August 7, 2013

A Series of Curious Events

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:43 pm
The graph shows the market moves in one match happened not long before it started.

The graph shows the market moves in one match happened not long before it started.

This morning’s opening session in Doncaster will not be remembered as an exciting new dawn for a snooker venue in the UK, it will however be memorable for other reasons, all the wrong ones. 

I woke up fairly early this morning to find some chat on Twitter concerning the betting patterns for two matches in the opening session. Both matches involved players from Thailand, in each encounter the Thai players; Passakorn Suwannawat and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon were favourites to overcome their opponents, those being Mohamed Khairy who was still awaiting his first professional win and whose last professional outing was a 5-3 loss to an amateur player and Ross Muir, a first season professional.

Now Passakorn is hardly what you would describe as a prolific winner, far from it in fact with only three wins to his name last season, albeit all against players ranked higher than him but Thanawat on the other hand has showed great promise in the past and even bashed in a 147 in professional competition not that long ago.

Both matches had the Thai players as worthy favorites but as the matches approached the odds on their relatively inexperienced opponents shortened to such an extent that in Thanawat’s match all bookmakers suspended betting, with most taking the same view prior to the other encounter.

With Liam Highfield receiving a bye, the spice was added with World Snooker’s last minute decision to place Thanawat’s match on the Live Stream, a brave decision but one which I believe was the correct one. What followed was as one-sided an affair as one could hope to witness, Thanawat’s highest break of the match was just 22, his shot selection at best can be described as misguided on many occasions, Muir won 5-0 in a canter.

The gamble was landed.

The other match was much closer, with Khairy taking a 3-1 lead into the interval before Passakorn rallied back and forced it to a decider, his highest break in the first 6 frames of the match was 24, he had also had a 22, his only other break above 20 yet he was level at 3-3. By this time Twitter had reached fever pitch and in a further twist Jan Verhaas was asked to officiate the final frame, substituting the original match referee.

While I was not in the arena, I was being contacted regularly by someone who was, a player who was in no doubt what was happening, even going so far as to say that everyone watching knew what was going on, namely that Passakorn was throwing the match. Eventually and after a series of foul strokes from Suwannawat let Khairy back into the frame, the green was left over the pocket and Khairy sealed the win, his first as a professional.

The gamble, again, was landed.

So what do we make of this? World Snooker chose not to take any action on a similar case last season involving Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, another player from Thailand, when a similar level of interest was shown in his opponent Steve Davis. Is this just a coincidence or is there something more sinister going on?

Well, all we can do is look at the facts:

1. The bookmakers suspended markets completely on one match and almost completely on the other one prior to them starting, the shifts in prices indicate that this is the result of a large gamble across the industry on the two eventual winners.

2. Both matches stood out in terms of the cash traded on the betting exchanges prior to them starting.

3. The results of both matches went largely against the form book and both gambles were landed.

4. This pattern of betting is very similar to the match involving Un-Nooh last season, which World Snooker chose not to pursue.

5. Anyone who watched the Thanawat match will have seen how badly he played, for whatever reason.

6. It is unusual for a referee to be replaced for a deciding frame, did World Snooker have their suspicions that all was not right? EDIT: I have been informed that in qualifiers this is not as unusual as I first thought or it is, depending on who you believe, all I will say is that I have never seen it happen live or on the stream.

It’s unfortunate that once again there are some whispers surrounding the integrity of the sport. It remains to be seen if World Snooker see fit to act on this occasion or if they believe there may be a case to answer. If they choose not to, will the whispers become louder? If they choose to investigate, should they possibly consider shifting to a ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ mindset when considering all the factors involved?

We shall wait and see.


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