at least, that’s what you believe.
Given that virtual horses are all equal, the odds just reflect the number of balls that they carry into the draw, if you will. We realise that this is a weird analogy to use for this, and it’s a lot more technical than this, but it’s a really simply and effective way of looking at the chance each horse has.
We’ve even ran some dummy tests on races to see if we could find any correlation between picking certain numbered horses, colours or even the odds. All of them, albeit fairly small samples, came up with random results where we were happy to conclude that there was nothing that could be applied. Again, these are things that people of swear blind that you can on forums, so be careful who you listen to.
Another fallacy with virtual horse racing is that you can apply a strategy like the “Martingale” approach to this and make money. For those that don’t know, it’s a massively flawed but famous roulette strategy basically where you bet on black or red and double your money if you lose until you win. Long story short, it does not work.
And surprise, surprise, it does not work with this either. You could only do this if you bet on the same number each time. If you started with £1 and lost 9 in a row (highly possible) then your next bet would be £256. You’d not be able to wager enough to make this a profitable system long term, just the same as if you were betting on roulette, funnily enough.
Is Virtual Horse Racing Fair?
Lots of people are very sceptical about these types of bets and if you didn’t know how they work, then we could be sympathetic with that. Now that you’ve read through our article on how it works, you should be a little better informed to answer this question yourself.
Virtual horse racing is fair, but it’s fair because it’s totally random. It’s basically an extension of any casino game that you see online, except this is placed in the sports betting section of most sites.
You’re gambling on random results here and the bookmaker is taking an edge over each bet, just like they would from any other market on that site.
It’s also worth noting that bookmakers need to apply for a separate license to operate virtual games from the UK Gambling Commission. This is just another sector that is highly regulated, just like casino and sports, with the UKGC making it one of a number of priorities that virtual games act and behave exactly as they should.