As the oldest betting sport in the world, it is unsurprising that horse racing was one of the first sports adapted for digital betting.
Today online bookmakers like William Hill, bet365, Boylesports and Paddy Power all offer virtual horseracing as a betting product, with punters able to bet on digital simulations of horse races at virtual racetracks every couple of minutes throughout the day.
While the animations used to simulate virtual races appear to be quite realistic, this racing format is still primitive in many respects and has more in common with a lottery than an actual horse race.
Whether or not virtual racing makes sense for you depends on what you are looking to get out of the virtual racing experience.
What is virtual horse racing?
Before going into how to get the most out of virtual horse racing, it’s worth getting a handle on what virtual horseracing is.
Virtual racing is a simulation of real-life horse racing contested by fictional digital racehorses and jockeys on fictional digital racecourses.
The two main things it shares in common with the real thing is that it allows punters to bet on horses in a betting market prior to the race, and then to watch a digital simulation of the race.
Furthermore, virtual races now encompass a variety of real-world racing formats, including flat and National Hunt races over a variety of distances.
However, any resemblance to the real thing more or less ends there, and this is critical to understanding how you should approach virtual horseracing betting.
So, how does virtual horse racing work?
Virtual horseracing is not decided by the complex variables that affect the outcome of traditional races, like racehorse or jockey form, ground preferences, weather, racecourse layout or race length.
Instead the race is decided by a computer algorithm that calculates the finishing order in a race.
A virtual horse’s odds are basically the only factor that provides any insight into how it will perform in a race. Horses with lower odds are more likely to win, while long odds horses are less likely to win.
You can visualize a virtual horse race as lottery, where the names of competing horses are printed on the lottery balls instead of numbers.
The lower the odds on a horse, the more balls its name is printed on. The higher the odds, the fewer balls are printed with its name.
When picking the first ball, the lottery machine could randomly select the only ball with a long shot’s name printed on it. However, it is more likely to pick one of the balls featuring the favourite’s name.
Like a lottery machine, virtual racing software will pull up several numbers in succession, which are used to establish the finishing order in the race.
The result of the draw is then simulated as a horse race, with on-screen events used to make the outcome of this racing lottery interesting and engaging for punters.
Virtual horse racing tips and betting
Virtual horseracing betting is similar to normal racing betting, albeit with a stripped-down selection of betting markets.
While regular races will offer you a variety of betting markets, virtual races are often restricted to simple win and each way markets, and one or two additional markets depending on the bookie.
Typically, there will be no form information available, because virtual horses and jockeys do not have ‘careers’ in any meaningful sense and every race is effectively a one-off.
This leaves you to select the winner based on the virtual horse racing odds that are on offer.
Pick high odds and you’ll get better returns on your bets, which are less likely to win. Pick low odds and you will get a smaller return on your stake but are more likely to win your bet.
Once you’ve placed your bet you can opt to watch the simulation of the race. If your bet wins, you’ll get paid out as you would in a regular horse race.
Finally, don’t expect any outside assistance, advice or tips when placing virtual racing bets. You’re largely on your own when betting on virtual horse racing.
Regular racing tipsters do not make virtual horse racing tips, and anyone who does tip a virtual race is making a prediction every bit as random as one you could come up with.
Virtual horseracing bookmakers
You can find virtual horse races being run every few minutes at the following bookmakers:
Why bet on virtual horseracing?
Virtual horseracing can be enjoyable once you understand that it does not offer the type of betting and profit opportunities that regular horseracing does.
One of the main things that virtual racing does offer punters is a great simulation of the excitement that comes from watching your horse win a race.
Watching your virtual selection pulling away from the pack at a price of 30/1 and going on to win their race is every bit as fun and exciting as it is in real life.
And if you don’t know too much about real world racing, or how to read the form, virtual racing is a quick and easily way to experience the thrill of racing betting.
Virtual horse racing FAQs
Is there a pattern to virtual racing?
If you follow a series of virtual races you’ll find that, as expected, lower odds horses win more often and long odds horses do so less often.
Apart from that you’re not going to find stable long term patterns in race results that allow you to get an edge over the house.
How much should you bet on virtual racing?
The simple answer is don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. Treat your virtual racing bankroll as part of your entertainment budget, bet for fun, and move on once your bankroll is spent.
How do you pick a winner in virtual racing?
If you want to pick a winner consistently in virtual racing, bet on the favourite. The software is designed to make the favourite win more often, so it goes without saying that this will happen more often. However, it won’t happen quite often enough to guarantee you a long term profit if you only back the favourite - thanks to the bookie’s overround.
Can you profit from virtual horse racing?
The answer is ‘not in the long term.’
As with any form of gambling, you can place a bet on a horse at 28/1 in a virtual race, win, never bet again, and you will have profited.
However, over the overround programmed into virtual racing will ensure that while you win occasional bets, the house will make a profit in the long term.
In fact, unlike regular horseracing where bookies can and do make mistakes with racehorse odds, virtual racing’s computer based approach means the house edge is baked into the cake in much the same way as it is on an online slots game.
Is virtual horse racing fixed?
The fact that bookies are entirely in control of the virtual racing process, from taking bets, to deciding the race result, has raised suspicions that this virtual sport is fixed.
Some punters believe that once money has been placed on a virtual race, bookies can easily take steps to ensure that the race result is to their advantage.
However, this type of manipulation is unlikely.
Bookies are regulated and audited by third party gambling commissions and could lose their licenses if they were caught engaging in underhand activities. Not to mention the terrible PR and public outcry they’d have to deal with if they were caught cheating.
Furthermore, the overround that is used to calculate virtual racehorse odds means that this racing format is extremely profitable for bookies, without their having to engage in any trickery.