December 29, 2017

If it Ain’t Broken….

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:13 pm

There is one list which features a number of Chinese players at the top of it.

With the yuletide festivities out of the way it will soon be time again to turn our attention to the second half of a packed season on the baize. Barely a weekend will pass between now and the big one in Sheffield where there won’t be snooker of some description taking place somewhere on the planet.

The man widely held responsible for this wall to wall potting is of course, Barry Hearn, who is never short of a word or ten when it comes to promoting the sports he owns. Just a few weeks ago, he could be heard heralding snooker as ‘the envy of other sports’ in relation to the penalties being dished out to miscreants. Whether they are found to be in breach of betting rules or more rarely, if they have been caught red-handed fixing the outcome of a match or frame, you can be sure that Bazza’s bloodhounds will do their work.

Two common factors in all the cases that have been investigated by the snouts at the Integrity Unit are of course, betting and bookmakers. Invariably, where there is a suspected fix on, someone, somewhere is usually making quite a bit of money out of it. When this type of thing is detected, the bookies get straight on the Batphone to Integrity Chief Nigel Mawer and the wheels of justice start spinning into action, at varying degrees of speed, with resultant punishments following.

It is however, exceptionally rare that this happens, well, at least the punishment bit. The most recent cases where this has resulted in lengthy bans have involved Leo Fernandez, who couldn’t have been more careless in his delivery of a deliberate foul stroke to order and of course, Stephen Lee, who had a file as thick as an extra large double thick sliced loaf once they’d dug out all his various misdemeanours; handing him a career ending ban to have with his doorstep toast.

But is snooker as ruthlessly efficient in rooting out the crooks as Barry would have us believe? Well, my answer to that is no. There is still an open secret in the rank and file of the game that knows it still goes on and it is almost always in a match involving a player from either Thailand or China. It’s clear that this recurring phenomenon is also known to the governing body, why else would they confiscate mobile phones from players hailing from those regions when they arrive at venues as they have started doing recently?

I’m sure the three matches below from the last few months are not isolated incidents and they add to a growing annual list of encounters that have gone exactly to plan before them. It’s not for me to speculate who is behind these fixes, but my guess is that the players are simply obeying orders. Generally, we’d never get to know about them as the betting is limited to the backstreets and bars of the countries involved, but now and again some of this knowledge finds its way into mainstream online betting websites used in other parts of the world, usually two particular firms. Then when these moves are spotted, word spreads in the gambling community and that’s how the likes of me get to find out that the outcome of a match is preordained before a ball is struck.

Let me explain.

Exhibit A – European Masters, 4th August. Micheal Georgiou 4-1 Yu De Lu

In the above chart, the odds on Yu De Lu to win the match are on the right hand side and the eventual winner Georgiou’s are on the left. Put simply, when the odds were first compiled, the Chinese player was a fairly strong favourite to win the match. However, such was the demand for the opposite to happen that just a few hours later Georgiou was being backed at ridiculously short odds to win at Pinnacle and Marathonbet, the two firms who routinely seem to take the hit when this sort of thing goes on. Georgiou rode out a very cosy winner racing to a largely unchallenged three frame lead and landing the gamble.

Exhibit B – Indian Open, 12th September. Matt Selt 4-0 Cao Yupeng

A less significant shift in odds than the previous example but still a marked one. Selt (left hand column) started favourite for the match with recent Scottish Open runner-up Cao marginally odds against. However, as momentum built, Cao’s odds lengthened at Marathonbet and by the time it all began he had drifted a point in the match market, which is pretty rare in snooker, where bookmakers tend to take a line and stick to it. Selt completed the 4-0 victory in rather pedestrian style with just one break over 50, a 55 to be exact. Cao scored just 76 points in the match. The gamble landed again.

Exhibit C – German Masters, 21st December. Mark Joyce 5-2 Lu Haotian

This is a good one. This was what one might define as a ‘quick fix’. Pinnacle this time taking a last minute hit on a Joyce win. In the 36 minutes prior to the start of the match the money started coming in for the Walsall man and the point drift in the odds on the Chinese player kicked in in the time it takes for Fergal O’Brien to eye up a long blue. Perhaps this is the new trend eagle-eyed punters will be looking out for in 2018. The last minute quick fix again delivered the desired result, from 2-2 at the interval, it was one way traffic on their return, perhaps after Lu got his phone back.

So, are these just coincidences? Well, that of course could be argued, but they stand out from the hundreds of other matches that have been played this season already. The money being gambled at online firms is probably from odds watchers on the other side of the world from the bars in China where the whole sting is being stage managed.

It seems clear from various responses from Barry on social media that he is aware of this, he talks of ‘ongoing investigations’ but we are yet to see or hear any evidence of these or any action that is being taken, other than the confiscation of phones, which may be a case of ‘after the horse has bolted’, ‘too little too late’ etc.

Spare a thought here for Stephen Lee, however you might feel about him and what he did, he was suspended immediately following a defeat to John Higgins in the Premier League in 2012 ‘on suspicion of match fixing’ and was never allowed back on the tour from that day forward. Why aren’t we seeing similar ‘pending investigations’ in matches where the outcome has already been shared around the snooker Twitter community with eerie accuracy? Particularly where there is evidence of price drifts as above, prior to the matches in question.

The arguments as to why this happens will be repeated again but the plain fact is that unless it is tackled it will continue as it has done now for years.

To single out De Lu, Yupeng and Haotian would be unfair without also singling out Zhang Anda, Tian Pengfei, Liang Wenbo and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh all of whom have been involved in matches with similar betting patterns to the ones above in the past. That’s even before we mention those who have disappeared from the tour over the years and have gone back to the amateur game in Thailand, where I’m sure there are rich pickings to be made.

So what, if anything, can be done? I’d not go down the obvious road of again questioning snooker’s relationship with gambling, the two have always been close as it could be argued are all sports to a greater or lesser degree. Instead, I’d perhaps argue that this is an inevitable consequence of the globalisation of the sport. Unfortunately, it’s not on everyone’s cultural compass to play fair, it’s also not on your average Chinese or Thai backstreet illegal bookie’s moral compass to not issue some pretty nasty threats should they not get their way.

In the meantime, punters over here will continue to bet on matches in good faith, unaware that in some cases, the result is pre-determined many many miles away. Or you could of course just become an ‘odds watcher’ and follow the money…..

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas Everyone

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:05 pm

Thanks to all readers for your company both on here and on Twitter this year. I’m not blogging as much as I used to and in the spirit of the modern game, very much ‘picking and choosing’ events to cover and to watch.

The next blog you will see on here might ruffle a few feathers. As well as eating and drinking to excess I’m spending the next week gathering and adding to evidence of the continued presence of match fixing in snooker. But let’s not ruin anyone’s Christmas.

In the meantime, be kind to animals, consider rescuing one or donating to charity that helps them, don’t bet on or visit greyhound racing and have a lovely Christmas. My favourite Christmas song of the year is featured below. 

December 11, 2017

Scottish Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:07 am

After a pulsating week in York it’s now time to head North of the Border for the Scottish Open from Glasgow, the third leg of the Home Nations series and the final full event of 2017.

I’ll not be covering this on here as it’s not an event that I can really get my teeth into or get excited about. Following this and before the Christmas break there are German Masters qualifiers in Barnsley next week, then finally the potters get a bit of a rest.

For now I’ll just bash a few interest outrights out but like I say, I’ll probably give this one a wide berth. You can see the draw here and the match schedule here and the event is covered live on Eurosport.

Recommended Outright Picks: Neil Robertson 16/1, Yan Bingtao 33/1, Joe Perry 50/1 and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh at 150/1.

December 10, 2017

UK Championship Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:41 am

The best of enemies

The final of the UK Championship is once again being contested between two giants of the game. We may have had a fortnight of shocks but as so often happens, when all is said and done it’s big players that win this and 2017 in York will prove no exception.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is going for a record equalling 6th title, only Steve Davis has won this 6 times, even Hendry only managed to win 5 so it’s a chance for Ronald to once again trump the Scot today.

He faces Shaun Murphy, once champion and once a runner-up. Murphy has got steadily better as the week has gone along and given he managed to beat Ronnie in their last final a few weeks ago in Coventry you’d hope that he won’t let The Rocket command from the start as he has been allowed to do in his previous two matches, racing to 4-0 leads over Gould and yesterday, Stephen Maguire.

Their head to head shows Ronnie ahead, but you just get the feeling that Shaun is beginning to peg this back a little lately. Ronnie has benefited this week from opponents failing to take their chances, he’s left quite a few but both Gould and Maguire and to some extent Akani have let him off the hook, will Murphy capitulate in the same way? You would think not.

Revenge will be on Ronnie’s mind as he did not look best amused at losing that final last time. It’s an open secret that the two of these don’t really get on which adds to the atmosphere whenever they meet on the big stage, you can’t beat a bit of needle.

Having recommended Murphy at 25/1 each way in the main preview I can happily sit back and enjoy the match, cheering on for The Magician. If someone was threatening to shoot all my known family unless I made a prediction and given the Nostradamus like accuracy of the semi-final post yesterday I’d plump for a 10-6 win for O’Sullivan given the way his matches have gone this week, but I hope I’m wrong and I hope that Murphy wins, if only so I can crow next time I am invited back onto the radio that this was my first ever radio tip.

It’s been a very enjoyable week, but after this I’m not going to bother with the Scottish Open which starts tomorrow. We’re back to the grindstone of Best of 7 comps which I’m not a fan of, so I’ll just hope that Murphy can upgrade our Christmas nut roast to a luxury mushroom wellington with a triumph today and then see you all back here for The Masters.

December 9, 2017

UK Championship: Semi Final Saturday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:56 am

The BBC deal is far from a shambles

So here we have it, we’re down to the infamous ‘one table situation’ in York as the final four players contest the best of eleven frames semi finals today after what has been a very entertaining championship.

Barry Hearn turned up at the venue yesterday and when he makes an appearance on your screens it’s usually because he’s got something to announce and yesterday was no exception. This time he was there to reaffirm the BBC’s commitment to showing snooker in the afternoons, unless of course there is some posh boys rugby on or it clashes with a particularly important episode of Flog It. They have further committed to putting it on the red button in the evenings for the next 5 years unless there is something better on at the same time. The Beeb will continue to cover one table at the big three events, namely this, The Masters and the World Championship.

It’s not been confirmed yet whether Dennis Taylor comes as part of the overall deal. Tense negotiations are ongoing and dwarf anything that’s been done so far on Brexit, which let’s face it wouldn’t be difficult. Dennis is asked to sit outside and talk about golf and Patsy Fagan with passers-by while the grown ups make a decision. It’s thought that the deal is worth millions but as ever Bazza is trying to get it on the cheap and pleading with the BBC to include Dennis to bring the price down. More news when I have it.

Anyway, enough of my gossip, here’s what we have to look forward to today, including a mouth watering match this afternoon, click on the match for the head to head stats.

1pm – Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stephen Maguire

Rumour has it that Martin Gould spent most of his pre-match time yesterday carelessly lounging around the venue while Ronnie played on the practice table for a couple of hours. This certainly told as O’Sullivan basically got the match won in the first half an hour before Gould could find anything like his touch. The gifts he handed Ronnie early on wouldn’t have looked out of place under the tree on Christmas Day and the grateful Rocket lapped them up. Whether a better prepared player might have given him a sterner test remains to be seen and possibly will be seen today. Maguire is in fine fettle coming into this and presents Ronnie with possibly his first real test of the championship. As you’d expect, the head to heads strongly favour O’Sullivan, but they have only faced each other twice in anything meaningful in the last 5 years, with one win apiece. I’ve had a feeling all week that at some point Ronnie will come unstuck, but all too often players just seem to melt when they come face to face with him, I don’t think Maguire will, but this has allowed Ronald to build up a head of steam and perhaps now we’ll see him at his very best. I think he’ll shade it, but I think Maguire will push him harder than anyone has all week. Let’s face it, if he’d have caught him in the form he was in against Akani he’d have beaten him, but now there is another win under his belt he faces a more focused animal. Remember in an interesting sub-plot, Maguire is playing this match to nick Liang Wenbo’s Masters slot, with the rest of the field now decided.

Predicted: O’Sullivan 6-4 

7pm – Shaun Murphy v Ryan Day 

Christmas at SB Towers will be upgraded if Murphy can carry off the 25/1 recommended bet this weekend but first he has to contend with snooker’s new deciding frame specialist Ryan Day, who has now finally done enough to be playing at The Masters after Christmas and you have to say deservedly so. Murphy walloped Mark King in the last round and has looked pretty good since his very lucky escape against Liam Highfield earlier on in the tournament. The draw has fallen nicely for him with Higgins and Selby going out early and now just Day stands in the way of him and another grand slam final. Their head to heads tell us very little as the vast majority of them have been in lowly events so we just have to take this one on form coming into it. Day has had three deciders on the spin now and has come through them all so the last thing Shaun will want is this to go close. Perhaps now that The Masters race is run Day will relax a little, but this is still a huge match for him, possibly you might argue the biggest of his long career and it remains to be seen if he’ll rise to the occasion. My guess is that this will be one of those matches where Shaun imposes himself from the start and keeps distance between them, so I’ll take The Magician to pull another winning performance out of the hat and land the each way spoils.

Predicted: Murphy 6-3  

December 8, 2017

UK Championship Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:00 am

Things are hotting up in York

After a pulsating night on the baize last night which saw Ronnie O’Sullivan narrowly scrape through against Sunny Akani we’re now into Quarter Final Friday. All four quarter finals take place today and as well as the prestige of the UK title itself there is still also the sub-plot of the final line up for The Masters next month still very much in the balance.

Liang Wenbo is in a very precarious position as things stand and he’ll be hoping that the top half of the draw is won by O’Sullivan and that Mark King doesn’t make the final, I think I’m right in saying that if those two things happen he’s safe. Ryan Day now looks almost certain to be lining up in Ally Pally but I’m sure there are anoraks out there who can think of a permutation to stop that happening (I’m guessing a King v anyone but Ronnie final and a certain result in said final would bump Day out)….anyway, this blog is not for anoraks so let’s have a butchers at the four matches taking place today.

Click on the match for the head to head.


Stephen Maguire v Joe Perry

Two old hands who seem to be at the top of their game this week meet here and one look at the head to head stats shows you who has been the dominant force of the two down the years. It’s almost a decade since Perry last beat Maguire, with 11 meetings since, of varying importance all being won by the Scot. That said, strangely, Perry has won probably their most important match up in the World Championship Quarter Finals back in 2008 in a decider, so if he’s trying to muster up some confidence he could do worse than watch a few shots of that match on You Tube before this afternoon. Quite why Mags has such a dominance over a player who has always been more or less his equal in the rankings for years is a mystery to me but one of the quirks of the game sometimes. Perry was magnificent the other night against Mark Allen and a repeat of that performance has to give him a real chance of breaking this hoodoo, but I’ve been very impressed by Maguire all week and coupled with the head to head will take him to snatch a close one.

Prediction: Maguire 6-4 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Martin Gould

Just the three past meetings between these two and all of them have been won by The Rocket. I think the one thing we can safely predict here is an open game, Gould seems to thrive sometimes when thrown in the bear pit and it would be no surprise to me if he were to cause an upset here. Ronnie had a long night last night but he seems sharp of mind and focus this week and I don’t think that this will be a factor in the match. I would say however that Ronnie is missing more than he usually does this week and let’s be honest, he should really have lost last night and I dare say a more experienced player would have punished him more than Sunny did. There is a school of thought which says Ronnie already has one and a half hands on the trophy but I’m not sure I agree. I’m going to predict a shock this afternoon, the aftertimers are going to love this one.

Prediction: Gould 6-4


Shaun Murphy v Mark King

Mark King appears to be riding the crest of a wave of late, a newly found confidence borne of not having to worry so much about where the money for his next tattoo is coming from seems to have given him a real career Indian Summer. Yet again though we have a heavily one-sided match up in terms of head to heads here. The pair have met 14 times and King has won just once, though it must be noted that Murphy’s hold over him was broken in the China Open last year, once Mark had broken his ranking title duck. They met last month in the Champion of Champions on Shaun’s way to lifting the title and although Murphy does have a major edge in their past duels, he never really dishes out a hammering. King’s confidence and cockney sparrow-like charm is quite infectious these days and I think it’s winning him an army of new and nostalgic fans, Murphy gave Ricky Walden a right old walloping yesterday but you’d expect the MK Don to put up more of a fight given his recent form. I think this one will follow a similar pattern to a lot of their previous meetings with Shaun keeping Mark at arms length. Oh yes, I’m not really sure about all this Kojak stuff, it sounds like something that a 5 year old would make up.

Prediction: Murphy 6-4     

Ryan Day v Mark Joyce

The fourth Quarter Final again is heavily weighted in terms of previous meetings. This time, 7 matches played and Day has won 6 of them. You have to say that Day has been extremely impressive this week and for me the most impressive thing about him is that when he’s been asked real questions he has responded, two deciding frames of dominance is not something that you’d immediately associate with Ryan Day but that’s just what he’s dished out in the last two rounds. Joyce is an enigma to me, he just seems every now and again to post results that far outweigh his lowly ranking position while routinely losing to anyone that can hold a cue for three quarters of the season. I’ll obviously favour Day here but anyone betting on this one needs their head examining, it is with absolutely zero confidence or conviction that I make the prediction below, so watch it land.

Prediction: Day 6-3  

December 6, 2017

UK Championship Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:48 am

The final 16 players left in this year’s UK Championship will be battling it out for the next two days as the arena closes in and we’re now down to what is always referred to as the ‘two table situation’ where the atmosphere at The Barbican really intensifies.

John Higgins once again takes centre stage this afternoon against Mark King alongside the Battle of the Jocks as Graeme Dott locks horns with Stephen Maguire. The chasing pack are making things very awkward in terms of who will be at The Masters in January with Day, King, Maguire, Gould, Perry and Walden all still in it here. Just when Ryan Day, who plays this evening, shook off the challenge of Neil Robertson he now has that crowd breathing down his neck too. It’s still all up in the air and every match in this round bar the two evening ones tomorrow will have a bearing on the final Ally Pally line up with Liang Wenbo and Anthony McGill still uncertain of their starting places and needing results to go their way.

There are just 5 of the current top 16 left in the event which is a new record. The defeats for Barry Hawkins and Luca Brecel yesterday cemented the new age of the numpties and just Ronnie, Higgins, Murphy, Allen and Day are left there, though technically you could argue that Day is actually 17th given we are playing without Stuart Bingham, I’ll leave the official decision to the anoraks on that one.

Anyway, here’s the line up for the next 48 hours. Outright pick Murphy (25/1) is still in there grappling. In terms of fancies in matches they are all so hard to call but given that Dotty has struggled a little with consistency after big wins in the past I think Maguire could win their clash this afternoon. I’d hazard a guess that the increasingly impressive Lyu Haotian will beat Mark Joyce to the delight of Joyce’s mum and it will be interesting to see how Ronnie copes with the speed and tactics of his opponent, who whitewashed Hawkins last night. It’s all up for grabs.

December 1, 2017

UK Championship Last 64 – A weekend in York

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:24 am

The BBC rolls into town on Saturday to pick up the coverage of the UK Championship after the first round has been done and dusted so it’s time to dim the lights, put the fire on and settle down to watch a week of quality snooker as the cold wintry nights take hold. Bliss. 

There have been a couple of big news stories over the first few days, firstly we had the continuing saga of Ding Junhui’s poor run of form. Whether this can be attributed to the problems he has been having with his eyes recently is unclear, but from 5-1 up and coasting he managed to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory and it was Leo Fernandez who booked his place into the second round.

The other big story was none other than Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White. The Peter Pan of Snooker rolled back the years to score a famous victory over Ali Carter. It’s amazing to think that Jimmy is still in there punching, I remember as a very young kid absolutely idolising him and crying when he lost the World Championship final in 1984, then a decade later wondering how he missed ‘that black’ against Hendry. To think that today he is still competing and winning at the top level is quite something, he plays Norwegian Cockney Kurt Maflin next on Saturday night.

Other than those, most of the first round matches went according to the seedings, 49 of the 64 highest seeded players won and other than the two matches mentioned, you wouldn’t really class any of the other ones were the lower ranked player came through as a huge shock. Notable mention should also go to Ken Doherty, who has been in good form all season and came through 6-3 against Gary Wilson and now faces Neil Robertson for a place in the Last 32 on Saturday afternoon, with the BBC axing Willie and JV on commentaries for this you’d think they’ll be hoping Kendo doesn’t get much further or the rest of them will be racking up the overtime.

The matches for the weekend are listed below along with match times, recommended bets below. I’m off to York on Sunday so I dare say I’ll be tweeting the usual nonsense while I’m nosing around and getting the usual tellings off behind the scenes. If you’ve nothing better to do, which I’m sure you have, you can follow me on there.



Recommended Bets: Weekend Monster Acca pays just over 12/1 on Dave Gilbert, Stephen Maguire, Marco Fu, Luca Brecel, Kyren Wilson, Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Anthony McGill, Martin Gould and Barry Hawkins. Doubles, Trebles and an Acca (Acca pays over 23/1) on Lyu Haotian, Jack Lisowski, Alan McManus and Jamie Jones. Singles on Mitchell Mann (4/1) and Chris Wakelin (6/1).

Powered by WordPress

Website transfer complete