Now then, without wishing to sound too opinionated, I will.
For me this system of qualifiers perfectly illustrates why the flatter structure which will be adopted next season is much fairer when done in conjunction with a ranking list based on earnings.
To date, when they aren’t writing about Ronnie O’Sullivan working on a farm and relying on photoshop novices, the hacks have all without exception gone with the ‘headline’ that the top players would be in here too and have to play from the start of all the events with the exception of, in my view quite rightly the World Championship, and bizarrely and quite for what reason I don’t know, the Shanghai Masters whose sponsors prefer to keep this same lame old system. I insanely hope that the players boycott it in protest until the Shanghai boys and girls agree to tow the line, but they won’t of course.
The main point is that it will still be seeded according to ranking and the higher up you are the more likely it is that your path to the venues will be fairly pedestrian. In my opinion the gap is still fairly large between the top 20 or so and the others despite what the levelling of the game has done or is doing. When you get to the real top 5 or 10 (list yours in the comments if you like) we are currently talking different planets to most of the players that are playing in the first day of qualifiers under the current structure, with all due respect to all (the ones that know this are the ones who will improve).
I do feel that a reward for ending the season in the top 16 should be an automatic place at the Crucible and guaranteed prize money, it will give everyone something to strive for.
So what are your thoughts on all that?
In terms of the betting side of things on Day One we had a great start in the morning with a 100% strike rate, this was maintained in the afternoon when the maximum recommended bet on Ian Burns landed and at time of writing we are waiting on a win for Liam Highfield in the evening session to make it a perfect day and a very profitable one. It usually gets harder as the week goes on in the qualifiers and by definition the overall standard improves, so caution is now the watchword, unless otherwise advised of course.
EDIT: He won, so one of the most profitable days for a long time yesterday, a great start.
Anyway, here’s Thursday’s line up.
All Apollobet’s match prices for today can be found by clicking here.
James Wattana v Kurt Maflin
Liu Chuang v Daniel Wells
Anthony McGill v David Grace
Jimmy White v Robbie Williams
Adam Duffy v Paul Davison
Barry Pinches v Fraser Patrick
I’m getting the feeling that James Wattana is finding it a bit tougher this season in the qualifiers than last, perhaps because there are better players now graduating up to the next round having won a match the previous day; for whatever reason he’s not winning as regularly as he did against his fellow professionals at this stage at the moment. Kurt Maflin is odds-against in that one and if he finds his potting boots that could be a great bet in my opinion, but don’t do the child allowance on it as Kurt can easily throw in an awful performance for a player of his standard when you least expect him to. Liu Chuang is on a decent run of form and Hendry’s lad will expect to progress in this despite the improved form of Daniel Wells, I expect him to aswell. David Grace celebrated his final frame win yesterday against Pankaj Advani by sitting around in his pants, proudly proclaiming this to be some sort of cathartic moment in his life, well he’d better have put them on again to face Ants McGill, who famously (relatively) fouled a ball recently with his hair, or all hell will break loose. Davy has won their only meeting to date but he’ll be delighted to hear that I’d back Ant here, regulars will know that I rate him very highly and have been waiting for him to start showing what he’s got (not the hair), he’s starting to do that. Jimmy’s up next in a part of the season that should really see him selling salt again as it’s getting frosty in Scousepool, the foghorns are sounding tonight as I write as the mist closes in from the Mersey. The Whirlwind faces Robbie Williams who did the business on day one against an opponent you’d expect him to and a line through Khairy has Jim winning 5-4. Jimmy very rarely wins easily in qualifiers nowadays and this could be close, but his reputation still buys him a frame or two against some players so I think he’ll win, but take a look at the handicap betting at Apollobet is my advice. Adam Duffy had a bad result in his most recent qualifier but before that he was doing pretty well, he faces Paul Davison in a coin toss, take your pick but any sign of frustration from Duffy will be pounced on by the more experienced player. Finally, Fraser Patrick continues to prove to everyone that he should be a professional, he beat Michael White 5-2 and Martin Gould 5-1 in the German Masters recently and overturned Zhang Anda on Day 1, I have no idea what his plans are but he is surely one to watch at Q-School if he enters it again (still spaces in the SBC last chance saloon in Gloucester of course), maybe he’s just one of a stack of former professionals with experience who are using their noddle to pick off players who they see as ermm ‘easy pickings’, he’s worth a bet on the handicaps against Barry Pinches but this time is coming up against one with more in the locker than him when it comes to experience, could be a rare old battle that one.
Selections: Maflin, Chuang, McGill, White, Davison, Pinches.
Recommended Bet: 1 point trixie on Chuang, McGill and White at Paddy Power, treble pays bang on 3/1. 1 point treble on Maflin, Patrick (+2.5) and Williams (+2.5) pays just on 5/2 at Apollobet.
Luca Brecel v Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
Alan McManus v Tony Drago
Rod Lawler v Ian Burns
Cao Yupeng v Dechawat Poomjaeng
Alfie Burden v Sean O’Sullivan
The match between Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Luca Brecel should be an entertaining affair on the live stream. Of the two it’s Thanawat who has been posting the better results on the whole at this level despite Luca’s great run in the UK and I can see this one going close. Tony Drago was on fire yesterday and now faces Alan McManus again, Drago famously launched slaps at himself at the end of their last meeting which ended in a win for Angles, I never bet on Drago as a rule but if I was going to break that rule it would be today, I still haven’t decided, but they have met 2 times this season and both times Alan has won a decider so maybe that is a sign to err on the side of caution. As Luca and Thanawat go at it hammer and tongs a very different match is in prospect between Rod Lawler and Ian Burns, two players making giant strides this season. Rod again made the late stages of a PTC last week and is continuing with his dazzling early season form. I rate Burns very highly but in a tactical battle, which this will surely turn out to be, I’d back Rod every time, though interestingly Burns won their only meeting back in May at Q-School in a decider, the match which saw him turn professional. Cao Yupeng continues to win a lot more than he loses at this level and I think he’s a rung up the ladder from his opponent Poomjaeng, so he’d be my best bet of the session. Sean O’Sullivan is finding his feet after a slow start to the season and takes on Alfie Burden, the two have met twice this season with Alfie winning both times and you’d have to fancy the same again here.
Selections: Thanawat, Drago, Lawler, Yupeng, Burden.
Recommended Bet: 2 point double on Yupeng and Burden pays almost 6/4 at Paddy Power. Add Lawler for a 1 point treble that pays almost bang on 7/2 with the same firm.
Peter Lines v Tian Pengfei
Mark Joyce v Aditya Mehta
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Chen Zhe
Andy Hicks v Michael Wasley
Mike Dunn v Liam Highfield
Tian Pengfei seemed in decent form last night when defeating the MO’D and he now faces the tough Peter Lines, Lines was whitewashed by Simon Bedford last time out and isn’t posting that many wins at all this season so far, it all points to a win for the Chinese player who has won their only meeting to date. Mark Joyce and Aditya Mehta stand at 1-1 in the head to heads with two deciding frames played. Adi banished the pre-new year blues away in some style with a whitewash last night and Joyce has been in very good form of late, for me this again points to a very tight one. Thepchiaya Un-Nooh is a player that I think is improving rapidly and he faces China’s Chen Ze who came through a decider last night, based on recent results at this level I’d side with the Thai player here to win with a bit in hand. Andy Hicks is on a three match losing run and faces Michael Wasley who was another that won in a decider last night, again this one is a tricky call as Wasley continues to prove that he’s getting used to this pro business, but the experience of Hicks sways this for me, but not one to bet on. Finally, Liam Highfield is really beginning to find his feet too and is posting wins for fun lately, he faces Mike Dunn who isn’t having a great time of things of late but did at least break a terrible losing run last time out against Sam Baird, Highfield seems on a roll however so it may be worth siding with him again.
Selections: Pengfei, Mehta, Un-Nooh, Hicks, Highfield.
Recommended Bet: 2 point double on Un-Nooh and Pengfei pays just on 7/4 at Paddy Power. Add Highfield for a 1 point treble that pays just on 10/3 at the same firm.
Afternoon and Evening Acca: 2 point acca (all plus 2.5 frames) on Drago, Thanawat, Mehta and Wasley pays 9/4 at Apollobet.