February 8, 2016

China Open Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:48 pm

The draw for the China Open qualifiers was eventually made on Monday at noon with the potters heading to Barnsley for Tuesday morning, hardly ideal planning.

I’ve listed the matches below in the order they are being played and will have a look at some bets when the bookies start pricing them up.



Recommended Tuesday Acca: 2 points on Jamie Jones, Robin Hull, Jamie Burnett, Matt Selt, Jimmy Robertson, Ricky Walden and Rod Lawler pays over 4/1 at Marathon Bet. 





February 7, 2016

The German Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:34 pm

Perhaps an unlikely conclusion to the German Masters for some sees Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel take on the Pinner Potter Martin Gould to see who carries off their first ever ranking title.

The head to head for the two can be viewed here as they prepare to do battle over 17 frames and my guess is that they’ll probably use up a fair amount of them to find the eventual winner.

Brecel will have to improve on how he played yesterday to win it has to be said but I just have a feeling he might relax a little more into the final than Martin. Either way I will be delighted for whoever wins as they are both entertaining players who like to go for their shots.

I wasn’t going to have a bet on it but Dani Martinez, the luckiest punter on earth has just alerted me to a bet that surely can’t be missed, so from not having a bet it’s a maximum pointer on the punt below.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on the final being over 14.5 frames at 10/11 with William Hills. 

February 5, 2016

German Masters Day 3

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:43 am

Day 3It’s day three in Berlin and this is the day which sees four players playing in both sessions as the afternoon marks the end of the Last 16 and tonight sees all four Quarter Finals played, so it’s a very testing day for the four winners this afternoon, particularly if they start off with a close one.

It could be said that it’s been a tournament of shocks so far but it’s very rare now in snooker that everything goes to plan. Since we got here we’ve said goodbye against the odds to players like Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Mark Allen and Marco Fu, but none of the players that beat them can really be described as David to their Goliath. It seems to be the nature of snooker these days that anyone can beat anyone on any given day, even more so now given the frequency of tournaments, which makes betting on snooker that bit more difficult than it used to be.

One player that does look very focused again this week is Judd Trump, he’s dropped just one frame so far and made a century in three of the five frames he won against Zhang Anda. His new found dedication to the baize at the expense of ‘going out’ seems to be paying dividends and he has to be considered favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday on his current form, but we’ve said that a few times before and he’s not got over the line so you can’t really be too careful. Once again, the unpredictability of snooker.

Still in the hunt are two of my outright picks, main pick Maguire (22/1) is now second favourite after knocking out Selby last night and Kyren Wilson (40/1) produced a gritty fightback from 4-1 down to The Dentist, Rory McLeod yesterday to set up a match against Hitman Holt this afternoon, a dentist one day and a hitman the next, that’s rough. I also flagged up Mark King for the quarter he is in but didn’t include him in my bets, so just in case this wild punt goes any further and while he is still the rank outsider at the bookies I will correct that with a little bet below.

King faces Mark Joyce who knocked out Allen. Now I don’t know what the score is with these two but there certainly doesn’t appear to be any love lost on Allen’s part. He did a Q&A on Twitter after the match and more than once told the tweeting public of his dislike for both Joyce’s game and almost everything else about the seemingly mild-mannered Walsall potter. I’m not sure if the two have ever had words but it seems one of snooker’s more unlikely rivalries, hopefully they’ll draw each other at The Crucible this year and we’ll see full on handbags at dawn and a good old fashioned bit of needle.

This half of the draw does really offer a chance for a new name to make a ranking final, Luca Brecel and Kurt Maflin will both fancy their chances of at least a semi-final spot as will King and Joyce, there is the small matter of the World Champion at the bottom of the draw but he faces a tough one today in the shape of Ryan Day, another who many think should have a few titles under his belt at this stage in his career. With Kyren and Holty also in the mix, it’s all to play for in the bottom section.

The top half sees more established names already into the quarter finals with Judd taking on Martin Gould next and Mags facing a jock derby against Dotty. It’s still very hard to call so I’m not going to be going mad, just a daft acca below and that ‘just in case’ on King.

Recommended Bets: 1 point acca pays over 23/1 on Maflin, King, Wilson, Bingham, Maguire and Trump. 0.5 point each way on Mark King at 50/1.   


February 4, 2016

German Masters Day 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:22 am

It’s Day 2 at the Tempodrom in Berlin and this sees the conclusion of Round 1 as well as the start of the second round for the winners from Wednesday. It’s an early start at 9am UK Time, 10am Local Time and you can follow the action live, starting with the match between Brecel and Xintong on Eurosport as well as the usual bookie streams. 

Day 2

Recommended Match Bet: 3 point treble on Joyce (+2.5), O’Brien (+2.5) and Woollaston (+2.5) pays over 3/1 at Marathon Bet.

February 3, 2016

German Masters Day 1

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:51 am

Here is the schedule for Berlin today, note that the match times are German time so start an hour earlier in the UK. My full preview can be seen here, I’m going to hang fire on the match betting until the next round but will list my predicted winners below.


PREDICTED WEDNESDAY WINNERS: Selby, Maguire, Pengfei, Hawkins, Carter, Burden, Gould, Murphy.

February 2, 2016

German Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:59 pm
The Tempodrom

The Tempodrom

Following two snooker competitions last week that I wasn’t interested in at all, it’s now that time of year again where we head to the land of sausages and plentiful facial hair as Berlin once again hosts the German Masters, in the magnificent Tempodrom Arena.

It seems ages ago that the qualifiers were played for this in Wigan but they did see some big name casualties, most notably Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Neil Robertson and less notably given his recent form, Ding Junhui. There are however plenty of familiar faces turning up to what surely is snooker’s best viewing arena for the fans who generate an electric atmosphere when the place is packed out, which it inevitably is for most sessions.

One point that is sometimes missed, well I never thought about it anyway, is something that was mentioned to me by Peter Ebdon recently, namely the lighting on the outside tables. It’s not really something which as a fan sitting in there watching you really take into account, but it can be quite dimly lit around there, unlike the main TV table which is as it should be. The nature of the vast arena is such that this is probably unavoidable, but it just goes to show that however good this event appears to be to the spectators, there are challenging and unusual conditions for the players who find themselves on one of the surrounding tables which need to be overcome in order for them to produce their best stuff.

It’s pretty much full on from now until the World Championship on the baize and the season is now focused around jostling for those all important top 16 places which guarantee a spot at The Crucible, which is now just a few weeks away. There are a few players here who could do with a good run to get them into the elite 16, there are a few that can put themselves in contention with a winning sequence and there are others who will be looking to cement their places so they don’t have to worry too much for the rest of the season leading up to it and focus fully on preparation for the big one.

You can check the head to head records for each match by clicking on it, if you can’t click on it the two are meeting for the first time. I’ll have a look at these and recommend a few bets in the hope that the poor recent run is nearing an end.  

You can view the Order of Play here. The action will be live on Eurosport from Wednesday. Here is a look at the quarters.   


Mark Selby v Steven Hallworth
Stephen Maguire v Ken Doherty
Graeme Dott v Tian Pengfei
Alan McManus v Barry Hawkins

Mark Selby, who is hugely popular in Germany, returns to defend the title he won 12 months ago. He’s yet to capture a title this season and it’s now 10 months since we saw him with a trophy in his hand, which for him, possibly qualifies as a minor state of emergency. I’m not ready to call the ambulance on him just yet and I still believe that he’ll win something and he can possibly take heart that the year he won the World Championship he was a long time potless too. As I’m not recommending him for this, unlike the previous umpteen tournaments, he’ll probably win it again. Stephen Maguire had a great game at The Masters with Judd despite losing and I think he’ll cause Selby a few problems in their probable second round clash and perhaps emerge from this quarter as the semi-finalist. Under this, I think Dott and Pengfei is a match to leave alone as they are both capable of throwing in a great or careless display at a moment’s notice these days, a more interesting proposition is Masters runner-up Hawkins who is now getting into the groove after a shaky start to the season although Angles is still a force to be reckoned with. This is a difficult quarter to really nail your colours to but I’m going to plump for Maguire, who is of course under pressure to secure a Crucible place.



Judd Trump v Ali Carter
Alfie Burden v Zhang Anda
Martin Gould v Mark Williams
Ben Woollaston v Shaun Murphy

Eyes are immediately drawn to the top match here and it’s a shame that former champion Ali and Judd meet so early. They played one of the top three matches I have ever seen live at The Crucible back in 2012 and but for a few knockarounds at Crondon Park haven’t met since. Judd is obviously in fine form but Ali seems to save his best for Germany of late and that’s a coin toss for me so at the outright prices you have to take a chance on The Captain. Alfie Burden is coming into a bit of form after a very bad patch and I’d back him to take care of Anda. Surprisingly Gould and MJW have only met in lesser events and it’s very much about who’s on song on the day there but I can’t see much safety involved, I’d marginally side with Gould but think that Shaun Murphy will probably come through that section anyway. If that’s the case and he faces Carter, given the recent history between the pair, I’d side with The Captain, but the match with Judd first off is obviously the key to the bet below, if he beats Judd, he can make a good week of this and move up those rankings.



Zhao Xintong v Luca Brecel
Marco Fu v Kurt Maflin
Mark Joyce v Mark Allen
Mark King v Stuart Carrington

Luca Brecel seems to be beginning to fulfill the promise he has shown over the last few years and it would be nice to see him have a run in this with what might be considered not the worst of draws. That said, the underestimation of Marco Fu is almost folklore now in snooker circles and who would bet against the former runner-up coming through this quarter unscathed. I don’t think Mark Allen likes playing Mark Joyce, it seems that something about Joyce’s game seems to sometimes get to The Pistol and he’ll want to get off to a good start there to avoid a repeat of their meeting in Australia when Allen flew half way around the globe to lose to the Walsall man. Stuart Carrington of course is responsible for knocking out Ronnie and his reward is a match against Mark King, who I’m sure will be looking at the draw thinking he’s in with a chance of going deep here. I’ve got a funny feeling about King this week and wouldn’t be surprised if he made the semi-finals, particularly if Joyce knocks out Allen, so it’s time for my wild, probably half-witted punt of the week.



Ian Burns v Michael Holt
Rory McLeod v Kyren Wilson
Ryan Day v Liang Wenbo
Fergal O’Brien v Stuart Bingham

Another section which could potentially see a name not usually at the business end of things come through, I do get a sense that this week might see a ‘surprise’ winner, if there is any such thing in snooker anymore. World Champion Bingham is obviously favourite to progress but has a tough opener against a player who has already beaten him this season in Fergal, so that alone is enough to have you looking around for a possible alternative. Day, Wenbo and Holt are all names that would be on most people’s shortlist of players that are not far off winning a ranking event and Rory of course has already won a PTC this season. But my attention keeps coming back to Shanghai champion Kyren Wilson, even though Rory has given him a couple of good hidings in the past I think he’s now a totally different proposition and I think he’s the man that I’ll trust in this quarter. If he does make it through the momentum he’ll have may make him difficult to beat. 


RECOMMENDED BETS: 2 points on Stephen Maguire to win the German Masters at 22/1. 1 point each way on Ali Carter at 60/1. 1 point each way on Kyren Wilson at 40/1. MATCH BETS WILL BE POSTED ON A DAILY BASIS. 

February 1, 2016

SB Classic: Resurgent Croft Clinches Grand Finals Spot

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:53 am

A late night finish yesterday at the excellent Elite Snooker Club in Preston saw a win for former professional Stephen Croft who defeated Alex Taubman in a deciding frame to clinch his place in the Grand Finals on April 3rd, the fifth player to do so.

Crafty Crofty is into the Last 16

Crafty Crofty is into the Last 16

Stephen or ‘Crofty’ has been taking a rest from snooker, well not so much a rest as a full-on generation off, he’s been back playing for just under a month after the best part of ten years away from the baize and despite this match rustiness he managed to battle his way through a very tough field. The Merseyside man took the time off to raise a young family and despite having moved to Darwen, he’s still very much an exiled scouser and a very popular figure amongst the players who all seemed glad to see him back.

Stephen joins fellow scouser Brian Robertson, Marc Davis, Elliot Slessor and Ant Parsons in the Grand Finals with 11 more names to be added. There was some consolation for runner up Taubman, who’d come through a very tense battle in the semi-finals against John Whitty, as he’s now 5 points clear at the top of the Order of Merit and very much in the driving seat to take his place in Gloucester through that route.

I was once again really impressed by The Elite, it’s a cracking club run by proper snooker people. We were made to feel very at home from our arrival and Shokat Ali and Chris Norbury couldn’t do enough to help, the tables were also in fantastic condition and I can’t wait to go back there again next season. Chris himself knocked in two centuries but lost in a high quality match to Whitty earlier on in the day, he’s coming back for more in later qualifiers when he hopes to have put a bit more practice in, so he’s got to be a contender for the Grand Finals also.

You can check all the results from Preston here and the highest break table and Order of merit can be viewed here.

January 19, 2016

The Rack Pack Review: A Triumph of Sound and Vision

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:50 am

Alex gets a touch up. Photographer: Amanda Searle

When I heard that the BBC were planning to show a film about the great rivalry of 80’s snooker played by actors I was immediately both curious and cautious. Having grown up in this golden era of the baize I was concerned that they’d fail to capture just how great it really was, snooker was the obsession of millions, from kids like me to twenty-somethings, from working mens clubs to housewives and grannies, it seemed back then that everyone had their favourite players.

The biggest rivalry in those days without a shadow of doubt was between Alex Higgins and Steve Davis. Alex, the maverick and all round nutcase and Steve, the robotic humanoid next door. They couldn’t have been wired up any differently as people and their mutual distaste for each other was orchestrated and nurtured behind the scenes by the ringmaster himself, Steve’s manager, Barry Hearn.

The Rack Pack opens up with a bang, with Higgins, played brilliantly by Luke Treadaway, seeing off the old guard in the form of John Spencer to the strains of ‘Black Dog’ by Led Zeppelin, giving us a subtle clue of what is to come, to win his first world title in 1972 in very different surroundings than we’re used to these days. The portrayal of a working class hero is evident from the start.

The film is primarily about Alex and originally apparently that was the plan, until the writers discovered that there was so much more to the 1980’s snooker scene than him. This era was all about change and showmanship; ‘Dallas with Balls’ as Hearn so eloquently puts it. As Alex himself had given the old guard a firm kick up the arse in the 1970’s, he himself was to fall victim to a changing of the guard not too long afterwards in the form of Davis, played again quite brilliantly by Will Merrick, who portrays a man growing in confidence as the years go by, from being a nerd with a notebook to someone no longer prepared to be bullied by Alex backstage at The Crucible, where two of the best lines in the film are uttered, in particular when Alex is describing witnessing the birth of his daughter and why despite all the warnings this didn’t phase him.

Behind it all is Hearn, played to perfection by Kevin Bishop. Arguably, whilst Davis is perhaps portrayed a little too wet behind the ears for greater comedic effect and Alex’s role is slightly romanticised to brush over some of the more unsavoury and extreme aspects of his personality, Hearn is played more or less to the letter. The one-liners are delivered with perfect timing and mask the ruthlessness with which he operated. As Alex changed the face of the public perception of snooker in his heyday, so Hearn did in his. Arguably without Alex none of this would have been possible and The Hurricane’s belief that this was the case would ultimately contribute to his demise as those around him, including his best friend Jimmy White, played by James Bailey, thrived under Barry’s brave new world, with Matchroom Slippers and Aftershave all thrown into the bargain.

While Barry is busy changing the sport and Alex enjoys the dying embers of his snooker career to great excess we also get a glimpse of The Hurricane’s tempestuous home life. The stresses and strains of his relationship with his wife Lynn (Nichola Burley) are played out emotionally enough so as to not be disrespectful whilst still maintaining a feel of how life had changed since they took to the dancefloor as sweethearts to the strains of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, illustrating perfectly the two sides of Alex.

As well as the character portrayals, the film also has a blinding soundtrack and the sets are absolutely fantastic, in particular the recreation of The Crucible, which has been carried out to the letter. Throw in The Who, Thin Lizzy, Jimi Hendrix, T-Rex and Grandmaster Flash, which predictably accompanies a scene depicting use of illegal substances and this element of the package takes you back to the time and the place perfectly.

We are told from the start that the film is inspired by real events and that some elements may not really have happened, but that is what drama is all about. So what if Higgins is shown breaking off from the yellow side? So what if Dennis didn’t wear his glasses until a little later than portrayed? So what if Alex’s breakdown at The Crucible wasn’t in a one table situation? So what if Big Bill was twice the size of the actor that plays him? So what if Tony Knowles’s character appears to be as old as The Bolton Stud is now and so what if David Vine tells us that Steve Davis is 2/5 at the bookies and he’s carelessly chalked up at 5/2? In the great scheme of things their historical accuracy is about as important as the truth in the metaphorical and touching final scene between Steve and Alex, all represent artistic license and the factual inaccuracies would only, as Clive Everton might say, be of academic importance.

My only criticism, from a purely selfish point of view, is that the end feels a little rushed, I’d like the aftermath to have been explored deeper, but like all great watches, it left me wanting more. I’ll watch it again, and again and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it airs on TV. But for now, the detail of how to watch it, in the UK at least, is linked below. If you enjoy it as much as I do here is an old post which sums up my own personal view of this era, snooker will never be the same, but why would we want it to be? If this film tells us anything, it’s that change is inevitable.               

Those of you that can, can download and watch it to your heart’s content here. You can also check out the tracklist here.

Rack 2

January 17, 2016

The Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:31 am
Mr Ronnie O'Sullivan MBE

Mr Ronnie O’Sullivan MBE

A fantastic tournament reaches its conclusion today as Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Barry Hawkins in a repeat of their 2013 World Championship Final, which Ronnie won 18-12.

Hawkins thoroughly deserves his place in the final and has improved as each match has gone on, topping this off with a fine display over Judd Trump yesterday. He’s definitely a player that should be in everyone’s calculations come April and he proved again that on the big stage he is increasingly comfortable and I should think he’ll be really looking forward to the challenge ahead today.

The bad news is that he’s only beaten Ronnie once, way back in 2002 with all nine of their subsequent meetings being won by The Rocket. You can take a look at the head to head here.

As for Ronnie, he came through against Stuart Bingham last night and then marched into his press conference, declaring just before it started that he had ‘the touch of a rapist’. I’m sure this was off the record but it’s been put out there and I’d be surprised if a few people don’t take offence to his rather colourful, industrial language.

I think it’s a southern England thing, the only people I have ever heard put things in these terms seem to be southerners, unless I have just led such a sheltered and privileged life as to not have been exposed to such phraseology, I doubt it though as I worked in some right shitholes around Liverpool in my earlier working life and I have never heard that said around here by anyone. I wouldn’t say I am particularly offended, I just don’t find it a very nice thing to say when our language could offer up something a little more appropriate to the situation. 

Anyway, as we all know Ronnie can do and say what he wants so he won’t give a flying fuck who he has offended. He continues to proclaim that he isn’t cueing well but he looks in pretty good shape to me. Perhaps that is what comes of such high self expectation, for as we all know, he is his own harshest critic.

So what can we expect today? Well it’s been such a brilliant tournament can we really expect anything other than an even more brilliant end to it? The downside obviously remains the oxygen thieving shaved chimps that they let in to shout GWOORRNN RONNIE at a volume which increases in direct correlation to how many pints of lager the mostly fat, bald middle-aged men have consumed. I’m sure they’d find his rape comment just a good bit of bants and dismiss anyone taking offence as a lard arsed feminist or swamp donkey. It’s just a laugh so get over it.

Yesterday I posted up the right results for both semi-finals so I hope at least one of you got on the double which paid well over 70/1. Today, I think it might go closer than some would have it, the 10/3 best odds on Hawkins looks about right and given the head to head history it’s going to take a massive psychological effort from him to win. I wouldn’t totally dismiss it though if he can just forget who he is playing.

But when we have a tournament this memorable, it usually ends up having a memorable winner so for me it has to be Ronnie, in terms of a scoreline I’d plump for 10-7 to The Rocket which is a best price of 8/1. Now to go and start praying that Dennis isn’t commentating.    

January 16, 2016

Masters Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:27 am
His partying days are over.

His partying days are over.

The weekend sees what promises to be a pulsating conclusion to a great Masters at Ally Pally which further delighted the crowds yesterday with a quite extraordinary match between Robbo and Judd, Judd’s total clearance in the final frame being not just the break of this tournament, but possibly of any tournament of the last decade.

What we may be seeing here after a few false starts is the new improved Judd, gone is the party going, hedonistic playboi and what has emerged from the wreckage seems to me to be what I’ve always thought he has always been anyway, a dedicated and focused player who is now doing what he really enjoys more, playing snooker. It also helps I suppose that he appears to have Miss World there supporting him.

He faces Barry Hawkins this afternoon, who is gradually getting better and better and will be hoping that Judd has had his big performance so that he can come in under the radar. Judd himself admitted yesterday that he prefers being the underdog in matches, something he most definitely won’t be very often if this form continues and today he finds himself as firm favourite against a fellow one time Crucible runner-up.

Tonight sees the return of Ronnie after his fine performance against Selby, though it has to be said that Selby didn’t really play all that well. The commentators continue to suffer from a dose of verbal orgasms whenever Ron strokes one in and I do feel that sometimes they over-egg things a little. Judd’s break yesterday far outshone Ronnie’s 70-odd to clinch the match against Selby, however good that was.

That moves me on to something that always takes the shine off a great performance from The Rocket. His fans. Not all of them, just the pre-pubescent ones who continue to spout verbal wank whenever he beats The Jester. They seem to blot out the times that the boot has been on the other foot and when reminded stick to the delusion that he only beats Ronnie when Ronnie lets him. Not only are they terrible losers, but also even more distastefully for me, they are ungracious winners.

Anyway, he faces World Champion Bingham who came through against the odds against Higgins last night. I’m really pleased for Stuart and it would be some achievement to win this so soon after the World Championship and still not be rated by some people who should know better. Maybe some will never accept how good he is, I’m sure Ronnie’s fans will have something to say if their hero lets him win again like he did in Sheffield.

In terms of betting this week, it’s been a total write off. From the first match when Murphy lost, subsequently letting down not only the main first round acca but also the 29/1 sevenfold, the writing has been on the wall. Therefore I will simply list the matches below with a link to the head to heads and give what I think the score will be. I’ll just stick to a correct score cross double but I won’t trouble you all with that.

Click on the match for the Head to Head Record, courtesy of Cue Tracker.


Barry Hawkins v Judd Trump

Prediction: Hawkins to win 6-4


Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham

Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 6-3 

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