November 29, 2017

UK Championship: Thursday in York

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:21 pm

It’s been a decent start on the betting front to the UK Championship with the longer matches feeling far more in my comfort zone when it comes to the trademark accumulators.

I think the temptation sometimes in these events is just to lump in the top players in these multiple bets regardless of any other factors and usually, I guess, that would work over the longer format, but I’m glad I dodged Ding Junhui. His price was ridiculously short given his recent eye problems and the swerve paid off. I have got a couple of wily old punters that can vouch for me being uncharacteristically wise before the event on that one if anyone thinks I’m just crowing….as if I would?

Similarly, it’s really not worth putting any potentially banana-skinny players on your accas at silly odds-on prices (anything over around 1/7) at this stage, even if they do romp home against opponents who could probably turn them over one in ten times over a best of seven. The days of 16-folds on the first round of the snooker as a banker are I’m afraid, long gone.

I’ve kicked off my own acca tonight by including John Astley to beat Scott Donaldson to double the stake/odds on the one below but in terms of a recommended I’d stick with the ones listed. I might bash a few odds and sods on Twitter over the next few days if anyone is bored enough to follow me on there. 

Recommended Mini-Monster SB Acca Bet for Thursday pays 11/2 with Marathon Bet: Dave Gilbert, Graeme Dott, Mark Williams, Alan McManus, Ali Carter, Chris Wakelin and Michael Holt.   

Hold on to your Hats: Crazy Snooker Returns!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:05 am

Having already witnessed some crazy action on the table in Day 1 with the exit of Ding Junhui, it seems timely to once again touch base with those wacky dudes at the championship sponsors Betway, who have again been subjecting a few of our potters to their Crazy Snooker antics ahead of the big event after the success of their campaign last year which stacked up more than 500k views online in just a few days. Does that count as viral?

They promise that this year’s offering is bigger and better and, wait for it, CRAZIER!! than ever before. It’s so crazy that they have even enlisted Dennis and JP to have a go alongside established and very non-crazy tour players Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson. Neil returns to the scene of his bitter defeat last year to serial winner Mark Selby to try and go one better in a doubles match with Kyren’s help.

It’s yet to be confirmed whether Barry Hearn is considering granting this event ranking status, but it’s probably more entertaining than the Shootout so it wouldn’t be that controversial would it? Anyway, for all you crazy dudes out there, have a watch, can the Legends outgun the tour players? Can Neil reverse his harrowing defeat of last year? Can Dennis, in his element being able to finally talk about golf with good reason, resist the urge to name drop his famous and long dead golf pals or mention Cliff Thorburn flying in first-class?

All will be revealed below in this belting two-parter, with guffaws aplenty. Those crazy guys…..

November 27, 2017

UK Championship: Solid Selby can Reign Supreme

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:25 am

It’s that time of year again, the time when the BBC vans rock up to the snooker and declare that there’s not really been much happening on the baize since Hazel and the gang left us in Sheffield. Yes, it’s the first ‘major’ event of the season in York as this fantastic city opens it’s doors to the anoraks once again for the UK Championship.

It’s no secret that some snooker fans, myself included, would rather this be a bit more like it used to be, two session matches throughout, not as many players at the venue and a maximum of two tables in use. 

I’d say that from the purists point of view, what Bazza has done to this event represents one of his very few mistakes since assuming his dictatorship. It just doesn’t feel as prestigious as it used to, but it’s still a lot better than most of the other events on the calendar and the host city is fabulous so I’ll just leave my annual gripe parked there.

Mark Selby returns as defending champion, last year his victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final marks the last meeting between the pair, who can theoretically meet again at the business end if their form holds up, they start understandably as joint favourites to lift the trophy a week on Sunday.

This historic tournament usually sees the cream of the crop rise to the top and in the past decade it has only been won by 2 players, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui, who have not been world champions. In fact, since it was made a ranking event all the way back in 1984, there has only been 1 winner, Stephen Maguire, who has not contested a world championship final, so you’d suspect that the likelihood of a surprise name racing through the field this year is pretty slim. Basically, big names win this.

So other than Selby and Ronnie, who comes into this in fine fettle? Well, you’d have to give Shaun Murphy a chance after his performance in Coventry and in particular the way he dispensed with O’Sullivan in the final. I’m quite surprised to see him as long as 25/1 in places, that could be great value. Judd Trump, despite his show of petulance in Belfast in losing to Stuart Carrington, is in decent form and is overdue a major win, it’s also a big tournament for Neil Robertson, whose Masters chances depend on a decent run and other results going his way. John Higgins is also as dependable as ever and the longer matches we know will suit him.

Ding Junhui is an interesting proposition in this, he’s been having some serious problems with his eyes recently so it will be interesting to see if he is fully over this following a truly awful display in Coventry a couple of weeks ago, Northern Ireland winner Mark Williams has his own issues back home and it remains to be seen if he can retain his form and his focus in this, the man he beat in the final, 17 year old Yan Bingtao could theoretically break the pattern of an established player making off with the title as could Luca Brecel but you have to say that history is stacked against that happening. Other possible outsiders might include former finalist Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson, Barry Hawkins and Ali Carter, but you really have to fancy one of the big boys to land the spoils and this is of course reflected in the outright market, with the possible exception of that price on Murphy which really has to be taken even without looking at the draw.

Recommended Outrights: Mark Selby at 5/1. Each Way on Shaun Murphy at 25/1. Each Way on Ali Carter at 80/1. Each Way on Anthony McGill at 125/1.

Recommended Tuesday and Wednesday First Round Monster Acca: Ryan Day, Marco Fu, Kyren Wilson, Stephen Maguire, Ricky Walden, Luca Brecel, Anthony McGill, Hossein Vafaei, Jimmy Robertson, Shaun Murphy pays over 6/1 at Marathon Bet.           

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The BBC’s coverage of the event gets under way on Saturday.

November 20, 2017

Northern Ireland Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:02 am

Belfast plays host this week to the Northern Ireland Open, the second leg of the Home Nations Series which sees last week’s winner in Shanghai, Ronnie O’Sullivan continue his unlikely quest towards snatching Bazza’s million pound bonus.

It’s back to the old PTC format, numpties and all, for this one so it’s not a tournament I’m that excited about. Interest will obviously increase if Ronald manages to win it and go half way towards the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But my focus lies in what follows, namely the UK Championship which kicks off next week in York, but for those interested in a best of seven conveyor belt style event the matches are listed here and you can enjoy it all to your heart’s content on Eurosport and on Quest. 

November 14, 2017

Countdown to the UK Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:27 am

The headline is my very lazy and brief way of saying that coverage of the events going on in the snooker calendar up to the big one in York at the end of the month will not be extensive here. The Shanghai Masters is already underway following the excellent Champion of Champions event in Coventry and next weeks sees Leg 2 of the Million Pound Drop in Belfast. It’s a big week for fans of Ronnie who I’d hazard a guess won’t be too bothered by an early exit in China to prepare.

As ever all you need to know in terms of fixtures and scores is at the official World Snooker site and coverage of both these events continues at apace on Eurosport and Quest for Freeview viewers. I’ll be back in the land of the potting in plenty of time for York.  

November 10, 2017

COC – It’s Semi Time

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:35 am

Just finished his tea wi two

It’s been a decent week of snooker so far in Coventry for the Champion of Champions and we now move to the business end of the tournament with two evening session semi-finals over the next two days before the 19 frame finale on Sunday.

The main surprise you’d say is that none other than The Sheriff of Pottingham has made it into the last four. He dispensed with a way under par Ding Junhui before brushing aside Ryan Day and now he takes his place this evening alongside the odds-on tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan.

On Tuesday, Shaun Murphy produced some heavy scoring to see off Michael White having dispensed with Mark King earlier in the day and he faces the young man that a lot of the snooker world are beginning to get excited about, Wednesday’s winner Luca Brecel.

The Belgian Olive Loving Bullet produced a blistering display to whitewash Judd Trump in his first match in double quick time, including two centuries. He then knuckled down to see off Mark Selby, who despite feeling a little tired still played his usual tenacious game but still fell short, in part because of a tremendous clearance in the last frame from Luca when it looked for all the world like going 5-5.

On Thursday it was the turn of O’Sullivan to impress, dropping just one frame in beating Neil Robertson before whitewashing John Higgins for the first time this millennium. Ronnie wasn’t at his absolute best but was extremely solid and clearly played Higgins at his own game, Higgins for whatever reason was pretty careless even to the point that he seemed to have forgotten how to break off. In fact it was probably the most un-Higgins like Higgins performance from him for a good couple of years.

Ronald was very chipper afterwards and declared how much he likes this ‘numpty free zone’ event and I agree with him, not on the numpty bit, but on the event as a whole. It’s now firmly established in my top five of the season, both in terms of the format and the coverage. It’s nice to mix up these formats a bit, something that a lot of the tournaments don’t do and when you do things a little bit different while staying true to the spirit of the sport I think it can still work very well.

Very decent crowds all week in the smaller more compact Coventry venue also add to the cosy feel as do the regular sojourns to the guys and girl at the Johnstones Decorating Centre, where life is lived in a bubble of banter, a trough of free tea and a wholesome ‘happy to help’ environment. It’s a place where the sun always shines.

In other news, World Snooker announced this week that the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield will return to play host to the World Championship qualifiers after a few years over at Ponds Forge. It’s been welcomed by the players though the more astute observers have highlighted that the set up this time will require more tables than previous years when it’s been held there so we’ll wait and see how that pans out.

Anyway, it’s Hamilton v Ronnie today and Murphy v Luca tomorrow. I’d be backing a Ronnie/Luca final and you know what? I wouldn’t put it past Brecel going home with the spoils (9/2 best price). Amazingly, the Belgian is still 66/1 in places for The Masters, you have been told.

I’m off for a six inch roller. See you later.

November 6, 2017

It’s COC Time: The Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:47 am

Da ITV Massive

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again when I am routinely unfollowed on Twitter for making use of the best hashtag snooker has to offer. The Ricoh Arena in Coventry once again plays host to the Champion of Champions event featuring 16 winners of random events chosen in no particular order from the last 12 months.

The qualifying criteria for this is a thing of great mystery, the list doesn’t really appear to make a great deal of sense in terms of a pecking order, with the UK Championship and The Masters higher than the World Championship and the Championship League ahead of other more high profile events such as the International Championship and the Home Nations events.

Indeed the runner up in Sheffield is afforded the mantle of a champion anyway ahead of a few other events and even the winner of the Shootout gets in. It truly is back of a fag packet stuff at its finest.

As there are players who could have qualified for this more than once, the likes of Selby, Higgins, Trump, Ding and Ronnie, they often have the reach right down to arse end of the tour to make up the field. This time Neil Robertson gets in by the skin of his teeth by virtue of a win in Hong Kong that nobody watched, while 6 Reds Champion Mark Williams misses out.

Robbo didn’t just benefit from Selby winning in China yesterday and keeping Mark Allen out but also from Stuart Bingham’s suspension, so you might say Lady Luck has already smiled on the Aussie, though he does face O’Sullivan in his first round match so that kinda might even things out a bit.

OK, so the lowdown is that The Champion of Champions features 16 players who are split into four groups of four players with each group comprising two semi-finals played over seven frames in the afternoon session, followed by a final in the evening played over 11 frames.

The four group winners proceed to the best of 11 semi-finals, with the Group One winner facing the Group Four winner on Friday, November 10 and the players emerging from Groups Two and Three up against each other on the evening of Saturday, November 11.

The 19-frame final will be played over two sessions on Sunday, November 12.

I quite like this event. Though I do feel there are a couple of players missing who would have made it even better, in particular Allen, who seems to be coming into form. Other notable absentees are of course Williams, Ali Carter and Kyren Wilson, but the field still screams quality and the ITV coverage adds to the whole package. It’s a tournament that I’ll probably get to see a lot of this week, unlike some of the more recent ‘samey’ type events.

So let’s take a look at the draw:

Eyes are immediately drawn to Wednesday and Thursday’s groups. The tournament is arguably tailor made this year for O’Sullivan, who could in theory play two matches on Thursday, one evening session job on Friday, promote his new book and do some cooking on Saturday, before picking up the trophy on Sunday. But the same could of course be said for his main rival in the group, the holder John Higgins.

Group One for me looks to be a decent draw for Ding Junhui. Barry Hawkins hasn’t been playing too well so far this season, Anthony Hamilton has been rarely seen and rumours continue of his crippling back problems so I’d say Ryan Day is the main threat to Ding progressing to the weekend.

Group Two’s favourite has to be Shaun Murphy, Marco Fu is another who isn’t quite producing yet at this point in the season but it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for either Michael White or Mark King to produce a semi-shock there, but I’ll stick with Murphy I think.

Group Three is an absolute corker, Selby should have had time to recover and is on his way home as I write, but the mouthwatering clash between Judd and Luca will produce a tough evening opponent for him assuming he takes care of Liang Wenbo in the afternoon.

Finally, let’s face it, we all want to see Ronnie v John on Thursday night over the best of 11 don’t we? Robbo continues to struggle with his form but McGill could put his little fly in the ointment given he has a decent record against his fellow Scot, for that reason alone I’d take O’Sullivan for this group given that the format suits him to the inch.

Overall, I’ll stick with Ronnie to win it but the permutations for this are so multiple and a final involving him or Ding, Murphy, Selby, Judd or even Luca is well on the cards. I’ll stick with trebles and an acca on the groups I think for now as it could still be a coin toss when the semi-finals are decided anyway so no real point going in on the outrights until then.

Recommended Bet: Trebles and an Accumulator on Group Winners: Ding, Murphy, Selby and O’Sullivan – Accumulator pays over 26/1.

Match Double: Day to beat Hawkins and White to beat Fu pays 9/2. Ding to beat Hamilton 4-0 at 17/4.  

As well as the ITV coverage this is also live on Facebook and a number of TV channels around the globe. Full details here.

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