April 18, 2013

World Championship 2013 Preview: Sheffield Set for The Rocket and Robbo Show

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:00 pm

Ron and RobboAs a blogger or a journalist you are always looking for that killer introduction to a piece, the line that will send goosebumps down the neck of the reader, hooking them in with a line and a sinker attached. But sometimes simplicity is the key. You can showboat with long words, maybe throw in a proverb, phrase or short anecdote to appear cleverer than you really are, I do that all the time. But sometimes you just need to state the fact and that fact is that this is snooker’s time to shine again, because on Saturday our World Championship starts from the Crucible in Sheffield and I can’t bloody well wait.

Almost all talk will be and has been about the return of the champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and that is understandable. Ronnie is not bigger than the sport, but the reality is that he’s closer than anyone has been since Alex Higgins to claim that he actually is, not that he ever has, unlike Alex. The stories in the build up will range from predictions of an Ali-like (Muhammad not Carter or Bassiri) return to glory to reports that he’s on the edge of a mental breakdown and not the player we saw take the Crucible by storm twelve months ago in such domineering and assured fashion – an achievement he rates as his greatest to date, well he did yesterday anyway.

The truth is, that his inclusion in the tournament has thrown in an added dimension and bit of mystery both for fans and punters. Will he again shine in the spotlight or this time has he bitten off more than he can chew? Is this Lazarusesque comeback just one step too far for a player approaching the twilight years of his career and destined to fail in anti-climactic fashion or has he been simply building up to this return for a year to show everyone exactly how far ahead he really still is of the others?

But those others can’t be written off lightly even if Ronnie returns in tip-top shape, major contenders include Mark Selby, who has been playing some fantastic stuff this season and is looking for the BBC Grand Slam having won the UK and the Masters already this season. Neil Robertson just a few weeks ago picked up the China Open title and his first over there, he usually saves his best for the end of the season and will be fully prepared to try and win his second world crown. Ding Junhui, the only Chinese player on show will come into this with confidence as will Mark Allen, the two both having won big titles recently.

John Higgins has said that he will need a ‘miracle’ to win this year, but how often has the old reverse psychology trick worked out? Higgins comes to this in poor form but others without his level of championship pedigree have done just that down the years and come away the winner. Then there are the likes of Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter, Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham and Stephen Maguire who will all want a say in the destination of the trophy and that is before you look at anyone else.

Dave Hendon has been charting the main contenders on his blog all week and that can be viewed here.

Of the names above, I would narrow it down to 4 or at a push 5 that can win the title this time. For me they would be (in a particular order) O’Sullivan, Robertson, Selby, Higgins and perhaps Ding. I would be very surprised to see a winner come from outside those five although if Ronnie doesn’t turn up and if Higgins’ poor form continues my best outsider by virtue of the draw would be the twice runner-up to O’Sullivan, Ali Carter, who would then find himself in a very winnable quarter.

Add to all this anticipation the undoubted hype that will surround the likes of Jack Lisowski and Michael White and we have one hell of a championship in prospect. The feel of old versus new is a big thing this year for me as it was in the qualifiers and it will be interesting to see how the new breed of players like Lisowski and White handle the experienced older hands that they have drawn.

Below I will preview all the first round matches seperated into their relevant quarters and then have a look at the bets, both match betting and outright, two of which have already been recommended earlier in the season if you have been paying attention.

Let’s hope for a great championship, both on the table and at the bookies. Place your bets, sit back and enjoy the ride. Lots of fun on here is assured and a general piss-taking, lowest form of humour a shoo-in. Hopefully we can also take the bookies for a few quid in the meantime.

For those only here for the gambling side of things for this great championship, I welcome you as I always do. But please follow the rules to the letter.  Cheers.   

QUARTER ONE – (click match for Head to Head Record)

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Marcus Campbell (20th April 10am & 7pm)

It goes without saying if you have read the headline above that I think Ronnie will start with a win. I’ll be totally honest here in that had Ronnie drawn say Marco Fu or even perhaps Peter Ebdon or Jack Lisowski I probably would not be tipping him up as a possible winner. This first match is crucial to his chances and with due respect to Marcus I think he is the ideal opponent for the returning champion. I think we will know very early on in this match if Ronnie is ready for the marathon again, my guess is that he will be but it is just that, a guess. One thing is for sure and that is that a strong performance here will see his odds tumble at the bookies so if you fancy him then back him now at the best price you can find. Apollobet were 7’s earlier backed down from 9’s. As for the match itself, the two have met four times and Ronnie has won every one though granted they have only met once since 2000. Marcus has a chance to make a name for himself and may of course yet find that this is in fact the easiest draw of the lot, but I just can’t see him repeating his triumphs over Stephen Hendry here.

Selection: Ronnie to win 10-5.

Ali Carter v Ben Woollaston (22nd April 7pm & 23rd April 7pm)

Ben Woollaston: It's his first time.

Ben Woollaston: It’s his first time.

Ali Carter has not lost in the first round of the World Championship since 2006 when losing to Stephen Lee and he has one of the strongest win rates at the Crucible in the first two rounds. The Captain faces a tough opener against a player making his debut at the Crucible, Ben Woollaston from Leicester. Ben is a fine player and improving all the time, he has played a number of TV matches this season, mostly in PTC events but has looked very much at home in front of the cameras, I really rate him as a player. Ali however told us recently here of his Crucible hopes and I know he’ll be champing at the bit for a match with Ronnie and a repeat of last year’s final. Seeded players usually prefer to play against players that are new to this unique venue and that added factor as well as the fact that I still think people under-rate Ali for whatever reason is enough to convince me of a clear flight path to round two for a potential cracker. If Ronnie isn’t firing on all cylinders then Ali’s outright price is just tempting enough to add him to your outright book, if he beats Ronnie he will take some stopping.

Selection: Carter to win 10-6

Stuart Bingham v Sam Baird (24th April 7pm & 25th April 7pm)

Strangely in his long career, Stuart Bingham has only played at the Crucible 6 times and has never been beyond Round 2, his first round record being won 3 lost 3. He faces another debutant in Sam Baird who has done remarkably well to get here winning four matches to do so which is some performance from a player that seems to dip in and out of form as the season goes on like a see-saw ‘See Saw Sam anyone?’ – thought not. Bingham got walloped by Hendry (payback time for 2000) at this stage last season in the match where I carelessly decided to leave a frame early and miss Hendry’s final Crucible 147 from the press seats. You can’t really take a lot from their only previous meeting in a PTC which Sam won 4-1 but I think he might be a player that takes to the Crucible as he does seem the confident type. In my view this one might be closer than the odds suggest but with Ballrun’s experience I think when it comes to crossing the finishing line he might just have the edge.

Selection: Bingham to win 10-9

John Higgins v Dark Mavis (21st April 2.30pm & 22nd April 2.30pm)

John Higgins has only lost twice in Round 1 since 1995, that year he lost to Alan McManus and over a decade later in 2006 he lost to Mark Selby. His Crucible win record since 1995 is won 43, lost 14 with four titles in the bag. So it’s fair to say that Higgins is something of a Crucible specialist. Dark Mavis, three years Higgins senior on the other hand has only qualified for the Crucible six times prior to this year and his record isn’t great, winning only 2 of his 8 matches, suffering a crushing loss at this stage last year to Ali Carter. Some players really struggle with this place and some people thrive, here we have two opposites. However, Higgins form coming into this is not good and Mavis arrives this year after a season that in any other year would have seen him qualify for this as of right. I’d say John will be content with the draw given Dark’s Crucible jitters of the past but his form really has to improve to stand any chance in this. I reckon this match will be a trademark Higgins ‘carve out the win’ performance with very little razzmatazz. Unlike their epic match in the UK in which John hit a maximum and then somehow missed a sitter of a pink to lose a decider, the revenge factor might also play a part here.

Selection: Higgins to win 10-7

Previously Recommended Bets: 4 points on O’Sullivan to win the World Championship at 9/1 with Apollobet (21/2/13) and 4 points on John Higgins to win the World Championship at 12/1 generally (5/8/12)

Further Recommended Bet: 2 points on Ali Carter to win the World Championship at 28/1 with Betfred.

QUARTER TWO – (click match for Head to Head Record)

Shaun Murphy v Martin Gould (20th April 2.30pm & 21st April 7pm)

Has Gouldy been dealt a tough draw?

Has Gouldy been dealt a tough draw?

The head to head between these two makes for some grim reading for fans of Pinner Potter Martin Gould, they have played 6 times and Shaun has won them all. Gould makes his fifth Crucible appearance and there will not be a snooker fan watching that won’t for a fleeting second think about ‘that match’ with Neil Robertson in 2010, the unlikeliest of comebacks which would see Neil go on to become champion and there surely was not a person there that didn’t feel at least some sympathy for Gouldy. In fact he has only ever won two matches at the venue, both against Marco Fu. Since Shaun’s unlikely win in 2005 coming right from the qualifiers to lift the trophy in style he has only lost once at this stage, last year against Jamie Jones who came into the tournament on a great run of form. You would think he’ll be wanting to put that right and usually he is such a strong starter to events, that head to head might be like that for a reason.

Selection: Murphy to win 10-8

Graeme Dott v Peter Ebdon (21st April 10am & 22nd April 10am)

A repeat of the 2006 final sees Dotty pitched against Ebbo in what hopefully will be a thoroughly bad-tempered, memorable and scrappy affair given they play two morning sessions. Since 1997 Dott has lost a total of 7 times in Round 1 which is a strange record for someone that has in that time lifted the title and made the final twice. He was woeful last year at this stage against Joe Perry losing 10-1 in a display that neither he nor the watching public could explain. Ebdon’s qualification match win over Kurt Maflin means we see him here for the 22nd time in a row and last year he was drawn against Ronnie first round and beaten comfortably. Dott has won both their Crucible encounters, the 2006 final and a match at this stage three years ago but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ebdon has finally clicked again after a season best forgotten. Graeme hasn’t really looked like his old terrier-like self to me now for a while and I think he may be there for the taking against a player that could frustrate the life from a three toed sloth.

Selection: Ebdon to win 10-8.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Ebdon at 7/4 with Ladbrokes

Matthew Stevens v Marco Fu (23rd April 10am & 24th April 2.30pm)

Marco Fu leads on the head to heads between these two in ranking events which are one of those quirky ones that have a pattern developing, first they won one each, then they won three each etc. Marco has won their last encounter so are we entering another stage of the ‘you win three and I win three’ pattern? Or the other one? Mirrors……stop NOW! You could drive yourself mad with stats….Anyway, Matthew’s season improved with a run to the final of the World Open where he lost to Mark Allen and he reached the semi-finals here last year, thrashing Marco at this stage in the process and it has to be said that he usually saves his best for the Crucible. But Marco for me is one of the most dangerous first round opponents for the seeded players this year and despite the fact that he hasn’t won a match at the Crucible since 2009 I am prepared to take a chance on him to send Matthew home here, purely based on recent form. I think Fu is coming into this in better form than he was this time last season.

Selection: Fu to win 10-8

Judd Trump v Dominic Dale (23rd April 2.30pm & 24th April 10am)

To round off the top section of the draw we have another match to capture the imagination between Judd and the Spaceman Dale. I was mightily impressed with Dominic in the qualifiers but the fact remains that he has lost in Round 1 here the last four times he’s played and he isn’t getting any younger. Judd may benefit from Ronnie’s return as he has had to shoulder a lot of the promotional burden since his departure and whilst many will say he has underachieved this season he remains consistently in the top three players in the world. He beat Dom 10-7 here at this stage last year and has not lost to him in their only four encounters since the 2011 UK Championship which was arguably a match that Dale would have won save for some outrageous flukes from Judd. Whilst I am not in the group of people that think Judd can win this as I believe the finalist from the top half of the draw will come from quarter one, I do think he will progress here.

Selection: Trump to win 10-6

QUARTER THREE – (click match for Head to Head Record) 

Neil Robertson v Rob Milkins (24th April 2.30pm & 25th April 2.30pm)

2010 champion Neil Robertson starts his campaign to be the next multiple world champion with a match against Gloucester’s Rob Milkins, who of course ended the dreams of loyal Whirlwind fans in the qualifiers despite a valiant show from poor old Jimmy. Robbo has only lost twice in Round 1 in his Crucible career, a 2005 defeat to Stephen Hendry on his debut and a loss to Judd Trump as defending champion two years ago, other than that he’s been very consistent at this stage. Milkins plays at the Crucible for the first time since 2005 and since his debut here in 2002 when he managed to beat Fergal O’Brien he has lost all three times since. Rob is a great player but Robbo will be pleased with this draw, Milkins can beat himself up very easily in matches and Robertson is a master at exposing these weaknesses in opponents. I would predict a fairly comfortable win for the Aussie who I feel we will be seeing a lot of in the championship.

Selection: Robertson to win 10-3.

Ricky Walden v Michael Holt (20th April 10am & 21st April 10am)

Barton, ermm I mean Holt.

Barton, ermm I mean Holt.

Next up my old pal Holty who makes a welcome return to the Crucible after putting his supporters (including the dogs at SB Mansions) through the mill somewhat in his qualifying match when from 8-0 up he steadily lost that lead to get home 10-7 against Mark Joyce. This is probably one of the most evenly matched matches of round one and the head to heads are as you would expect pretty close. Holt’s only win at the Crucible came back in 2005 when he defeated the much missed Paul Hunter at this stage, since then he has lost in Round 1 twice to John Higgins, once to Peter Ebdon and once to Joe Perry on his last visit in 2010. Ricky is playing here for only the third time and is yet to break his Crucible duck (mee duck) so this could get very twitchy, almost Clincheresque, as the winning line approaches. Walden has been a bit in and out since his win in Wuxi very early in the season but has done enough to earn his seeded place. Holt proclaims to anyone who will listen that he has a new mature approach to snooker, if this is true he could cause a minor upset here, he undoubtedly has the game to win but then it becomes a battle with your own mind. I think this might be an unlikely match of the round. Game on.

Selection: Holt to win 10-9.

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Holt at 13/8 with Ladbrokes 

Mark Williams v Michael White (20th April 7pm & 21st April 2.30pm)

Rare first round blips in 2007 and 2008 when MJW was experiencing something of a slump represent the only two times he has lost in the first round, other than that he has been at the top of the accumulator list of your first rounders routinely. Here he faces what many people believe is the ‘banana skin’ of the round, the young(er) Welsh potting machine Michael White. White is without doubt up there for young player of the season and his rise up the rankings has been stratospehric as he approaches the top 32 for next season, when rankings won’t really make any difference. He is the third Crucible debutant and I really hope he gives a good account of himself against someone I should think he holds in high regard. In terms of Welsh snooker this will have John Evans frothing at the mouth, in terms of a result I can’t see Williams slipping up.

Prediction: Williams to win 10-5.

Stephen Maguire v Dechawat Poomjaeng (22nd April 2.30pm & 23rd April 2.30pm)

Stephen Maguire has been handed a tie against another debut boy, Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng who becomes only the third Thai player to grace the Crucible sprung floorboards (Willie will know the other one). Maguire is another fairly solid performer in this round and since losing twice to Ronnie in 2004 and 2005 (who said the draw was made for Telly?) has only gone out one more time to Barry Hawkins two years ago, he is twice a semi-finalist including last year when he lost to Ali Carter. They have played once before in the very different environment of a PTC when Dechawat won 4-2, but that is completely irrelevant to this match. It’s clear that Poomjaeng is improving as his only other venue this season was the China Open last month when he lost to Mavis 5-3. But you can’t help thinking that Maguire has the plum draw of the round here, it would be unlike him not to exploit it.

Prediction: Maguire to win 10-3.

Recommended Bet: 4 points on Neil Robertson to win the World Championship at 13/2 with Apollobet.

QUARTER FOUR – (click match for Head to Head Record)

Mark Allen v Mark King  (22nd April 10am & 7pm)

It’s almost obligatory these days to have a ‘Quarter of Death’, every tournament seems to have one and I am sure that the phrase will be used many times by Hazel and the gang about this one. It’s usually going to be this quarter just by virtue of the way the seedings are dispersed and indeed it is uncannily like last year’s fourth quarter with Allen, Ding, Hawkins and Selby all down here again. Allen, Ding and Selby were all beaten first round last year which made it more like a ‘Quarter of Slight Sniffle’ in the end and the great Northern Ireland hope will be hoping to put his loss against Cao Yupeng and all that followed afterwards to rest by a solid win here. Despite the head to head figure on the link, it is in effect 1-1 between the two if you take out minor events with Allen defeating King on his way to his first of two World Opens in 2012. Allen is a big contender in this for many, he is a live outsider and I love watching him play so I hope he comes through this one for the match with Ding that we all wanted to watch last season. Since 1998 Mark King has played 18 matches here and won 6 of them all at this stage and never progressing any further, before last year Allen had only ever lost to Hendry at this stage. King is still a tough opponent but you have to fancy Allen strongly for this one.

Selection: Allen to win 10-4

Ding Junhui v Alan McManus (23rd April 10am & 24th April 10am)

Angles: Might need a map.

Angles: Might need a map.

The second match in the Quarter of Death sees Ding take on Alan ‘Angles’ McManus, a player who may need a good map or one of those new Sat Nav things that the kids use these days to find his way back to the Crucible given that he hasn’t been there since 2006. Angles, a former Masters Champion is twice a Crucible semi-finalist and I am sure will relish the chance to rekindle old memories with a trademark grinding performance here. It’s very odd that given what we are always told about the strength of players in China it is still Ding that remains the standout player from the region despite not really liking playing over there anymore. He, like Allen will want to put the bad memories and bad words after the match against Ryan Day at this stage last year out of his mind and concentrate on the job here. Make no mistake, this is a test for Ding who I feel is the complete player but for some fragility on the temperament front, which still rears it’s head sometimes. I also think that in the past he has displayed this more at the Crucible than anywhere else. He’s a brilliant player though and if his attitude is right he will cope with this first test.

Selection: Ding to win 10-7

Barry Hawkins v Jack Lisowski (20th April 2.30pm & 21st April 7pm) 

Barry Hawkins has won his last two first round matches here but last season can probably be discounted as he met a crocked Mark Selby. He has also been a consistent face at the Crucible since 2006 when his debut saw him walloped 10-1 by Ken Doherty. The debutant that most snooker fans are looking forward to watching is Jack Lisowski, a ferocious potter who sometimes plays so fast that he bumps into himself walking around the table. Jack is very much the new breed of fearless, confident young potters who are out to change the game and the way it is viewed by the public, very much in line with the visions of a certain Chairman you feel. Barry is a player that I usually underrate to be honest and I will be guilty of doing so again in predicting that I think Jack might be the only Crucible first-timer to make an impact this year. If I am right, his head to head record against Mark Selby should be looked at for those looking further into the tournament. He won’t win the World Championship, but he might just ruffle a few feathers along the way.

Selection: Lisowski to win 10-6

Mark Selby v Matt Selt (23rd April 7pm & 24th April 7pm)

Finally, propping up the draw is World number 1 Selby, he is many shrewdies idea of the winner this year and indeed a battle between him and Ronnie in the final is a prospect to savour. Make no mistake, this guy is now ready to win this, he has had his critics in the past and all this has done is spur him on. His first hurdle is Matt Selt who must be wondering what he has done to draw the player that I reckon secretly they all wanted to avoid at this stage. Matt played very solidly to take charge of a qualifying match against Ken Doherty but then, in what I can only describe as a very strange match was somehow pegged back to 9-9 before winning the decider in a canter. It’s his first time at the Crucible but given his opponent has a score to settle from last year and possibly a trophy in his sights, it could be a baptism of fire.

Selection: Selby to win 10-3

Recommended Bet: 2 points on Mark Selby to win the World Championship at 13/2 with Apollobet

Recommended Match Bets:

10 points acca on Carter, Maguire, Allen and Selby pays almost 11/10 at Corals.

Add Murphy, Trump, Williams and Ding for a 2 point acca at over 9/2 with the same firm.

Outright Thoughts

I have covered a lot of what I think in the preview above. Your outright book should allow for mistakes and the level of points placed on players to win the championship reflects that. If Ronnie, Higgins, Robbo or Ali win it, there is a tidy profit and a covering bet on Selby who I still don’t think will somehow covers them all .

If someone put a gun to my head to say name the winner I would probably go for O’Sullivan but as they were about to pull the trigger I would probably change my mind to Robertson. The key match will be the semi-final, should it happen between Selby and Robertson as I think they are the only two people apart from Higgins who have a chance against Ronnie if he is in the mood.

The best of luck and I hope you have enjoyed the preview.

There will be more recommended bets to follow on a daily basis and I have also had one of my best people on the case checking out some of the more obscure markets, you can view his findings here


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Novelty Markets: Deco’s Pick of the Bunch

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:21 am
The bookies are clowning around again.

The bookies are clowning around again.

The bookies traditionally get their silly hats on around this time of year when it comes to betting on snooker and thankfully this year is no different. Silly season is now most definitely upon us.

There are markets on the World Championship out there that will make your hair stand on end and take some digging into. Thankfully, because I have been concentrating on the outright and match preview, my man in Hong Kong, former blog champion tipster and blog stalwart Deco who can be followed on Twitter here has been tirelessly sifting through to find that needle in the haystack and below he tells you all what he has come up with.

I’ll hand you over to my Far East Geordie correspondent.

Deco’s Pick of the Bunch and his recommended bets:

Okay, so I’ve basically broken it down into two sections, break markets & novelty markets, with a few thoughts after each one to justify why I think it’s a decent bet.

Break markets

2pts: Mark Allen to make a break over 135 in the tournament (15/8 @ 

Heavy scorer, last time he had a good run in WC he dominated the century break roll of honour.

3pts Double: Lisowski v Hawkins over 0.5 centuries in match and O’Sullivan v Campbell over 1.5 centuries in match (just over 5/4 @ Bet365)

Both play on Day 1 when the tables are notoriously more generous.

1pt: Lisowski v Hawkins 4 centuries in match (22/1 @ Bet 365)

0.5pt: Lisowski v Hawkins 5 centuries in match (66/1 @ Bet 365)

Day 1/2 table. Expect heavy scoring in a match which should go close giving opportunity for century market to tally up.

2pts: Michael White highest break v MJW (6/4 @ Bet 365)

Assuming he is not overcome by Crucible nerves, White is a heavy scorer. MJW tends to lose interest when the frame is won and is not a prolific in terms of centuries.

0.25pts ew: Rob Milkins to make highest break of tournament (80/1 Paddies)

0.25pts ew: Sam Baird to make highest break of tournament (100/1   Skybet)

Both knock tons in for fun in qualifiers, Milkins had a 147 in qualifying in this tournament last year.

1pts on each of the bets below all at 5/6 @ Corals. Also combine the lot for a 1pt acca that pays 36.5/1 

Rob Milkins break over 91.5 Rd 1                                                  

Marco Fu break over 106.5 Rd 1

John Higgins break over 108.5 Rd 1

Jack Lisowski break over 101.5 Rd 1

Mark Allen break over 112.5 Rd 1

Mark Selby break over 110.5 Rd 1

Feel the line has been set too low on all of these. 

Novelty markets

Ebbo: The Foulmeister.

Ebbo: The Foulmeister.

5pts: A foul shot in Frame 1 of Dott v Ebdon (Evens @ Bet365)

Ebdon will be right up for this, it will be turgid. No frame will be surrendered without a mammoth battle for snookers. Ebdon gave away dozens of points in fouls when I watched him in Beijing. Often when playing for roll ups/thin edges. Often misjudges or plays in a way that gives the cue ball scope to miss/roll off and him the opportunity to whinge about the table. 100% confident this is the bet of the round!

3pts: 4 or more qualifiers in Last 16 (8/11 @ Ladbrokes)

There are 6 or 7 matches that can go either way, particularly around quarters 2 and 3. Short break between qualifiers and main event so qualifiers will be match sharp for this. Top 16 no longer hold the same fear factor for qualifiers, particularly youngsters coming through.

1pt: Marco Fu to progress furthest in tournament of the qualifiers (7/1 @ Coral)

Marco has a decent draw and his coach says Marco feels he has a tournament in him by the end of 2013. SB knows how I feel about Marco – 2013 World Champion  😀

Thanks for reading, enjoy the championship and the best of luck with your bets!

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