Snookerbacker

January 31, 2010

The Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:13 am

'Goooooaaaaawwwwrrrrrnnnnn Ronnieeeee aaa'

Just one more day to wait until John Evans interview, the highlight of the day for me and my fan on here. A bit of a disappointment standardwise last night if we’re honest. John again did a professional job, and as Ronnie acknowledged afterwards “He’s a top, top player, everyone knows that and if you don’t take enough chances you will get beat”

It was a shame that they both didn’t bring their A game last night and Ronnie is now fairly and squarely under some sort of a hoodoo where Higgins is concerned, he will have to break this soon or John will start to relish their encounters and grow even more confident than he already is. Ronnie was even showing signs of getting cheesed off with his usual band of overly vocal supporters, is this becoming more of a hindrance than a help to him now?  Perhaps. Luckily, probably until now, the bookies have failed to pick up on the pattern between the two and Higgins continues to start their matches at around the 13/8 mark. Long may it continue.

Higgins said last night “Obviously the final will be tough. Ali is back to the way he can play. He’s had a family and we all know how that can take up your time but he’s back to cueing well again. I’m sure it will be a big match” and it is true that Carter’s game has understandably suffered for a couple of months following the birth of his first child, but the good news (huge sigh of relief anticipated from readers) is that Mark King’s baby should be out the way before he takes the trip to China and Sheffield, making him the man to beat, so the others had better watch out….. 

Ali said ‘At 5-2 I felt a bit under pressure, I saw the winning line too early and missed an easy black. After that I just went back to what I’ve been doing all week, which is just playing with no expectation of winning or losing’. That last phrase is one he’s been using all week and if it is true, it is certainly helping him deal with the nerves that he does suffer from more than some other top players. I’m not sure why he would feel under so much pressure at 5-2 up particularly when Maguire was in the process of being the first player in the history of the game to actually leave himself needing snookers with 14 reds left and shake his own hand at the end by continuing to try and hit a very complicated green, which he eventually did -40 points later and even ended up winning the frame. 

Head to Head Statistics

John Higgins 5 Ali Carter 0

Ranking Events: 4-0

Other Events: 1-0 with one draw.

Last Ranking Meeting: Welsh Open 2003, 5-4 to Higgins.

Afternoon Session: 1.30pm

Evening Session: 7pm

Terry Griffiths, Ali’s coach said the word ‘Yet (boyo)’ yesterday when that Oliver chap asserted that Ali had never beaten Ronnie or John. If I was Ali, sitting in a hotel room I would have been cheering Higgins on last night, I’m sure he’d rather play the World Champion even though he proved again last night why he is just that. His record against Ronnie is 0-11, against John it’s 0-5 with a draw thrown in. On paper, you’d expect the final to be one way traffic, but the head to heads against John are largely made up of matches pre 2004, when Ali was still learning the ropes, so perhaps they are not as relevant as I’m sure the television would have you believe this afternoon. 

'Will Higgins be required to salute the Captain tonight?'

So to the nitty gritty. The two bets flagged up yesterday both obliged and with more time to have a shop around now there are less matches to write up (why did I start this again?), I’ve got some today that may be worth consideration. The bottom line is that I think this will be close, I’ve backed Higgins at 8/1 in the outrights so I’m hoping he will win but I’m looking at three possibles today for interest.  Both have started well in matches this week and have taken similar patterns through to the final in terms of the way they have won and lost frames.

I’m therefore going to predict:

Score after 4 frames 2-2 (13/8 at Victor Chandlers and Bet 365)  

Score after 8 frames 4-4 (5/2 Skybet and Stan James)

Recommended: Ali Carter (+2.5 frames) 4/5 generally available. 

As ever good luck to all, it’s been a fairly good week again puntingwise and I’m keeping up the 70% or so hit rate despite the odd howler (Robbo, Hendry, Hawkins – you have a lot to answer for) if Higgins wins today then that’s a bonus.

Thanks for reading this week, it’s been far more popular than I could ever have imagined and I hope is a sign that you have enjoyed it, hopefully made a profit and wouldn’t mind me rambling on for the China Open and the World Championship. In the meantime, I may post the odd snooker related story for the real devotees and perhaps the occasional write up on qualifiers, particularly the later ones for the World.

January 30, 2010

Semi Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:23 am

In terms of percentage success rate yesterday’s 50% was the lowest of the week by some stretch. The day started positively with the afternoon matches going according to plan (and even the Ronnie vintage display as predicted!) but then the Welsh guard all but fizzled out last night for whatever reason, meaning that the only Welshman we are likely to see on finals night is our old pal John Evans with a microphone mercilessly poked in either John or Ronnie’s face at the end, as surely now the winner of tonight’s clash of the titans will win this event.

But if nothing else, this blog is all about exclusives and I have been privy to some top secret information over the last day or so, yes, I have had an exclusive preview of what it is Johnny E will be saying to the winner on Sunday evening when they let him loose on the unsuspecting public and petrified new champion. He has been given strict orders since last year to keep it snooker related and has stuck religiously to the brief, it goes something like this, (though it is in draft at the moment and is subject to change):

John has been working tirelessly to perfect his interview script

‘So Ronnie, before I ask you whether the red passed the blue from your angle hence making it a rolling pot along the cush to corner bag, I believe you have a shop selling ladies lingerie, tell us all about it’ The second line being slightly altered should Higgins triumph; ‘So John, tell us about this fascination with the television series Dallas’. I think you’ll agree that he’s followed the instructions to the letter.

But enough of that, let’s get onto the preview as we seem to have got to a situation where the top four seeds are contesting the semi finals, something of a rarity in snooker these days. I’ll start with this afternoon:

Ali Carter v Stephen Maguire (1-0 – only meeting in 2000)

The two conquerers of the Welsh challenge meet this afternoon for the first time in a decade. Ali is doing a fine job defending his title and I for one am surprised he’s still here given his recent form. After last night’s win over Day he commented “I’m having a crack at defending the title, I’ve got no expectations, so everything is a bonus. I’m just going out there and playing snooker and seeing what it brings. I spent too much time trying too hard to win. I didn’t give Ryan a sniff for the first three frames tonight.” Carter has been strong at the start of matches this week and seems to have the lions share of the job done before the interval, which leads me to suspect that the first four frames today will be crucial to his chances of winning.  

Will the Captain make another flying start?

Maguire said after ending Williams hopes “It’s the best match I’ve played all season by far but that wouldn’t be difficult! I’ve seen that a few times down the years when a player gets within a ball of losing then goes on to win, it’s as if their name is on the trophy” ermm, slightly presumptious that, but he’s got to cling to something. Neither of these have been anywhere near as good as the two protagonists tonight, but they should serve up an entertaining match. I’m tempted, by the 11/10 available at Boylesports for Ali to be the first to three frames, just given his record in starting matches like a whippet out the traps this week, but I suppose it could be argued Maguire has been the same, but to me not quite as clinical early on as Ali. But however the early exchanges go I think from then on it gets twitchy, so for a winner, I am going to break the habit of a lifetime and plump for Maguire.

Predicted: Carter first to three frames (11/10 Boylesports), Maguire to win a nervy battle.   

Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins (15-17 – since 1994)

“I’m hitting the ball solidly and playing well but it will be a big occasion. It should be a good crowd and hopefully it will be a great game, you always want to play him, he’s the best in the world.” said a typically modest Higgins after his 5-2 win over Selby. The first three frames of that match were almost flawless, Selby and Higgins really serve up high quality fayre and the Jester shouldn’t be too downhearted at losing to the World Champion, he’s still a major player for the rest of the season and all of a sudden the thought of him dropping out of the world’s top ten seems a distant memory. He’s definitely one to watch in China.

Will John need Allen's white flag?

But all eyes yesterday were on the mercurial, magnificent O’Sullivan. A seemingly effortless display against the talented Allen was as entertaining a sporting spectacle as you are ever likely to see. Wonderful stuff from surely the greatest player that has ever graced the game.

I think Ronnie cares a lot more about this tournament than he’s letting on and make no mistake he would love to beat Higgins, the only player that deep-down he really truly believes can touch him.     

Higgins has won 4 from the last 5 meetings of the two but something tells me Ronnie is in the zone for this one. Anything could happen, it should live up to the billing. I’ve backed Higgins outright at 8/1 so can just sit and enjoy with a small glass of something cheeky. I don’t need a bet, I suspect O’Sullivan will win but the prediction I’ll make is:  

Recommended: John Higgins +1.5 frames (10/11 Corals or 17/20 at Boylesports if that goes)

Let’s hope for a classic and best of luck today and thanks again for visiting.

January 28, 2010

The Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:45 pm

Yesterday was the busiest day yet on the blog so my duff tip on Hendry the other day hasn’t put most of you off, so that’s good to know. Five out of six yesterday in terms of match winner predictions, so back on track (but still frustratingly yet to have a 100% day). I’m not sure about this three table scenario, Selby musn’t have been too impressed going from a packed arena at Wembley against Ronnie  to a toilet cubicle against King, I wonder if he pulled the ‘do you know who I am’ line when he was told about it. But knowing the jolly jester he probably just took it in good humour and did one of his comedy routines, he’s such a hoot. Good to see that we can rely on the legendary scoreboard on the World Snooker site for updates on these non-TV games, though Selby pondered that shot in the first frame when on a break of 13 for about two hours, strange that…..   

The location for Table 3, coffee's not bad though.

A hastily rescheduled O’Sullivan clash tomorrow, he was originally meant to play in the evening session but now he’s on this afternoon. You wonder why this took the organisers so long to get round to doing and if I had a ticket for tomorrow night in the hope of a glance at the gifted one I’d be a bit miffed. Saying that, they have Williams to entertain them instead, he was just awesome last night and would have beaten anyone. But we’re now getting down to the nitty gritty and in terms of the names left in it it’s still hard to call a winner. But here goes with the day’s preview.     

(Head to Heads in brackets)

1pm

QF3 Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Allen (0-1)

They have only met once but what a match that was. 13-11 to Allen at the Crucible last year, where he proved he could mix it with the big boys. I was very impressed with Allen yesterday against Stevens where he played as well as anybody has this week. It’s difficult to tell how Ronnie is playing though I have detected a slight improvement in his long potting, if he finally sorts that out he’ll be very near unbeatable. Bingham and Cope have been like lambs to the slaughter, both seemed resigned to defeat when they realised Ronnie had turned up. I did say on yesterday’s blog that Cope’s frame record against the Rocket suggested he may have the fear factor and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with a record against Ronnie similar to Ali Carter’s (currently 11-0, no prizes for guessing who I’ll be recommending if that’s the final!)   

This is a tricky one to call and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Allen at 15/8, but I’d expect the Rocket to up his game a bit and I think he might just produce a vintage display here.

A classic side-effect of Ketchup Addiction

Recommended: O’Sullivan to win.   

QF4 Mark Selby v John Higgins (7-4)

I’m a massive fan of both of these. I’m really pleased that the Jester is back in the big time after his win at Wembley and if he recovers from the frostbite he must have suffered playing on ‘that’ table last night this could be a great match. Higgins has impressed me this week but Selby has as good a record against the World Champion as any. The Sheffield decider won by Higgins was the last time they crossed swords and that defeat must have really hurt the jester, who struggled right up until Wembley to put a string of wins together. This is the hardest one to call of the four for me as you can make a solid case for both of them, but if in doubt, my rule is always side with the player with the least question marks and that is Higgins, who I will take to set up a date with Ronnie on Saturday. But this should be very close, shame it’s not on the main table, I’m sure they would wait until after Ronnie given the chance.  

Recommended: Higgins to edge it.

7pm

QF1 Ali Carter v Ryan Day (1-6)

I fully expected this to be Robertson against Hendry but one night’s play put pay to that. So let’s deal with what we have here. Carter took full adavntage of sloppy play from Robbo in the last round and Day took advantage of some bizarre lapses in concentration from Hendry (I’m not bitter honest, I just can’t believe they both got through). But just look at that head to head statistic. Ali’s only win over Ryan was in a qualifying match in 2006, other than that Ryan has the beating of him. So why is that? Well sometimes you just have a mental block with certain players but it’s not like Ali has never beaten him so perhaps it’s not that important. But it kind of reminds me of that old Blackadder line ‘doing precisely what we’ve done 17 times before is exactly the last thing they’ll expect us to do this time’. So with Blackadder in mind, I’m going to plump for Day, he’s now finally playing well enough and should go into this quite confident. I had this as an even match up so the fact you can get 6/5 on the Welshman makes it even more tempting.

Did you ever say awubble?

Recommended: Day to win.

QF2 Mark Williams v Stephen Maguire (0-2)

It would probably serve me right if Maguire won this tournament. I’m harder on him than most of the other players (with the possible exception of Barry Pinches). But I just cannot possibly back him, the draws he gets up to the later rounds are unreal, he has now made the last two semi-finals and this quarter final by beating Michael Holt, Stuart Bingham, Peter Lines, Mark King, a dreadful Ryan Day at Wembley, Dominic Dale and Barry Hawkins. Williams on the other hand has clawed his way back into the big time by beating higher seeded players than himself on a regular basis. He is now playing as well as ever and has buried his demons at Newport and now seems to be thriving as the home favourite. This time Maguire’s luck has run out. Williams should give him a thumping here, he’s a class apart from the Scotsman.

Recommended: Williams win (big surprise there then)

January 27, 2010

Totesport Welsh Open Day 4 Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:42 pm

John Evans - I kinda miss that guy

First of all, thanks a lot to everyone that has been viewing the blog this week, I had no idea it would be this popular to be honest. Thanks too for the messages of encouragement. However, there was one dissenter, who shall remain nameless unless he does it again, who accused me of being ‘a bloke off the street’, the cheek of it? I live in a Terrace. I’ll keep it up while I’m still enjoying it.

I’m obviously sorry about Hendry for those who followed, if I woke up again every day from now I’d have said the same, I thought he’d hammer Day, I really did. I sat watching it with a friend of mine and we both don’t know how he lost, but he did, so time to move on.  The tips overall are doing ok, but as with all things there will be good times and bad times, a bit like snooker really, winning runs and losing streaks. But hopefully this blog will be more John Higgins than Rodney Goggins. 

Something strange happened yesterday. I started to miss the inaccurate commentary of John ‘Mr Magoo’ Evans (pictured right). He even got a shot right yesterday when I did catch him, he’s getting better and I can’t wait for the winners interview, hopefully it will be up there with his first question to Ali Carter after his first ranking event win last year ‘So tell us about your pilots license’ or words to that effect. Genius. I was keener on the Eurosport matches but got frustrated that they called some shots right. I think I need help. As for the betting the 1pm starts provided enough cheer for the day with the Evens on Dott landed and the punt on Cope to beat Ding. Then came disaster night with Robbo crashing out and the Hendry debacle. I can’t think of another tournament where the holder against a top three player would be relegated to a cubicle in favour of an out of form Welshman. Such are the nuances of the Welsh Open…..For the outrights, I’m now solely with Higgins and the way he played yesterday, the 8/1 looks very big. 

(Head to Heads in Brackets)

1pm

Barry Hawkins v Stephen Maguire (1-2)

'This is what Hawkeye would have done John'

I’m not going to waste everyone’s time going on and on about Maguire again. Those of you who have read my various postings over the last year or so know that I back against him whenever there is doubt  to him winning. This is one such occasion. This is a big chance for Hawkins who while currently ranked 17, is provisionally ranked 24. Maguire should have finished Dale off much sooner than he did and had several chances to seal the deal. We didn’t get to see how Hawkins played, or more importantly how bad Ebdon played in Round 1.  But he has beaten good players before and recently when Maguire faces anyone capable he loses. I’m taking The Hawk for this one. 7/4 as I write this, a price like that for a player as good as Barry against Maguire on his current form has to be taken.

Predicted: Hawkins win.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Jamie Cope (2-0)

Jamie landed a touch for me yesterday against Ding and I want to be on him when he wins a ranking event, which I’m sure he will one day. The value is to have a go on him, I probably will but more in hope than anything else. Ronnie coasted to victory against Bingham and then did his usual interview routine afterwards. Is it just me that thinks this has coincided with Barry Hearn coming in? Ronnie was really excited about Hearn getting involved and now claims in every interview that he’ll be nobody’s puppet. Strange that,  seeing as they get on well. Cope tends to raise his game against good players and Ronnie might not have this all his own way but the frame score in matches between these two is 12-2, which suggests to me that Jamie might be a bit overawed by Ronnie. It’s hard enough to outplay him without being scared of him aswell.  I’ll probably have an interest on Cope but you can’t really realistically  predict that he’ll win, so I’ll play it safe.

Recommended: O’Sullivan win.

Mark Allen v Matthew Stevens (0-2)

Put yer tongue in Matt

Stevens is now playing his third match here but to me still looks ill at ease. Murphy should really have beaten him but he didn’t (I’m getting a bit concerned about Murphy’s ability to close matches off to be honest). Mark Allen did enough in his first match despite a scare early on against Rob Walker lookalike Tom Ford and when he gets on a roll he is very hard to beat. Potentially this is a toss of a coin and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a decider. But my first instinct was Allen wins, so I’ll trust that I think, but not with a great deal of confidence.

Recommended: Allen win.

7pm

Andrew Higginson v Mark Williams (1-0)

Higginson must have produced some cracking stuff against Marco Fu with breaks of 94, 94, 70 and 122 in the first four frames and he has a good record here. For those that believe in horses for courses Higginson is a good bet here (I’m not suggesting for one minute that he looks like a horse, ok then, he does a bit), he also thumped Mark 5-1 on their only previous meeting last year in the qualifiers. Mark is back to form, but I still think the pressure the Welsh players put on themselves here is too much. This might sound strange but if Stevens loses in the afternoon I think this might take a bit of the pressure off. I’m tempted to recommend backing 5-4 either way and might do this myself as I find it hard to pick a winner here but in the spirit of the blog I’ll predict

Predicted: Williams to win 5-4

Mark Selby v Mark King (2-2)

Probably the most famous match between these two was when King got the better of a fancied Selby at the Crucible in Round 1 in 2008. Since then Selby has won both their meetings to nil. It’s not really important to know how King played in Round One, you know what you’re getting with him, nothing spectacular, just a battler. But Selby is too strong for him in this form, you can visibly see his confidence is back. Trump made far too many mistakes again in Round 1 but Selby looked quite sharp. This is probably as close to a certainty as you can get in snooker.

Recommended: Selby to win comfortably. 

Graeme Dott v John Higgins (5-11)

Can Dott stop the rot and pot the lot?

Higgins has the upper hand in the previous battles of the Scots and there is precious little evidence that Dotty can do anything about the World Champion sending him packing again. Higgins will go close this week in my opinion and is my outright pick for the tricky bottom half. Can’t see anything other than a clinical win for JH, I think we may be destined for a showdown with Ronnie in the semis

Recommended: Higgins win



January 26, 2010

Totesport.com Day Three Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:32 pm

Hats off to John Evans, a commentator with a different angle.

Very nearly a 100% hit rate yesterday but for the Welsh contingent. However, with the joys of trading the 5/1 on Drago was worth the effort. Murphy again flattered to deceive and I think something Terry Griffiths said is very true, he looks a better player than his record suggests. I’ve always found him one to take on at the exchanges as he has that aire of confidence without the game to always back it up. Anyway, one maximum bet contained in the preview below, I managed to get Evens on him, hope you early risers do that too.

So to Day three.

(Head to Head in brackets)

Not from this angle I can't

1pm

Mark Williams v Fergal O’Brien (5-4)

Mark J enters the fray (frey?) against Fearless Fergal, who has beaten the Welshman on their last three meetings in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Now Fergal is a funny fish, no that’s not the start of a limerick, before beating Li Hang in the last round he’d lost seven straight matches against similar standard opponents (barring one defeat to Ronnie), it’s fair to say that the former British Open Champion and Masters Finalist has fallen off the radar, but one thing he does do is play well (well he battles, he never entertains) on telly and there is a possibility that this is just what he needs. But MJW has hit form and assuming that he doesn’t let the immense pressure that this tournament seems to put on the Welsh players get to him he should win. But I think this one might be closer than the odds suggest.

Predicted: Williams, a narrow win.

Ding Junhui v Jamie Cope (2-2)

After Ding consumed copious amounts of Pukka Pies over Christmas and missed his flight back to Blighty in time to practise for the Masters he performed very poorly against Selby (ok ok I know he gave them all to the homeless of Sheffield) . I think maybe because it was the first match, under the radar, people didn’t realise that if Ding would have performed he would have won. Curious…. I like Jamie Cope and he is well capable of beating anyone but it’s just his temperament that puts me off him. Another ifs and buts match but to me it seems like the sort of scene that can get Jamie some of the ranking points he needs to break into the top 16. I think Ding will do very well at Sheffield, he might win in China, I just can’t see him winning this, so I’ll take a chance on Cope.

Can't see this from my angle

Recommended: Cope.

Joe Perry v Graeme Dott (3-2)

Myself and a shrewd judge on Betdaq (that you may be meeting on here live from China in March) have been backing Dott to make a resurgence now for far too long.

OK Graeme, here’s the deal, you win this one right? Joe is playing like a second prize muppet and you are a former world champion and you are Evens, EVENS to beat him. Dott to win. Last chance Graeme or you will go into the same file as Maguire and Pinches. You have been warned.

Recommended (and paper thin reputation on the line):

Dott to win. OK I’ll warn you again. Evens. EVENS! Did you watch him in the Masters? And relax…….

3pm

Mark Selby v Judd Trump (2-1)

A great performance from Selby in the Masters, he surprised a lot of shrewdies with that win. Anyway, the Jester needs ranking points, he’s provisionally 13 for next year with three ranking tournaments to go. Trump is looking to break into the top 16 and is currently languishing at 26, he needs a run in this but it’s Selby’s big chance to secure his top 16 place before a potentially terrible draw in Sheffield (but he’s big in China). I can’t call this one, I think it will be a great match and very close but I have to predict someone so:

Prediction: Trump

You be the Judge

John Higgins v Michael Judge (2-1)

Higgins is sheer class, he let himself down at Wembley but he hadn’t been bothered to practice as the stupid man has become obsessed with his family and going on Mastermind to answer questions about Dallas (Kristen shot JR by the way, hope I’m not spoiling any boxsets), will these great players ever learn? The secret of happiness is on the baize, not with a stable future and nice Christmases with the kids. Just look at Ronnie, the picture of joy, he’s not a puppet, as he keeps telling us.

Recommended: Higgins win.

NB 7pm

Match 17 – Ali Carter v Neil Robertson – CORRECTED WRITE UP THANKS TO BAGGIO ON BETFAIR (Head to Heads 1-2)

Strange but true but these two have not met in an event outside of the Championship League and I don’t even have a record of the results there, so maybe they haven’t, curiouser and curiouser (This first sentence is a lot of bollards, their one Championship meeting was a 3-1 win for Robbo, and my goldfish like memory managed to forget Robbo beating Ali at the Crucible last year 13-8. The only other meeting was here last year where Ali won 5-3 – none of this changes my opinion though). Anyway, these two are obviously similar players, attacking and go for their shots. That would suggest that high breaks will be the order of the day and anyone playing on these markets might reap rewards. But to me, they both looked a bit nervous in patches in Round 1, but they weren’t seriously challenged, so it could well be scrappy and a good match for traders. I thought Robbo would easily make the semi-finals at the start and I’m not going to change my mind. I’d take him to up his game when challenged, say 5-3.

Recommended: Robertson to win.

Match 18 – Stephen Hendry v Ryan Day (4-2)

In every meaningful match that these two have met in Hendry has won. In every frame Hendry won yesterday he had a break over 50, Ryan managed a 90-odd against an open player like Drago and a few 30’s. Hendry is playing very very well with his new cue, Ryan is struggling. Last night his beaten opponent Dave Harold commented “He was mesmerising, I don’t think he can play any better than that. It was the like the Hendry of old, he was brilliant tonight. That was vintage stuff from him.”  

If both were at their best this would be a Hendry win, if both were at their worst this would be a Hendry win. Hendry, Hendry, Hendry. This is the best Even money shot I have seen in a long long time. Maximum bet recommended.

Recommended: Hendry at Evens or thereabouts (Stan James currently best). Lump on.

January 25, 2010

Totesport.com Welsh Open Day 2 Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:36 pm
Is it just me or does this event have a distinct ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ feel to it? After all the razzmatazz and musical intros of Wembley we are transported if you will to Newport, to a bygone age where time seems to have stood still and commentator John Evans still rules the airwaves and Dom Dale is considered ‘out there’ and ‘seriously cutting edge’. Seriously, where did they get Evans from? This is still a ranking event, are Willie and co barred from Newport? Why can’t they at least give Clive Everton this gig?

Dommo - he da man.

Anyway, not the best start to my favourite event on the calendar yesterday, but hopefully the 70% success rate (and that won’t cost you a penny folks!) won’t take too much of a dent this week, at least Robbo won. Anyway, here goes with….
Day 2:
(Head to Heads in Brackets)
1pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham (2-0)

The jury is out on Ronnie this week. Will he really be bovvered? The prize money isn’t enough to excite him and he’s publicly stated many times that he’s not that bothered about his ranking anymore. These two practice together now and again and sometimes that hoodoo with a practice partner who always beats you never leaves your memory. Bingham is a capable player who can expose Ronnie if he’s off colour, but if Ronnie plays his B game he wins, even his C game is probably enough. I’m not going to recommend a bet on this but as ever, if you can’t make something on a match involving Ronnie O’Sullivan in-running, you should not be playing at this game. Hysteria continues to greet his every pot on the exchanges, so backing and laying without even an opinion on the match should be enough to set up a kitty for the rest of the day / your life – depending on how savvy you are.

Recommend: Back and Lay O’Sullivan in running.

Predicted: O’Sullivan win.

Mark Allen v Tom Ford (2-0)

Rob Walker Jnr, I mean, Tom Ford.

Tom Ford has had two final frame decider wins over Jamie Burnett and the potentially top 16 player Ricky Walden so is obviously in winning form, but the highest break he made in those 18 frames was 76, with only two further breaks over 50. Mark Allen is a player coming back into some form. I can only see one winner of this, if it’s a potting battle, Allen wins, if it’s a tough ding-dong matchplay, Allen scrapes a win. Ford doesn’t often beat players as highly ranked as Allen so if he does here it would be out of kilter with past results. Therefore, I’ll stick with Allen.

Predicted: Allen win.

Mark King v Marcus Campbell

Marcus ‘I once beat Hendry in his prime 9-0 you know and I’ve beaten him since too’ Campbell has had a pretty simple path to this stage, but you can only beat what is in front of you. Mark King is ranked 16 in the world, both in the current list and next year’s provisional, a fact that baffles some people who can’t understand how this could be. Is the ranking system flawed? Maybe, but the real answer is that he wins matches like this for a living. In this match up I’d take King every time.

Recommend: King win.

'Who are you callin a baby?'

3pm

Stephen Maguire v Dominic Dale (1-0)

Regular Betfair and Betdaq forum readers will know my opinions on Stephen Maguire, he’s past his peak in my opinion and just can’t seem to snap out of this ‘mood’ he always seems to be in, so much so that Mark King suggested fitting him with a bib when he gets sulky. To be fair to Maguire, he is the first to agree, he is now becoming a seasoned underperformer. Dale’s record in the Welsh Open is pretty dire and he has been struggling with his game since a bizarre move to Vienna and has spent his time wondering where his practice partners have all gone (try Wales?). I will stop short of saying that Maguire is a certainty for this match, as he never is. But surely even he can win this one.

Prediction: Maguire win.

Shaun Murphy v Matthew Stevens

Watching Stevens against Pinches reminded me of why he hasn’t won more tournaments. He missed a blue at 3-2 which was reminiscent of Willie Thorne in a UK final. He’d have coasted from there. It’s a shame as he is such a talented fluent player but he plays like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. At his best Stevens might have a chance here, but Murphy should deal with this and continue what could be a bad day for the Welsh boys.

Recommend: Murphy win.

7pm

Stephen Hendry v Dave Harold (5-3)

Hendry has a new cue. Dave Harold has bananas. Looks like an even match on paper. Hendry played really well at Wembley (despite an inexplicable miss on a green off its spot) in the spotlight, on telly in a packed arena where he once thrived. But this is a quarter filled cubicle in Newport (he probably won’t get the match table as there is a Welshman in the other match, such is the nationalistic fervour that seems to accompany this event) against one of the most dour battlers in the game. This is a match that is full of ifs and buts, but the signs were there at Wembley that Hendry was coming back to some type of form, so I’ll predict a win for the Scot.

Dave - Loves His Bananas

Recommend: Hendry win.

Ryan Day v Tony Drago (2-0)

Ryan Day - Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Yes, THAT Tony Drago. He’s 5/1 to win this match, Ryan Day is playing woefully at the moment and the folly of looking at recent results has never been so true than in his case. He beat Joe Perry 6-0 at Wembley, pretty impressive stuff, unless you watched the match, Perry was well, in short, woefully awful. Drago has come through three qualifying matches, but rarely wins frames in one or even two visits –  did he ever? But Ryan is currently giving opponents 2 chances minimum to win most frames and if Drago can get ahead in this match I think he might just win.

Prediction: Drago to upset the odds.

January 24, 2010

Prize Money for Totesport.com Welsh Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:40 pm

'As many as you can'

It’s a fraction of the other events, but as JV says ‘It’s all about fractions’. Ranking points are probably more important than the cash to a lot of players, but in tough times this does give a stark indicator of the job Barry Hearn has ahead of him in terms of sponsorship.

Winner: £35,000
Runner-up: £17,500
Semi-finals: £8,750
Quarter-finals: £6,500
Last 16: £4,275
Last 32: £2,750

Totesport.com Welsh Open: Day One Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:51 pm

Monday 1pm

Matthew Stevens v Barry Pinches (h2h = 1-1)

Barry Pinches - The Smiling Assassin

Nothing personal but Barry Pinches is a nuisance, end of story. He routinely turns in good performances when I back against him and poor ones when I think he’ll win (rarely). I’ll keep this simple, Stevens is by far the better player and he will win this match in his own patch how he likes. He’s determined to have a good week and I think he’d like to play Murphy after this in front of the cameras, a match I think he would have a chance in;

“I’m a fair bit behind at the moment, but all it takes is one good week. Look at Liang Wenbo – he got to the final in Shanghai and he jumped up from 27th to 13th. I just need one good run.

“I’ve won all of my qualifying matches so far this season, but in the last two tournaments I’ve played Ding Junhui and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round at the venue. That shows how tough it is when you are outside the top 16 and why it’s important for me to get back there.”

Well said Matthew.

Just go away Barry, pleeeease??

Recommend: Stevens. Everything crossed to kick off the accumulator. I had my biggest ever acca disappointment because of Pinches……….later.

Neil Robertson v Liu Song

You may have read my preview for the tournament as a whole already. So it will come as no surprise that I can’t see anything other than a very comfortable win for Robertson here. Song has made a venue for only the second time outside China, he has beaten Michael Holt to get here who is the highest ranked player he has beaten since, wait for it, a 5-3 victory over Stephen Maguire in the 2007 Grand Prix, before being whitewashed by Marco Fu. He has played a lot of matches over the years and generally holds his own in the qualifiers, but it’s fair to say that even over this short format, a win for the Chinese player here would be a major major shock. It’s not worth a bet though, there is always some risk, but for exchange people, if at any point Robbo goes 1.3, get on.

Prediction: Robertson.

Peter Ebdon v Barry Hawkins (h2h = 1-4)

Tentatively I have forecast Ebdon doing OK in this, but it will mean he has to be at his determined best in all his matches and rely on his opponents playing to his tune. Hawkins has beaten Ebdon here before in 2005, and the matches that Hawkins has beaten him in have either been 5-3 or 5-4. Ebdon however won their last meeting in 2007, 5-2 (coincidentally in the same tournament and round that Song beat Maguire – after the very unpopular Round Robin stage) . Before beating McCulloch in the qualifiers Hawkins had been on a poor run in ranking events, while Ebdon has been beaten in the last three majors by Ronnie twice, Ding and Wenbo. He looked better in the Masters than he looked in the UK, but he always says he only really prepares for what he says are the big three tournaments (but he won the China Open last season). On balance, you have to favour Ebdon, but it could go either way and is not one to have a big bet on.  Could be a traders dream this one.

Prediction: Reluctantly Ebdon, narrowly (can I get any more cautious?).

7pm

Allister Carter v Mark Davis (h2h = 2-1)

Dark Mavis - 'The Undertaker'

There is something not quite right with Ali. He looks ill at ease with himself both on and off the table, but he’s the holder here and he’s never been in that position. Will he have a point to prove or will he just continue his run of recent form? Mark Davis is a capable player, he usually only loses to players either ranked similarly or better than himself and he takes advantage of players who are out of form. He’s beaten two good match players in Hicks and Swail to get here. Make no mistake, this is a test for Carter and the 11/4 (now 5/2) available on Davis is value. I’m not saying he’ll win, but on current form it’s value and I have risked a small bet on it.

Prediction: Davis value at current price. Small bet on the outsider recommended.

Marco Fu v Andrew Higginson (h2h = 0-1)

I thought there was four table scenario here and tipped up Fu to win this on the strength that he’d be ‘out the back’. At 1/2 there is little value now that he’s on a main table. But with reports suggesting that ticket sales are at a very low overall, this may feel like a qualifying match. Ominously, Higginson beat Fu at this stage in 2007 before sweeping all before him and losing to Robbo 9-8 in the final. He hasn’t done anything of note since then but he might be one of those players that plays on omens…..

Higginson - Déjà vu anyone?

Nevertheless, I’ll stick with Fu, he has been tremendous at Crondon Park and is the better player and more used to the venue setting. However, wouldn’t discourage anyone from disagreeing on this one.

Prediction: Close one, Fu edging it.

Totesport.com Welsh Open Schedule and Head to Heads

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:11 am

I’ve included the schedule below. It looks like I was wrong with the four table set up and that there are two TV tables and presumably one other, as three of the sessions have three matches starting at 1pm, the third presumably to play on ‘the quiet table’, matches involving Ebdon, King and Perry, I wonder why they picked those three….

Anyway, all head to heads where they exist are in brackets.

Monday 25 January 2010

1pm

Q1 – Matthew Stevens v Barry Pinches (1-1)

Match 2 – Neil Robertson v Liu Song

Match 7 – Peter Ebdon v Barry Hawkins (1-4)

7pm

Match 1 – Allister Carter v Mark Davis (2-1)

Match 5 – Marco Fu v Andrew Higginson (0-1)

Tuesday 26 January 2010

1pm

Match 9 – Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham (2-0)

Match 11 – Mark Allen v Tom Ford (2-0)

Match 14 – Mark King v Marcus Campbell

3pm

Match 8 – Stephen Maguire v Dominic Dale (1-0)

Match 12 – Shaun Murphy v Winner Q1

7pm

Match 3 – Stephen Hendry v Dave Harold (5-3)

Match 4 – Ryan Day v Tony Drago (2-0)

Wednesday 27 January 2010

1pm

Match 6 – Mark Williams v Fergal O’Brien (5-4)

Match 10 – Ding Junhui v Jamie Cope (2-2)

Match 15 – Joe Perry v Graeme Dott (3-2)

3pm

Match 13 – Mark Selby v Judd Trump (2-1)

Match 16 – John Higgins v Michael Judge (2-1)

January 23, 2010

Thunder Predicted to Strike Newport

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:51 am

Robertson - Can he take advantage of his draw in Wales?

Neil Robertson was my selection for the Pokerstars Masters despite his first round draw (and subsequent defeat) against Ronnie O’Sullivan, this time the Thunder from Down Under has a Maguire-esque draw and is my prediction to have a good week in Newport at the newly sponsored Totesport.com Welsh Open.

I should say from the outset that traditionally from a betting point of view the Welsh Open hasn’t been a good friend to me. I much prefer either the longer matches in the UK or the World Championships or the chance to assess everyone’s form by watching every match of the Masters (it’s also amazing the differences between a best of nine and best of eleven – the latter being what I’d pitch all this type of ranking event early rounds at). Tournaments like this, the Grand Prix and the China Open are much harder to call, primarily because of the shorter matches but also because of the four table set up which makes it difficult to know who is and isn’t playing well.

But here goes.

I generally like to play the outright markets in quarters and the top quarter of the draw looks on the face of it, set up for Robertson to make the semi-finals. The holder Ali Carter, should he win his tricky opening match against Mark Davis (or as he’s better known Dark Mavis) should provide Robbo with his first test of the week. But something is not quite right with Carter’s game at the moment and unless he improves in leaps and bounds on his recent performances, Robertson should steer his way to the Quarter-Finals with a bit to spare. Waiting for him, you’d expect to be Stephen Hendry (though if Dave Harold brings a batch of bananas along his first round might be tough – if this needs explanation check his Wikipedia entry). The homeboy Ryan Day is clearly another that is struggling at the moment and he could easily find the erratic but dangerous Tony Drago a bit of a handful in round one, but I’ll plump for a Robertson v Hendry quarter final which I’ll take Robertson to win.

Note: I’ll update prices as and when they appear, the bookies are fairly slow at pricing these up.

Recommended Bets in Quarter 1:

5 points win Neil Robertson to win Quarter 1 (7/4 Boylesports)

5 points Each Way Neil Robertson to win the Welsh Open (10/1 generally, I managed 11/1 on Betfair for the win bet)

1 point win Mark Davis to beat Ali Carter (11/4 Stan James)

1 point win Tony Drago to beat Ryan Day (5/1 Stan James)

To the second quarter which again sees Stephen Maguire with a half-decent draw but a resurgent Mark Williams may have something to say about that. Marco Fu has been knocking century breaks in for fun as well as beating almost everyone at Crondon Park and will benefit from being on the back tables against Andrew Higginson. Stephen Maguire is a player that I don’t rate as highly as some, regular readers of forums will know my reasons why, but briefly, you now have to go back over a year since the current world number two beat a player in the top 12 in a ranking event. I don’t think the winner of this quarter will go any further than the semi-finals but I’m going to take a chance with the unpredictable force that is Peter Ebdon to win the quarter and upset the legion of Mark Williams fans hoping for a home win.

Ebdon - Clings on and on and on and

Recommended Bets in Quarter 2:

2 points win Marco Fu to beat Higginson (1/2 Boylesports)

1 point win Peter Ebdon to win Quarter 2 (6/1 Boylesports)

1 point Each Way Peter Ebdon to win Welsh Open (around 64/1 on Betfair)

To the bottom half of the draw, where things could get messy for some of the stars of the show. Quarter 3 looks a bit easier to call with Ricky Walden surprisingly going out in the qualifiers, but we still have Ding, Murphy, Cope and Mark Allen to try and stop Ronnie getting to the semi-finals. Cope is a player I have a bit of hope for but he is frustrating at times and to me still needs to improve his temperament to match his game, Ding was out of practice at the Masters and I’m really not sure why he didn’t prepare for it as he should have done after winning the Pukka Pies UK. Allen should now coast to a tie with Murphy who I don’t think will struggle to dispense with Matthew Stevens or Barry Pinches. A tough quarter but:

Cope - Temperament to match talent?

Recommended

1 point win Jamie Cope to beat Ding Junhui (6/4 Stan James)

3 points win Ronnie O’Sullivan to win Quarter 3 (6/5 Boylesports)

Finally to Quarter 4 and with Liang Wenbo out of the reckoning the World Champion Higgins should be assured a first round win and can Dott or Perry seriously trouble him next? I think not. The newly crowned master Mark Selby plays Judd Trump in Round 1 with Marcus Campbell or Mark King waiting so surely this makes this quarter slightly easier to call than the others. It’s Higgins against Selby or Trump in the Quarter-Finals. It’s very rare nowadays for players to win tournaments back to back and the price on Selby is far too short given this tough draw. I have a feeling that young Trump may just have a good week, he needs the ranking points (as for that matter does Selby) and will side with him up to a point with a very speculative outright bet. Higgins as ever, is the one to beat in this section.  These bets might sound strange but:

1 point win Judd Trump to beat Mark Selby (9/4 Stan James)

2 points win Graeme Dott to beat Joe Perry (Evens Stan James)

1 point Each Way Judd Trump to win the Welsh Open (49/1 Betfair)

Can Judd play his Trump card?

1 point win Judd Trump to win Quarter 4 (9/1 Boylesports)

3 points win John Higgins to win the Welsh Open (Currently 8/1 Betfair, might not last too long)

Recommended Round One Roll-Up

Stevens (Qualifying Match), Allen, Hendry, Fu and Williams.

Pays around 9/2 with Paddy Power and Sportingbet.

As ever, good luck to all and I hope you enjoyed the preview.

For anyone following me in on the Thunder from Down Under, you could inspire yourself before his matches with the following link, played at full volume, don’t worry about the neighbours http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvoeeq-BH4w GO ROBBO!

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