Are Virtual Sports The Slot Gamers Route Into Sports Betting?

Written By Ian John on September 13, 2017

When you consider the qualities of Virtual Sports games such as Virtual Football or Virtual Horseracing, it appears that they have more in common with real life football or horse races than they would a typical slot game.

Indeed, the types of bets you can make, the way the virtual sport is displayed on the screen even down to the commentary on that event, are all designed you give you the impression that what you are betting on here is a sporting event, albeit one crafted from the software.

Albert Einstein famously stated that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” and in terms of the reality of virtual sports, that quotation is very close to the mark. That’s because the truth of the matter is, Virtual Sports have much more in common with a host of casino games and slot games than they do the sports which they represent.

As such, could it actually be the case that if a slot gamer or a casino gaming enthusiast wanted to take their first tentative steps into the world of sports betting, could Virtual Sports be the ideal stepping stone between the two genres to allow them to hone their skills before wagering on real life sports events?

That may appear to be a nonsensical statement as at first glance, the differences between a slot game and a Virtual Sport look vast, but in order to understand how the two items are very similar we need to first break down the mechanics of how each of them works and when you do this, the similarities become very apparent.

The Car Analogy

If I told you to imagine a car, then you could imagine one of thousands of different types of car. There are many different car manufacturers across the globe, each of which produces many different types of car and so it at first appears to be that one car is massively different to the next.

However, when you break down a car into its constituent parts and look at the things which make it a car in the first place, then what you soon discover is that each car has one thing as its starting point. An engine of some form. Strip away all the cars external looks, bodywork, wheels and just focus on the engine and suddenly this myriad of different cars all suddenly start to look the same.

Sure there will be differences between engines in terms of what fuel they use, the size of the engine, the power the engine puts out and some engines may have different parts than others, but essentially what you have here is the heart of a car and although there are differences, each engine serves the same purpose. That being it provides the power to drive the wheels that allows the car to move.

So now imagine that slot games, casino games (such as roulette or blackjack), scratchcards and virtual sports are now  all very different types of car and just as cars can be built up to look very different to each other, if you break them down into their constituent parts then you will find they are very similar.

That’s because at the heart of every online gambling game, be it a slot game, a scratchcard, a casino game or virtual sports, is its own engine, only in this case this is a simple computer function, called a Random Number Generator (RNG).

What is the Random Number Generator?

As the name suggests, the Random Number Generator is a function which microprocessors can do very well indeed. All it is, is the ability for the game, device, software or whatever is accessing the function, to select a random number between two parameters. Those parameters may be a selection between 0 and 1, or it can be between 0 and 160 trillion or similar.

These RNG’s are the heart of every single gambling game. It is these which ensure that every slot doesn’t end up in the same result every single time, or that every Virtual Football game doesn’t end in the same score each time. They can be put to many different functions, such as in Virtual Horseracing, selecting the number of riders in a race, then selecting which horses and jockeys will ride in the race and then actually deciding the outcome of the race itself.

Built on top of these RNG’s are complex computer programs which then replicate the game you want to play. So slot games are made to play like slot games in the real world, roulette will play like roulette in the real world and Virtual Speedway will look and play like real life Speedway.

However, unlike real life Speedway which is decided by the quality of the bike and the skill of the rider, Virtual Speedway is decided by the random number generator, which will take into account the weighting factor or handicap for each of the competitors.

How does the “weighting” for competitors work?

Key to understanding how Virtual Sports work is understanding how individual selections are weighted to give you different prices and were going to use Speedway as an example as it is the easiest to follow with just four riders in each race.

Now without weighting and using a RNG, each Speedway rider would have a 1 in 4 chance of winning the race. However this is not realistic as in the real world, different riders have different skills and weaknesses which means that they are more or less likely to win than the others. The weighting in the game helps recreate that.

As a punter, you see this weighting very simply via the odds for each selection, but in the software the weighting is worked out differently using complex algorithms which then use the RNG to work out whether the favourite wins or not.

A simplified example of how weighting may work could be as follows:

In Speedway let’s say there are four riders:

  • Rider 1 is the weakest and has a 1 in 10 chance of winning
  • Rider 2 is the second weakest and has a 2 in 10 chance of winning
  • Rider 3 is the second best and has a 3 in 10 chance of winning
  • Rider 4 is the best rider and has a 4 in 10 chance of winning.

Now let’s say we set up the RNG to select numbers between 1 and 10 very rapidly and we set the software up to work out the results based on the following.

  • If the RNG selects number 1 – Rider 1 receives 1 point
  • If the RNG selects numbers 2 or 3 – Rider 2 receives 1 point
  • If the RNG selects numbers 4, 5 or 6 – Rider 3 receives 1 point
  • If the RNG selects numbers 7,8,9 or 10, Rider 4 receives 1 point

We then say that the first rider to reach 1000 points is the winner of the race. This sounds like a lot, but a RNG can select a random number in a tiny fraction of a second, so selecting many thousands of random numbers would only take a few seconds for the RNG to complete.

Although this is massively simplified, you can see here how the weighting works so that Rider 4 has a much greater chance of winning than Rider 1, but with the nature of the RNG being entirely random, it is still possible for any of the four riders to win, only it is more likely Rider 4 will win.

Of course this is a hugely simplified example of weighting and you can easily make it more complex by adding more parameters, more selections and less clear differences between the competitors, which is all what takes place within each Virtual Sports game every time it is run on a site.

These same processes are what also ensure randomness in gambling games such as slot games (where the symbols landed on the reels are decided by a RNG) or games like roulette (another more obvious RNG) and even card games like blackjack where a RNG will decide what cards are dealt and drawn at various points in the game.

Much like the cars all draw on engine power, so the variety of different gambling games all draw on the power of the RNG to power the game and then the rest of the game is developed around this finely tuned engine.

The ideal stepping stone?

Once you understand that Virtual Sports are far more like slot games and casino games than they are the sports that they represent, then it is easy to understand why they will likely have real appeal to slot gamers and casino fans.  They represent an ideal stepping stone for casino gamers to take their first steps into the world of sports betting and perhaps for sports betting enthusiasts to learn more about the nature of casino gaming.

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Ian John

Ian John is an expert across many realms of online gambling, both in US and international markets. Based in the UK, Ian covers sports betting, poker, and the regulated online casino and esports betting markets for a wide number of industry-focused publications.

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