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RacingBetter News
Wednesday 11th January 2023

Can Horse Racing Betting and Poker Skills Combine?

horse race

We all know that betting success requires a little bit of luck. You could do all the research in the world to come up with a winning strategy, but you can still stand there with mouth agape as your horse falls at the final fence at Cheltenham or Aintree. Similarly, in poker, you can be the best bluffer in the world and read your opponent like an open book, only to see the ‘wrong’ card come out of the shoe when it matters.

But while both activities require some level of luck, it’s also true that to be successful in either you require a certain skill set. Those who say otherwise are wide off the mark. More importantly, some of those skill sets can overlap. In short, poker skills can be applied to horse racing betting and vice versa.

Level-headed analysis trumps all

Perhaps the most important quality they share is statistical analysis. Anyone can read a horse racing form guide, but it also requires a cool detachment – a lack of emotion – when settling on your selection. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but the same sense of emotional detachment is one of the key poker skills you can learn, and it can certainly be applied to horse racing.

Consider that, as humans, we tend to do poorly with anticipating probability. To give a crude example: You are at a race meeting at Lingfield, and the favourite has not won in the first three opening races. This is the point where our minds start to play tricks on us by saying, “the favourite is due.”. And we can even back this up with some statistical “proof”, as we know that the favourite has around a 30% strike rate in UK racing. But each race on the card is independent of the previous, and you’ll fall into a trap if you believe otherwise.

Experienced poker players are adept at understanding the independence of each ‘event’. The plethora of options at online poker sites, in terms of games and tournaments, means that there are a wide variety of strategies that can be applied, but it still comes down to the old cliché of playing the percentages. If you’ve lost five hands in a row, then it does not mean you are due to win the next one.

poker skills

Of course, poker is usually framed as a player-versus-player game, whereas horse racing is simply a matter of selection. But modern online betting options tend to undermine that point. Betting exchanges, for example, allow you to “play your opponent”, i.e., bet against the general consensus in the market. We know, for instance, that popular horses, especially those with broad public appeal – say Tiger Roll, for example – will have their odds skewed because more money is being put on them. In racing, you can capitalise on that in the same way as poker players jump all over dumb decisions by their opponents.

Practice your poker and racing skills

Practice makes perfect. And while we wouldn’t recommend you jump into betting or constant poker tournaments just to learn, that can be costly, repetition will serve you will in both poker and horse racing. Indeed, most online poker UK platforms will allow you to watch live games as an observer, and you might even be able to play free demo games. Heck, you can practice with a deck of cards. The point is, as with racing, you start to recognise patterns of success and failure.

In horse racing, there are numerous ways to practice. But above all, you’ll want to be watching the action, looking for where the bookies have erred. A horse might look to be at the peak of its powers, but an experienced punter will notice that it keeps jumping to the right; another might see that a left-handed track is not favourable to a runner; yet another might spot the wrong price from a bookmaker.

All of these elements return to making your judgements based on probability calculations. You might go against the favourite in a horse race because the value lies in an outsider, just like you might bet aggressively in a poker hand when the conditions are right despite an opponent showing pocket aces. Of course, a little luck is required too.

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