October 27, 2017

International Championship – Back to Daqing

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:10 am

It’s been quite a week off the baize so it will be a welcome relief for all concerned to actually get back on it as the players head to Daqing in the North East of China to compete in the International Championship. This is a tournament which stands out a little by virtue of the fact it embraces the longer match format more than any other event outside the UK.

Mark Selby defends his title this week, he won in a canter last year, absolutely demolishing the home favourite Ding Junhui in the final by ten frames to one, a defeat that really rubbed in his dominance over Ding following his previous World Championship final victory over him, one that he was to repeat again in the semi-finals in Sheffield a few months later. Ding definitely owes The Jester one.

Obviously the big news this week has been about Bingham’s ban, this being the first big event that he will miss. But as ever Ronnie O’Sullivan has also been in the news, he’s very upset about trophies at the moment, his war of words with the top brass when it comes to what he perceives as broken promises has been spilling out all over social media. He’s nearly always said that he plays for the trophies rather than the money and his insistence that he wants what is rightfully his even led to a bizarre and possibly over-reactive statement from the WPBSA addressing his concerns directly. He’s still not happy though and his toy trophies remain scattered outside the pram.

As well as this he’s also knocked in a 147 against Liang Wenbo over there this week in a no-doubt financially lucrative show match, to the delight of the noisy Chinese crowd. We should also make a mention of the new UK Seniors Champion Jimmy White, who captured this title with a final win over Ken Doherty. A big congratulations to Jimmy and to the organiser Jason Francis, who again proves that he knows what it takes to put on a show.

They have played one round of this tournament already in Preston, though there are a few matches that have been held over, including Selby’s and Ding’s. All the big names are here so it promises to be a decent week of snooker, it will be interesting to see if Ronnie can keep up his recent form and take back to back titles. The one thing that has been missing from his game for a few years now is consistency, but at the moment to me he appears to have got some focus back but whether he might reserve his energy to try and nab the million quid off Bazza at the expense of tournaments like this remains to be seen. It is possible that he might lock horns with Selby in the final if things fall the right way and what a climax to the event that would be.

It’s going to be covered by Eurosport throughout, though until the Chinese see sense and change their clocks to UK time we’re going to struggle to see quite a lot of it on these shores. 

In terms of betting, it’s my idea of the winner with a few value and huge price each punts, a chancey first round acca and some tricky trebles to kick things off. With these best of elevens it’s time to really have a good look at the matches and see what we can find.      

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Recommended Bets:

OUTRIGHTS Win Only: Ronnie O’Sullivan at 5/1.

Each Way: Shaun Murphy 25/1, Ali Carter 66/1, Ghou Yolonge (AKA Zhou Yuelong) 125/1, Gary Wilson 300/1, Hossein Vafaei 300/1.

Novelty Bet: Selby v O’Sullivan final at 10/1

MATCH BETTING: Favourites Acca – Ali Carter, Luca Brecel, Tom Ford, Shaun Murphy, Hossein Vafaei and Martin Gould pays 5/1.

First Round Trebles: Sam Craigie, Peter Ebdon, Jack Lisowski, Eden Sharav, John Astley – Acca pays 366/1.  

October 26, 2017

New Light on Bingham Case

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am

As widely reported, news of Stuart Bingham’s punishment for breaking betting rules has met with mixed opinions within the snooker community. Some polar opposites have been expressed on social media from those that would just let him off and also welcome Ste Lee back with open arms to those that would like to see him publicly flogged to within an inch of his life.

All opinions are valid, except for the stupid ones, in particular the ones that are based solely on the evidence presented by those making the judgement. My own was very clear on one particular ruling, I disagree with players using bookmakers to ‘lay off’ highest break insurance bets, for me it is taking advantage of a unique position for their own personal gain just by virtue of the job they do and I don’t think that’s on. However, this morning I have become privy to some information that has changed my mind on my own initial position.

I have to say that I wasn’t alone in wondering how and where Stuart could have laid off these highest break bets, I wondered if it may have been something he managed to get on at the betting exchanges, though with the sums quoted I did question that. If he’d used either his own or his manager’s account to try and get these on at a bookmaker, assuming he could even find the bet, he would have known he was a dead man walking, so how did he do it?

Step forward Philip.

Philip is a friend of Stuart’s who describes himself as a pro-gambler, he is not a bookmaker. It turns out that on two occasions over the period quoted, Stuart contacted him to ask if he’d like to offer him a price on his break being beaten, as a bet between friends. Philip’s memory of the exact details of one of them is a little hazy but the tournaments involved were the UK Championship in 2014, when Stuart’s break was beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 147 and the 2016 China Championship, when Stuart’s 141 against Shaun Murphy was beaten by Murphy in the same match later in the day.

Philip agreed to give Stuart a price willingly, had he not agreed, Stuart could not have got any bet on anywhere else.

The conversation below took place in between those two breaks in China, notice the ‘somebody other than you’ response, so if Stuart had beaten the break it was not a bet and he would not have gained twice. 

(For the record I am not sure if the segway is sorted yet.)

So, how does this change things if at all?

Well, I think this opens up a whole new argument. Is a personal bet between friends classed as gambling? Or is this a private matter between the two parties involved?

Are the WPBSA correct to highlight this in their judgement in a way that implies, without being written, that Bingham was placing these bets with betting firms? 

Why did those conducting the investigation not speak to Philip about this at any point?

The obvious question that I’m sure you are all asking is, how did they even find out about this? Well, the very simple answer is that Stuart offered the information up voluntarily by handing over his phone. Does this imply that Stuart himself was unaware that making a bet with a friend was also against the rules? Is it against the rules? 

I’d argue that this now becomes a very grey area, a bet between friends, whether it’s a straight 50/50 side bet or a bet of this nature is not the same as throwing your money at the bookies. Stuart has a friend who is in a position to offer this to him and he decided to take advantage of that, both knew the risks and had his breaks not been beaten his friend in the case above would have been £1500 better off. Philip was also under no obligation to offer Stuart the bet.

My information is that Stuart will not be appealing his ban, which of course included other issues which are not in dispute, but I think it’s important that the judgement 6(a) is put into perspective as this is a significant point which makes this case different to some recent others, it made me question my opinion, so I dare say it may also make others do the same.

October 24, 2017

Betting Bingham Banned from Snooker for 3 months

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:29 am

Haters gonna Hate.

Just a month ago I wrote a blog about the relationship between snooker and the bookies, aware that a ruling was due to be passed on former World Champion, Stuart Bingham and fairly sure that it was likely to be a firmer penalty than the recent ones I highlighted. Today the judgement has been passed.

To read how his ban of six months, with three effective immediately and three suspended was arrived at, click here and here and here for the finer detail (PDF Files).

Before I go on, I’ll declare that I know Stuart and I like him, he has been very generous in supporting my tournament financially in the past for all the right reasons and in my experience is a thoroughly decent chap, it’s not like he’s murdered your granny here so just thought I’d add a bit of perspective given some of the quite nasty comments already appearing online.

The difference between this case and a few of the more recent ones is basically that Stuart failed to cough up when he was rumbled, at least straight away. But as ever in cases like this where the evidence is stacking up, sooner or later you are going to get tripped up, which he has.

There are a couple of points I would like to make. Firstly, the headline figure of £35,771 that was gambled by him and/or his manager goes back to 2003, a period some of which fell under a previous administration (up to 2009), so I’m not sure why this is mentioned in the judgement given the failure/refusal to investigate a notorious fixed UK Championship match from this period for that very reason.

Anyway, that aside. The commonality in this case to the others is that Stuart did not bet on himself to lose, there is no inference, as there should not be, that he ever wilfully fixed matches for his own benefit, he merely backed himself on several occasions.

The main difference for me is in ruling 6(a), which states that Stuart/his manager:

Between 1st December 2014 and 8th November 2016 placed bets with a third party to a value of £4,000 that his highest break in a competition would be beaten. All of which were winning bets, where made a profit of £7,000. 

This is something that was out in the open, perfectly within the rules and commonplace in snooker in the 80’s and possibly the 90’s too. A player who holds the highest break bets on it being beaten as insurance, there are still professionals around today that don’t think that this is a problem, after all, why should they lose out if someone happens to beat their break? For the record, all the bets placed of this type won, in other words Stuart’s breaks were eventually beaten.

Here is where I fundamentally disagree with this view, why should a snooker player benefit directly just by virtue of being a snooker player in this position? Nobody else in the betting or wider world would be in a position to exploit this market, so that immediately is a huge advantage to the player in question. That is why the rules are there, it’s to stop any betting on snooker by those involved, not just ‘harmless’ or ‘victimless’ bets. In my opinion, these bets are the most serious flouting of the rules and the reason why Stuart has received a ban, a proper one this time, not fully suspended like most of the others.

He misses a number of big money events, the International Championship, the UK Championship, The Masters, The Champion of Champions, the German Masters, Scottish and Northern Irish Opens, he’s also got £20,000 in costs to fork out so that’s quite a hit in the old back pocket. Unfortunately for him he’s back for the Shootout, which arguably makes the punishment twice as bad.

Just an idea, but perhaps instead of dishing out these suspended parts of the ban, would the WPBSA/World Snooker not be better sending players to a compulsory Gambling Awareness programme? It’s clearly a big issue in snooker and I’d argue that we are merely scraping the surface at the moment. You only have to see the casinos around the venues to know that a lot of these players need help, simply ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

For the record, Stuart has decided to seek independent help for his gambling of his own accord. Something which was welcomed by the WPBSA, though they stressed that they did not think he had an addiction problem.

October 15, 2017

The English Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:42 pm

*AHEM* I think I *AHEM* know this one *AHEM*

Barnsley wouldn’t be my first answer when asked the city from which dreams are born, but next week we’ll find out who is this year’s contender in the snooker equivalent of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ as the second English Open winner is crowned.

For those who don’t know, the winner of this, like Liang Wenbo last year, will become the focus of speculation as regards their chances of also completing unlikely victories in the other three Home Nations events and bagging Barry’s million pound bonus.

It has to be said that when Liang won this last year, we all knew that Bazza’s reward money was safe, so much so that nobody even talked about it being a possibility and the speculation-ometer was stuck on zero. It could only really get interesting if Ronnie, Selby or possibly Ding or Higgins win this, then at least the column inches might get a little wider with wild speculation.

One bookies is apparently offering odds of 500/1 on it happening. I’m sure a few people will chance their arm and a few silly quid at this and at least they know that their bet will still be in tact at the end of this week, though for how much longer than that I can’t really be sure. But in an increasingly unpredictable world who knows? Perhaps the dark forces behind Brexit, Trump (not Judd, the insane one) and Kick-free chalk may once again conspire to rob Bazza of his precious lolly.

As ever they have had to grab some big name or other to say that they think the unthinkable can happen and when you need someone to do that the first person you turn to is of course Shaun Murphy. He claimed that while it was unlikely it wasn’t impossible and said he would relish being the last man standing by winning this week.

As hinted at above, I reckon there are only two players currently on the tour that would have a chance in hell of winning all four, probably most likely Mark Selby as Ronnie’s heart these days doesn’t really look to be in it. After labelling 70% of the tour ‘numpties’ he’s now busy plugging the latest book that he has *AHEM* written and telling everyone that if he hadn’t chosen snooker he’d probably have won an Olympic medal at running or been world champion at Formula One, so we are clearly very honoured to have nabbed him.

It all kicks off on Monday in Barno, unfortunately it’s another best of 7 job so the match betting doesn’t really appeal to me. It’s a big week this for Neil Robertson who as things stand looks highly unlikely to be lining up at The Masters, quite an extraordinary tumble down the rankings and a defeat in the Shanghai qualifiers last week to a player who hadn’t yet won on tour has really set the alarm bells ringing for fans of the Thunder, so a timely win here is more or less essential for him.

In terms of the outrights, just one from each section for me, but with 131 players starting out, it’s a bit of a lottery this, quite apt given the pot of gold on offer at the end of the rainbow.

Recommended Outrights: Barry Hawkins 22/1, John Higgins 14/1, Ding Junhui 10/1, Kyren Wilson 33/1. 

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

October 9, 2017

The Shanghai Masters (in Wigan)

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:20 pm

The local delicacy of Wiganers.

After much moaning and groaning from the players we finally now have the draw for the Shanghai Masters, the qualifying for which takes place at Robin Park in Wigan from Wednesday until Friday.

It’s caused a bit of a kerfuffle has this. For reasons apparently ‘beyond the control’ of the sport’s sole controlling body, the draw wasn’t made available last week when it should have been. This has led to a lot of players having to frantically arrange their travel plans at the last minute, including three players on mainland Europe who insist on making things awkward for World Snooker and more importantly themselves by living in their country of birth.

There were a few stabs at why this delay happened, claims that World Snooker had lost the draw hat proved unfounded as did one player’s assertion that someone had sabotaged the tombola used to pull all the names out.

However, I think I know what the problem might have been, it seems that more players have entered it than should have done, which has caused something of a headache for the draw makers and obviously this confusion led someone into a spiral of anxiety so much so that they phoned in sick and let others work it all out. Ban the wildcards.

The result is that the talented and improving Billy Joe Castle and rather cruelly Soheil Vahedi have to play an extra match, it seems a bit off picking on two tour newbies, one of whom has enough trouble as it is with visas without all this, but clearly World Snooker have no time for such sentiment and poor old SV has been well and truly shafted.

The matches this week are the best of nine and after some doubt as to whether this tournament would go ahead at all it’s nice that it’s been secured. The bad news, for me at least, is that what made it stand out, namely the tiered qualifying, is gone and we’re back to the flat draw, which I know some people think is the way forward but I’m more for a bit of variety myself.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has decided to have the afternoon off Twitter on Friday to line up against Chris Keogan, no doubt one of those players that Ronnie so affectionately refers to as a Numpty. Let’s see how he fares in his first match since his outburst, which was not exactly the best way of making new friends was it?

Here’s the draw and format for the qualifying round of the 2017 Shanghai Masters.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The 2017 main event will be held at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium from 13th to 18th November, 2017.

October 1, 2017

The European Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 2:11 pm

He’s no longer on the second floor

It’s been 23 years since ranking event snooker took place in Belgium but that long wait is finally over as the tour takes in Lommel this week for the European Masters, sponsored by *insert random bookie name* with a winners prize on offer of £75,000.

There’s a peculiar custom at least here in the UK about the lack of famous Belgians. I’m not sure where it comes from but ironically when someone here is asked what is the most famous thing you know about Belgium, one popular response is that there is nobody famous that comes from Belgium.

Some smartarse will probably tell you that Audrey Hepburn was Belgian, snooker buffs will point to the diminuitive referee Olivier Marteel, who amusingly, to me at least, is known in China as ‘The Belgian Truffle’, but there is definitely a new candidate emerging in the shape of The Belgian Bullet, Luca Brecel. He sits perched at the top of the one year ranking list and appears to be going from strength to strength on the baize, he’s also now looking very good for a place in The Masters and with a following wind, a seeded spot at The Crucible being up to 12th in snooker’s overall pecking order.

Whether he can yet claim to be Belgium’s finest export since Hepburn is of course open to debate but the olive loving potter with the lovely smile will be coming into this week full of confidence in front of an expectant home crowd, eager to impress again and build on his tremendous start to the season.

One player who has yet to find anything like his form is World Champion Mark Selby, who despite being stacks ahead of the rest on the main ranking list is currently languishing in 51st on the one-year list. He was of course hindered early on in the season after he dropped his wallet on his foot and nearly lost a toe, but he’s not got going at all since then, losing most recently to Lee Walker in China, but it’s surely only a matter of time until he starts brinkmanshipping himself back up the one year list, he’s due to meet Luca in the quarter finals this week.

As the nights begin to draw in it now starts to feel a bit more like weather for snooker. It’s pretty much full throttle in terms of tournaments from here until December with the gaping gap now having been plugged by the welcome return of The Shanghai Masters to the calendar.

Unfortunately this is another best of seven comp, which all but rules out match betting for me. I will however continue to play on the outrights in the forlorn hope that a big outsider might bring home the vegetarian bacon. One from each quarter it is again for me.

Recommended Outrights: Mark Allen 20/1, Ryan Day 28/1, Luca Brecel 33/1, Yan Bingtao 80/1. 

You can view the match schedule here and the draw can be found here.

The Eurosport TV schedule can be found here.

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