July 14, 2010

The New Season: The Punting Year Ahead

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:44 am

Don't let the bookies make a monkey out of you

I thought while things are quiet it might be worth looking at the various opportunities there are this season for us poor snooker punters. In terms of ranking events, while there are seven this year as opposed to six last, we also have the additional PTC events, which means I make it in terms of rankers, two down, eighteen to go, plus of course, the Masters at Wembley.

Barry Hearn has definitely ensured that this year the players do what they should all love doing, playing competitive snooker on a regular basis for more prize money.

The speed with which he has delivered these changes has been nothing short of miraculous and there seems to be widespread acclaim for the changes to the ranking system too, which is far more fluid and rewards the form players as well as those keen to enter absolutely everything to climb up the rankings. It also shows just how woefully inept the previous administration really were.

One thing that I’m sure Bazza is mindful of is the potential of snooker to draw in sponsorship from our friends the bookies. Betfred are obviously leading the way and are now becoming inextricably linked with the World Championship in the way that Embassy used to be and Totesport stepped in at the last minute to sponsor the Welsh Open last year, but surely this is simply the thin end of the wedge.

Right Said Bet Fred

The early season apathy to the first two PTC events with the exception of Skybet will surely only be temporary as the summer of sport draws to a close and we should hopefully then see all the major firms pricing events up.

The first ranking event is over in Shanghai in September, with the qualifiers taking place in August. It’s an event that tends to fall under the radar to me usually, but this has been because in the last few years it has been the beginning of the season and full of baize rusty pros who had been sunning themselves since Sheffield, making it rather unpredictable, not so this year and we should have a good idea of the form players after the preceding PTC events. Arguably this makes it a more attractive betting event than it has been in the past.

Later in September we have the short format World Open, which hopefully will start the BBC season with a bang but from a punting point of view, I’ll probably steer well clear of. I think this and the Sky Shootout later in the year are Barry’s way of attracting new audiences to the sport, perhaps they will appeal more to those who prefer to watch pool.

In my view, when he said of the sport ‘it’s not dead, it’s just resting’ I think you can say the same for the fanbase. I know lots of people of all ages who say ‘I used to love the snooker’, I’m sure you do too, but for some reason and I was guilty of it myself in the mid 90’s, people tend to drift away from it, some return, like I did and some find other things. Hopefully, as well as igniting a passion in new audiences, Barry’s initiatives can relight a hidden spark in the ‘floating baizers’.

The ‘traditional’ snooker time to me has always been the winter months in the UK. December and January see two great betting events, the UK Championship and the Masters. The Masters has always been my next favourite event to Sheffield and is made more exciting this year by us not yet knowing who will be in it, the top 16 update cut off date coming after the UK.

Just don't mention the war: The Germans love the baize

I might be taking the trip to Berlin with Mrs SB in February to watch the German Masters, I know a very nice place there for fine wine and an evening of merriment. Germany represents a previously (obscurely) untapped market, the Germans being undoubtedly more enthusiastic about their snooker than we are over here, perhaps because its serious and methodical nature seems to somehow suit their national psyche? Or am I simply generalising there? Interesting that Scandanavian countries also seem to be very switched on to the baize as are the Russians. I can’t help thinking that as well as China, these markets closer to home have huge potential.

The good old Welsh Open, where John Evans entertains us annually with his razor sharp analysis ‘does red pass to middle bag?’ ‘Yes, John you could get a bus through there’ returns in February and is always a nice punting event. This year it will take vastly increased significance as it will provide the last opportunity the players have to jostle for position for the World Championship, deciding who will be seeded for the Crucible, who will have to qualify and from what stage. I can’t wait for John’s up to the minute ‘live ranking list’.

The qualifiers for Sheffield are then upon us in early March followed by the culmination of the Players Tour Championship where the top 24 on the Order of Merit fight it out on TV to decide the overall champion, again a nice addition to the calendar and possibly another chance to punt.

Then at the end of a busy March we are back in China for the China Open. I enjoyed this last season and had a very successful one in terms of betting. Being an early riser I also enjoyed the hours and the coverage on Eurosport (which even scooped a Willie for Best Commentary). I almost found myself on China time and by the end felt almost acclimatised.

The Sky Shootout may see the return of a national icon

Two weeks later we are back in Sheffield for the culmination of the season, the World Championship. Neil Robertson defending the title he won back in May.

Of the other events as well as the PTC’s that I have mentioned and will probably continue to have limited bets on, there is the Championship League, which I might have a small interest on each time it comes around and the Premier League which I won’t, I’m sorry I just don’t like it and try as I might I can’t bring myself to like it.

We also have the aforementioned Sky Shootout, from what I’ve heard this is strictly one for people who used to enjoy Noel’s House Party and their offspring, not one for me I’m afraid despite the comedy element which I’m sure will be injected into it.

So that’s the season in terms of betting opportunities. The main events to punt on remain for me at least essentially the same ones as last season, with the PTC events and the Championship League to keep me interested. Let’s hope that in terms of the recommended wagers on here we can keep up the winning streak.

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