November 30, 2011

The UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:19 pm

You can't beat a ramble down the shambles

It’s finally here, the return of baize action to the mainstream channel. The UK Championship is one of the highlights of the snooker calendar and despite the derision among fans that the format has been tampered with it remains so. The return of the event to the Barbican in York marks the beginning of a new era for it and personally, even though I don’t like the format change either and I’m concerned that the BBC seem to have the final say in an event that they have cut coverage of, I can’t wait for it. I will be travelling to York on Monday for the tournament and hope to bring you a unique view of things while I’m there.

The event will be sponsored by William Hills who not so long ago were dodging snooker like a bat avoiding flying daggers. It just goes to show that things are on the up and again how important the bookies are to the ongoing success of the sport.

Snooker is lucky in that it is a very exciting thing to bet on, it relies on all manner of things for the gambler and for the player, bottle, luck, skill, judgment and as a result it can be unpredictable, it can be edge of the seat stuff and this kind of thing is what draws the bookies to it.

We are also lucky in that we have this obvious other avenue to go down and the right man at the top to open the doors that the previous administration didn’t even appear to know existed and instead spent their time exploring the pie industry and no doubt feeding their faces while doing it. When all things are weighed up, I still firmly believe that things are on the up. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that.

The tournament itself was won last year by John Higgins at the beginning of his amazing return to the winners enclosure last season. He comes to York to defend the title he won 12 months ago with a live chance and presumably (and hopefully) with rather less facial hair than he has been sporting of late. He went on to win in Sheffield too of course and he’s 50/1 to do that again this season over at Boylesports who have a unique UK and Worlds double up market here. Ronnie is 33/1 for the double.

But that’s enough of me rambling on, let’s get on with the preview.

You can view the full draw and the format here.

Quarter One

John Higgins [1] v Rory McLeod [33] h2h 1-0

Stephen Maguire [9] v Stephen Hendry [21] h2h 3-1 and 1 draw

Ronnie O’Sullivan [14] v Steve Davis [43] h2h since 1997 is 14-0

Judd Trump [8] v Dominic Dale [26] never met

This quarter contains arguably the four best players in the history of the game and the young man who wants to join their exclusive club. Anything can happen and probably will and it is almost impossible to predict with any degree of confidence who will emerge from this quarter no doubt battered and bruised to do battle in the semi-finals. I will say now that a theme throughout this preview when it comes to match betting will be that the seeded player will be my default winner, however should the qualifying player be one that is as used to venues as the seed I will take a second look. In this quarter with the exception of the top match you have qualifiers that are used to these conditions and usually save their best for them. So suffice to say I don’t expect Higgins to lose to McLeod on that basis and he would be a confident selection for an accumulator. Rory is never at his best on TV although he’s not the crumbling wreck he once was. The match between Ronnie and the Nugget is one I’m really looking forward to, Steve is playing as well as he has since his run in the Worlds two years ago and Ronnie comes into this brim full of confidence. I can’t honestly see Steve doing it but as ever I’ll be cheering him on. Ronnie will be many people’s idea of the winner of this but it’s a long time since he’s won an event of this stature, I’d argue that you’d have to go back to his Masters win in January 2009 for his last triumph on the big stage. But he is at least enjoying his snooker, the PTC’s despite his protests about playing in them are clearly helping him. I wouldn’t go heavy on him in the outrights but you would be silly to ignore him completely as a contender. Stephen Maguire’s form is a bit patchy at the moment and he isn’t a player I particularly trust and usually look to take on, but despite going out in the first round in Sheffield his overall record in opening matches is what seems to keep him ranked so highly, he plays Hendry who will be desperate for a win and has had an impressive couple of matches in this weeks PTC, losing in a decider to Higgins after an impressive outing against Martin Gould, on balance I’d marginally favour Maguire but I think Higgins will beat whoever wins in the following round. That leaves the match between Judd and Dom and Judd seems very excited about being back on the BBC this week, even though he probably hasn’t checked the times it’s actually on. Dale does produce the odd shock and if he’s on song can beat the best, but this is not a match that an aspiring playboi should lose and Judd will be wanting a showdown with Ronnie in the second round, the winner of which I reckon will play Higgins. Told you this one was difficult.

Recommended Bet: 2 points win John Higgins to win the UK Championship at 8/1 with Boylesports with cashback if Judd Trump wins the title (details of the ‘Top Trump’ promotion here).

Robbo: My idea of the winner

Quarter Two

Ding Junhui [5] v Mark Davis [17] h2h 2-1

Matthew Stevens [15] v Marcus Campbell [24] h2h 2-1

Graeme Dott [10] v Matthew Selt [40] never met

Neil Robertson [4] v Tom Ford [31] h2h 1-0

After the murky waters of the top section of the draw it’s time to cast our eye over the second quarter. It doesn’t get much easier as we have the World Finalists from 2 years ago and the ‘Chinese Sensation’ Ding in there. Ding plays Mark Davis who it has to be said does not always play his best at venues. He is one place outside the top 16 but to me has the feel of a player that won’t get any higher than that. I would be extremely surprised if he troubled Ding here who saves his best for the big events. In fact given Ding’s draw to the quarter finals I am quite surprised at his outright price given his pedigree, but something is telling me he won’t win it. Marcus Campbell is another player who for me struggles to get to grips with venues, great player in the qualifiers and can usually be relied upon to win through but once he gets to this very different setting it’s a different story for whatever reason. Welsh boyo Matthew Stevens has had a decent start to his season and is used to the surroundings, he is another I’d expect to come through to face Ding. Graeme Dott should never be underestimated and his first match against Matt Selt is another that I would be tempted to bash in a wild roll-up. Selt had a nice run in Australia but has been a bit in and out since and has lost a couple of matches that I’d have expected him to win fairly comfortably, given Dott’s experience you have to fancy him to come through here. Tom Ford qualified for this with ease as he did for Germany last week but is another that struggles at the big venues, he faces the man in form Neil Robertson and I expect the Aussie to start his campaign solidly in a match that I can’t see being that close.

Recommended Bet: You can back Robertson at 9/1 with Apollobet but I’m going to stick with the insurance policy on Trump winning it at Boyles and recommend 4 points on him at 8/1 to win the title. He’s my main pick in this.   

Quarter Three

Mark J Williams [4] v Joe Jogia [48] h2h 1-0

Stephen Lee [13] v Ricky Walden [22] h2h 1-0

Martin Gould [16] v Peter Lines [53] h2h 1-1

Shaun Murphy [6] v Li Yan [70] never met

Quarter Three sees two more former World Champions doing battle in the shape of MJW and Shaun Murphy. MJW is quite rightly heavily odds-on against Joe Jogia and I would suggest that the -2.5 frames bet on Williams at 4/7 with Boylesports should be taken, I’d be very surprised if Jogia won more than 3 frames in this I have to say. Most of the other firms are pitching this at shorter odds for -3.5 which if you are feeling daring you might want to take advantage of, but I’ve always been a bit more cautious where handicap betting is concerned and I’d be prepared to take the longer price to buy that extra frame, but in truth I would not be surprised if it was 6-0. As for Shaun Murphy, he comes up against Li Yan who really turned heads in the qualifiers with four solid wins but lost his first match in the German event last week. Again, Murphy to me is a shoo-in here and the -2.5 frames on Smurf will be doubled with the Williams bet. Martin Gould plays the rarely seen on TV but experienced Peter Lines, Gould saves his best and unfortunately sometimes his worst performances for TV but I’d be very surprised if he didn’t just pot Lines off the table here in his usual fashion. Gould is visibly getting more confident in front of the cameras and is probably the most improved player of the last season, he’s also very good to watch. He is available at 1/2 for this match which for bigger punters I would suggest is something of a steal. The best first round tie in this half of the draw in my opinion is the one between Stephen Lee and Ricky Walden. What I said earlier about assessing players based on their performances at venues as opposed to the qualifiers comes into play here. These two have both been doing really well in the PTC’s, Ricky hit a 147 today (as I write) and is a player that I rate very highly but here’s the rub, he doesn’t win very often in big TV events in the UK. OK, like Lee you could argue that he gets stiff draws, but a player as good as him should win more matches, it’s as simple as that. This is why I favour Lee here, he isn’t scared of winning, has bottle and will relish the surroundings and the chance to play someone other than John Higgins or Mark Williams in the first round.

Recommended Bets: 4 points double on Mark Williams (-2.5 frames) and Shaun Murphy (-2.5 frames) at pays an Enhanced 21/10 with Boylesports. 5 points on Martin Gould to beat Peter Lines at 1/2 with Betfred.    

Selby: Big Chance.

Quarter Four

Allister Carter [7] v Robert Milkins [36] h2h 0-1

Mark Allen [12] v Adrian Gunnell [61] never met

Stuart Bingham [11] v Marco Fu [29] h2h 1-1

Mark Selby [3] v Ryan Day [30] h2h 4-1

Quarter Four may be most people’s idea of the easiest one to call with the lurking presence of Mark Selby at the bottom but if you take a closer look there are all manner of tripwires here that may derail the Jester’s seemingly easier path than most to the semi-finals. First off, he faces Ryan Day who is no easy touch whatsoever and seems in the qualifiers at least to be getting his touch back. He is experienced enough to handle the change in feel at the venues but is he good enough to handle the ‘brinkmanship’ (sorry Dave) of the Jester? I would suggest not but this isn’t an easy draw for Mark who has been known to lose when you least expect him to and I don’t expect him to here. The Captain Ali Carter faces another player that has been showing improved form just lately in Shootout Runner-Up Robert Milkins (aka Mill Hopkins), apart from the shootout however Mill has been only rarely seen on TV and usually his appearances don’t last too long and this largely isn’t due to the fact that he is a fast player. Ali hasn’t been at his best so far this season but I’d expect him to win here. Mark Allen faces Adrian Gunnell, it’s been so long since I’ve spotted Adrian on the telly that I’ve forgotten what he looks like but he’s been posting the results of late after a desperate season last year and good on him. He’ll be happy to get this far but he won’t beat Allen I don’t think. Mark’s great friend Stuart Bingham has a very tricky opener against last season’s Masters runner-up Marco Fu. These two guys are two of the nicest people in snooker and it’s a shame that one of them has to lose (I’m beginning to sound like a BBC commentator, it’s catching), but of course one of them will, but who? Well we have enough bets to keep us going in the first round so perhaps there is no need to gamble on this one. But then I looked at the prices, I’d suggest that the 4/5 available on Stuart given the current form of the two of them is a lot better than I thought you’d be able to get, as I thought he’d be around 4/7. Of the two there is no doubt that Bingo comes into this in far better form and if Marco doesn’t find his A-game soon this could be one way traffic.

Recommended Bet: Again, you can back Mark Selby at a point more with Apollobet without the Judd cashback so I’m happy to stake 3 points on Selby at 13/2 with Boylesports with the Top Trump clause. 3 points win on Bingham to beat Fu at 4/5 with Sportingbet. 

Recommended Accas:

3 point accumulator on: The Enhanced Snookerbacker Acca on Higgins, Trump, Ding, Robertson. Williams, Murphy and Allen pays 9/2 over at Boylesports. 

add Stevens, Dott, Gould, Carter and Selby for an Enhanced 28/1 at Boylesports, 1 point on all 12! 

I will be posting recommended bets as the tournament goes on and the very best of luck with your bets.

If you don’t have an account at Boyles, open one by clicking the banner below. When you do and bet £20 or Euros you will get £40 or Euros absolutely free.



PTC 10 Finals Day

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:31 am

It's a day for the Mustard Men

It’s Finals Day over in Sheffield and despite the fact that I am sensing this event isn’t exactly grabbing the snooker fans imagination ahead of York it is at least now getting interesting from a betting perspective with the bottom half of the draw being a veritable sea of mustard.

If any further evidence were required (it isn’t) of the almost mystical powers that the mustard jumper can bring yesterday provided it. Ricky Walden (66/1) has been begging me to pick him for one of these and get his hands on the cashmere and this time I felt it was only fair to do so.

No sooner had he donned the now legendary jumper than he knocked in a maximum 147 break, the second of the tournament and the third in a week. What better sight in the game is there than a baize boy, wearing the coveted Team SB colours, knocking in that final black to round off the ‘perfect frame’ ? After winning that match against Snookerbacker Classic Leeds boy Gareth Allen he then went on to win deciders against Mark King and MJW to book his slot today where first up he’ll face Dom Dale.

But that’s not all. Oh no. Because the maiden skipper of Team SB is also carrying the cashmere into Finals Day. Graeme Dott (25/1) once again proving to be probably the most consistent player in this series of events with yet another appearance at the business end of things, where he now faces the equally consistent Stephen Lee.

And still the mustard flowed. Another player that has clearly been waiting patiently in the wings to wear one also strode proudly into Finals Day in the shape of Ken Doherty. Kendo takes his place against Liang Wenbo at 10am this morning in the last 16 and needs to win two further matches to land the 125/1 recommended each way punt on him. The only match in the bottom half to not feature a Mustard Man is between banana lover Dave Harold and friend of the blog David Grace who appears to be finding his feet in this company of late, maybe one day he shall too wear the woollens.

You can keep up with the results and latest scores today by visiting the excellent here and I will attempt to update below as the day goes on.

As ever Apollobet have extensive markets on the PTC’s so keep an eye on their site as the day goes on. You can view their snooker prices here and you can open an account with them by clicking the banner below. They have reopened the outright book and understandably have Higgins and Robertson at the top of the market, but could this be the day that a man dressed in a shade of yellow carries off the cup? It just got interesting in Sheffield.

For those asking, my UK Championship preview will be up as soon as today’s action is complete.

Last 16:

John Higgins 4-3 Neil Robertson
Rory McLeod 1-4 Joe Perry
Chris Norbury 3-4 Jamie Cope
Ben Woollaston 1-4 Michael Holt
Dave Harold 4-2 David Grace
Graeme Dott 3-4 Stephen Lee
Ricky Walden 2-4 Dominic Dale
Liang Wenbo 4-3 Ken Doherty

Quarter Finals

Higgins 4-3 Perry
Cope 0-4 Holt
Harold 1-4 Lee
Dale 4-3 Wenbo

Semi Finals

Higgins 2-4 Holt
Lee 2-4 Dale


Dale v Holt

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