November 30, 2018

The UK Championship – The BBC comes to town

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:31 am


It’s that time of year again when Joe Public in the UK thinks the snooker season starts. Yes, the first BBC coverage of the six month old season gets underway tomorrow in York with the last 64 of the UK Championship.

I’ve had a lovely time this week, we’ve just rescued another hound so I’ve decided to stay at home for the duration of this event, apart from a couple of days next week when I’m heading there, and I’ve been watching the excellent live streaming on Eurosport Player.

The reason it’s been so enjoyable is because firstly, there is no commentary, just the relaxing clicking of the balls and polite audience applause and secondly, they leave the cameras rolling all day so you really get a sense of what it’s like to be there.

If I could wish one thing it would be that they did this for all events; that we at least had the option of watching and listening and just interpreting the action on our own instead of being subjected at times to inane babbling and daft catchphrases and jokes as old as Anthony Hamilton’s trousers. That’s what I want for Christmas.

But for all that, I do still look forward to the BBC coming back, granted my sense of heightened anticipation is more or less done the minute Dennis opens his mouth but there’s still something nostalgic about it all, like slipping on a comfy old pair of fluffy slippers and having a mug of tea while listening to Val Doonican’s greatest hits, we all love a bit of nostalgia don’t we? No? Just me then? Oh well.

The first round has thrown up two big shocks, firstly Mark Selby continuing his ongoing York-based nightmare and getting pumped by James Cahill and secondly, the woefully out of form Shaun Murphy falling to the Chinese player Chen Feilong. Both big surprises and even more so when you see that Murphy was seemingly coasting at 3-1 up then managed to lose five on the bounce.

This prompted one particular poster on Twitter to suggest that Shaun pursue a different career, which I’d suggest is a little harsh given he’s made quite a bit of bunce out of knocking balls around with a stick, he’s even got one of those mowers that you sit down on, that’s how you know life is going well. Anyway, I’m sure Shaun won’t follow this well-meaning chap’s advice, instead he’ll probably double his effort in an attempt to silence the critics. Failing that he can always wave to them from his sit-down mower. 

All the other big names are through though Anthony McGill counted himself out of the race to The Masters with a defeat, with Jack Lisowski still in the driving seat for the 16th spot as things stand and the likes of Ali Carter, Marco Fu, Joe Perry and Dave Gilbert in hot pursuit and Maguire, Brecel and Day (also out) still not certain of their starting place at Ally Pally.

I’ll be posting match bets on Twitter and anyone who has been following will know that it’s been a pretty good week on the punting front, particularly yesterday, we were also just one frame shy of landing a whopper from the main preview, I’ll be having stern words with Eden Sharav next time I see him. The main acca only missed out because Ken Doherty rolled back the years and he now meets Ronnie on Sunday afternoon, I wonder if he can raise his game again?

Here is also a look at the latest standings in the Tipster Contest, the exit of Selby hitting a lot of those involved with a hammer blow.

The match schedule can be found here. Over to you Hazel….


November 27, 2018

The Reny’s Arc / Black Type UK Championship Tipster Contest – Team Picks

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:00 pm

Ahead of the start of the UK Championship I thought it might be interesting to see which players the 83 people who have entered favoured in the tipster contest.

As you’d expect, Ronnie tops the list with 62 of the 83 entrants choosing him from Group 1 so it’s fair to say that if he were to lose early it could be a very small group challenging at the end. He is closely followed by Jack Lisowski and Ryan Day from Group 3 with Kyren Wilson being the top pick in Group 2 and Dave Gilbert the most favoured in the fourth group.

Oh yes, and how quickly we forget, the World Champion Mark Williams has been selected by just 1 team captain, fewer than any of other 23 players.

Can Willo have the last laugh again?


November 23, 2018

UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:29 am

It’s a great time of year for snooker fans this as we all shift attention to The Barbican in York for the UK Championship, the first of the BBC events this season and only a few short weeks later the other side of Christmas we have The Masters, for which the final field of 16 will be decided in York.

There is a lot of talk amongst snooker fans that the UK isn’t the event that it used to be. Indeed, I myself feel a bit less excited about it than I used to, the eroding of the match lengths and the flat 128 draw to me make it feel a bit less prestigious, but weigh that against the excellent venue, apart from the Sports Hall, and the fact that the BBC give it some airtime (though again not as much as they used to) and it is what it is.

As you’d expect, all the big names are involved and once we get past the first three rounds (or as Ronnie prefers to refer to them, the Numpty Rounds) things will begin to take shape. Looking at the draw, the main protagonists all seem on paper to have a strong chance of making the latter stages but I’m sure we’ll see someone take on the mantle of David ‘Amazing’ Grace a few years back and go deep when you least expect.

I’m firmly of the opinion however that we’re not going to see an unexpected name lift the trophy at the end, the draw simply can’t allow it as the players who come good in major events are mainly keeping out of each others way until the last 16 or in some cases the last 8. I’ve looked at each quarter individually below and given my usual masterful, crystal-ballesque insight.

Quarter One:

The holder Ronnie O’Sullivan is a firm favourite to make the semi-finals and you have to say that the draw has been particularly generous to The Rocket. His form is rock solid and he’s winning and knocking in tons for fun so he is definitely the man to beat here. On balance I’d say the two players with the best chance of doing that in this section are Jack Lisowski and Shaun Murphy. Last year’s runner-up Murphy is in desperate need of a run in this to get into the ranking events later in the season as he is languishing currently at 54th in the one year list and struggling to find his game, conversely, Lisowski is flying and continuing where he left off last season and is assured of his place in at least 2 of the Coral series of events. If Jack ends up playing Ronnie in the last 16 I think he’ll run him close and from there anything is possible. The prices on Murphy being quoted at some firms are bordering on farce and are worth a punt regardless, but on balance this quarter should go with the seedings.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: O’Sullivan to beat Murphy in the Last 8. 

Quarter Two:

Another who seems to have benefited from a pleasant draw is John Higgins, as if he needs it. I can’t see any issues that he can’t overcome prior to a quarter final meeting with Judd Trump, the only potential banana skin for me being Liam Highfield. Man of the moment Judd will be buoyed by his win in Belfast and hungry to add another major to his CV, he has form here of course and something tells me that the win last week will get that pesky monkey off his back and he too will fly through to a quarter final match up with Higgins, with only Ryan Day who I feel might have something to say about that. I really fancy Higgins to go deep in this and add this title to his list of major successes.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: Higgins to beat Trump in the Last 8.

Quarter Three:

The bottom half of the draw to me looks much more competitive than the top half. There are a multitude of possible outcomes and my guess is that if we are to see a ‘shock’ semi finalist it will come from this half of the draw. The obvious name that stands out is of course Mark Selby, he’s looking a bit more like Mark Selby these past few weeks rather than the Mark Selby who has been doing an impersonation of Mark Selby for much of the last year or so but without the winning titles bit. His path to the last 8 though isn’t easy and amongst others he’ll have to possibly tackle the in form Dave Gilbert, who could be the man to be on at a huge price if you fancy an upset this year. Other live contenders in this section are Barry Hawkins and Judd’s best mate Kyren Wilson, both with proven big stage pedigree, I’d be surprised if the quarter final from this section didn’t feature two of the names mentioned here, which includes the four times I mentioned Mark Selby, OK five times.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: Selby to beat Hawkins in the Last 8.

Quarter Four:

Another fairly open quarter which involves the in-form Mark Allen and snooker’s newest international playboi Mark Williams. Drinker and part-time snooker world champion Williams has said that he’s not arsed if a) he doesn’t win another match all season and b) he isn’t ranked number one in the world. He’s as mad as a hatter so he’s probably telling the truth. Allen will be coming here on the back of a disappointing homecoming in Belfast after his most recent triumph in China and I’d say he’s favourite for this section of the draw on his current form. Neil Robertson is coming back to form too so it would be no surprise to see him at the business end again at a venue that I know he enjoys and for me his predicted last 16 with Allen holds the key to the winner of this quarter, with possibly Stephen Maguire coming through to meet the winner in the quarter final.

Predicted Quarter Outcome: Robertson to beat Maguire in the Last 8.         

You can play around with the draw here to arrive at your outright conclusions.

You can view the match schedule here.

Recommended Bets: John Higgins to win the UK Championship at 11/1. Each Way – Dave Gilbert (250/1), Neil Robertson (22/1), Shaun Murphy (55/1 – Boosted) and Jack Lisowski (40/1).

Quarter Winners Acca: O’Sullivan, Higgins, Selby and Robertson pays 114/1.

First Round Acca pays almost 10/1 – Honghao, Sijun, Jimmy Robertson, Li Hang, Bingham, McManus, Gilbert and Saengkham.

Doubles, Trebles and an Acca (Acca pays over 55/1) on Sharav, Swail, McLeod and Baird.


November 21, 2018

The Reny’s Ark / Black Type UK Championship Tipster Contest

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

It’s been a while since we had a tipster contest on here so it’s high time we put that right.

The UK Championship is nearly upon us and to whet your appetite I thought I’d ask around for a few prizes and this is what I’ve come up with.

Winner: £50 free bet on The Masters outright market with Black Type Bet. Plus a £50 voucher to spend at Reny’s Ark.

Runner up: £30 free bet on The Masters outright market with Black Type Bet. Plus a £25 voucher to spend at Reny’s Ark.  

Third Place: £20 free bet on The Masters outright market with Black Type Bet.


Please note that these must be strictly followed for your entry to be valid – anyone not following these instructions will not be entered.

Select two players from each of the groups below

To enter, please go to Twitter, name your team of eight players and use the hashtag #SBUKTipsterContest

Your players will score 1 point for each frame they win in the UK Championship and the winner will be the team with the most points.


GROUP ONE (choose 2) GROUP TWO (choose 2) GROUP THREE (choose 2) GROUP FOUR (choose 2)
Ronnie O’Sullivan Kyren Wilson Ryan Day Luca Brecel
Mark Selby Neil Robertson Jack Lisowski Dave Gilbert
John Higgins Ding Junhui Yan Bingtao Zhao Xintong
Judd Trump Shaun Murphy Ali Carter Liam Highfield
Mark Williams Barry Hawkins Marco Fu Robert Milkins
Mark Allen Stuart Bingham Joe Perry Michael Holt


The draw can be found here. BEST OF LUCK EVERYONE.


Small Print: To claim the free bet prize you must be 18 years or over and either hold or open a valid Black Type Bet online account. In the event of a tie, prizes will be shared equally.

November 13, 2018

Ronnie Stirs the Pot

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:12 am

Doesn’t mince his words

Over the course of the last 24 hours, Ronnie O’Sullivan has followed up his brilliant Champion of Champions win with a series of social media discussions about the state of the game. It seems that our Ronald isn’t that happy with the current regime of conveyor belt snooker and seems to be having a right old slanging match with Barry Hearn.

But as we all know, Ronnie likes to mix it up a bit and as well as putting the wind up Old Bazza he’s never happier than when he’s talking health and fitness.

I’ve been given an exclusive from the boys and girls at Betway who got an insight into the pinball table mind of snooker’s most enigmatic potter, here he talks about why it’s important to refuel with the right petrol in between matches and why he believes that it’s this, rather than his other passion of running, that is responsible for his longevity in the game.

He said so himself in July 2018 while cooking a Thai curry on Facebook Live alongside Rhiannon Lambert, the Harley Street nutritionist who he says has “re-educated him” about food.

“Before I met Rhiannon, I was playing well enough, but I was running out of steam, I got tired because I was eating bad food. But once I started working with her, I started eating differently.”

Lambert’s website explains that ‘keeping nutrition simple is the easiest way to maintain a healthy lifestyle’, and her recipes left O’Sullivan feeling “more energised” and “alert” during matches.

“I’m getting 100 per cent out of myself now, whereas before I was probably getting 85 per cent of myself, I think the difference between winning two tournaments a year and winning five is the moments where I was able to see the match through to the end without feeling like I wanted to go and have a kip.”

His explanation is not as romantic as the one about him being a genius who can pitch up to any event and win it, irrespective of whether he has been practising or not. That’s why those who have followed his career – some for more than a quarter of a century – are reluctant to believe it. He did win five World titles eating whatever he wanted, after all.

But that, he says, is most definitely not the case…

“I think most people think I was born with a cue in my hand and that when I get on the table it’s all a piece of cake,” says O’Sullivan. “But that’s not the reality. I have to work hard. There’s other top players, they’re so slight, but to make those gains on your opponent takes so much hard work and preparation. They make the difference between winning 6-4 and losing 6-4.”

O’Sullivan, who describes healthy eating and fitness as his “main passion”, first met Lambert in July 2017. “I was her guinea pig, really,” he says. “I bought totally into it and it made a massive difference to my life. I’ve learned how to put better nutrition into my body.”

He cooks every day when he’s at home and does so in batches. “I like to train, I like to go to the club, so I don’t want to be around a stove all day,” he says. “Everyone’s got busy lives, so it’s good to have food prepped and ready to go – plus you save yourself a few quid.”

Healthy eating is harder to maintain when on the road competing in tournaments – “I’ll always take stuff with me… snacks like a jar of peanut butter, some rice, some tuna” – although he says the food in Thailand and China, which host several tournaments a year, as “incredible – some of the best I’ve ever eaten”.

“I think the UK’s probably the worst place I’ve ever been for food, it really is. I see what some places serve up and I just think: ‘Wow. No wonder we’re not producing great athletes.’

“You look at other countries, what they eat, and it’s fresh, proper grub. I think it makes a huge difference to your development. I travel in Europe a lot, to places like Bulgaria and Romania, and even there the tomatoes taste different, the cucumbers taste different. In the UK, it’s quantity over quality, and I’m trying to avoid being part of that system.”

O’Sullivan wants to help other people avoid being part of it, too, which is why he and Lambert will release a health and fitness book, Top of Your Game: Eating for the Mind and Body, in December 2018.

“I meet a lot of people who are trying to lose weight, but they’re making decisions on food by reading food labels that say low in fat but are actually caked in sugar and certain stuff that’s worse than fat. That’s what Rhiannon done for me. She re-educated me. I’ve been fast-tracked in a way, and I think it’s nice to be able to pass that on. People want to be able to make proper decisions.”

O’Sullivan’s other passion of course is running but unlike healthy eating, he doesn’t believe that has improved his snooker.

“You don’t really have to be fit to be a snooker player,” he says. “If you eat well and play snooker, you’ll be absolutely fine.

“I just done it because it was a good outlet for me. I had quite an addictive nature, so I thought: ‘Well, if I’m going to be addicted, I might as well get addicted to something that’s really good for me.’

“That was running, keeping fit and training. At least if I am going to over-do it on something, the worst that’s going to happen to me is that I end up with a few sore calf muscles, or my shoulders are a bit tight.”

Or a damaged heel, which O’Sullivan currently has. It’s not stopping him from exercising, but he is likely to need surgery if he wants to perform at his best again.

He did a Park Run, which he thinks are “great”, last weekend and finished the 5km course in 20 minutes, a time he describes as “useless”. It’s not, but it is some way below his record of 17 minutes and nine seconds.

“I want to get back that to that,” says O’Sullivan. “But to do that I’ll probably have to get my foot done. I’ve convinced myself I’m going to have the operation, so it’ll mean three or four weeks in a boot ‘til it heals properly.”

But with snooker’s glamour events still to come, any extended absence will have to be carefully planned, with Ronnie hinting that after The Masters, we may not see a lot of him.

“I might just wait ‘til after the World Championships or after the Masters – I don’t know,” says O’Sullivan. “I do know it’s something worth getting done.”

Being “where I want to be, when I want to be” is important to O’Sullivan at this stage of his life, of which snooker remains a huge part.

“I still love playing, when I say love playing, I like playing. Some days I love playing, some days I’m like…” He exhales (and probably decides to tweet Hearn).

O’Sullivan’s role as a pundit for Eurosport, which often means he provides analysis on tournaments he is also competing in, complicates that relationship further.

“That’s my problem,” he says. “I love doing it. I love sitting there with Jimmy White and Neal Foulds. I love the crew at Eurosport – there’s no pressure. And I get to talk about a subject that I’m quite knowledgeable on. It’s a dream job, really. But then I’ve got my other head on, thinking that I want to be competing and doing the best at snooker, so… I don’t know.”

O’Sullivan relishes playing in exhibitions as “they take me back to my early days” and plans to keep playing competitively until that desire “goes, really”. He says he’ll head to York for the UK Championship, which at 12 days is snooker’s second-longest event, and “give it my best”.

Original Interview credit to Betway Blog

November 12, 2018

Northern Ireland Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

The snooker train ain’t slowing down and now Coventry is done it’s over the water we go to the Belfast Waterfront arena for the second leg of the Home Nations Series and the Northern Ireland Open, where we find a huge field of 128 players competing to lift the Alex Higgins trophy.

The only one of them who is still in with a slim chance of taking Bazza’s million pound bonus, otherwise known as the unicorn sitting at the foot of the rainbow, is English Open champion Stuart Bingham. Our pal First Poke is the only potter who can put the wind up the chairman by getting this hands on this trophy and placing it in his already overcrowded khazi.

Fresh from his success in Coventry, Ronnie O’Sullivan also lines up in this, which is surprising considering he’s no longer in with a chance of the million pound bonus and given all he’s had to say about this style of car boot snooker in leisure centres that stink of piss. Joining him following his disappointing defeat is Kyren Wilson and we’ll see what he has in terms of bouncebackability this week.

It’s covered by Eurosport and Quest TV, so expect the first few days to follow the tried and trusted format of one-sided matches on the main table until it gets to around the last 16 when they start getting a bit closer.

Also expect references to adopted Irishman Shaun Murphy, who has recently moved to the south of Ireland and will no doubt at some point start being heard saying things like ‘top o’the mornin’ to anyone who’ll listen whilst supping a pint of Guinness and wearing a shamrock. I actually think he stands a chance this week at a decent price as to me he showed signs of getting back to something like form in Coventry. All eyes will also be on home favourite Mark Allen, who is of course bang in form and I’m sure would love to win here, he’ll not be without his backers.       

You can take a look at the draw for this here and even play around with it to make your picks.

Recommended Bets: WIN ONLY: Shaun Murphy (28/1), Jack Lisowski (35/1), EACH WAY: Ali Carter (50/1), Noppon Saengkham (250/1), Chris Wakelin (300/1).

If you want to book tickets to go and watch you can call 028 9033 4455 or CLICK HERE

November 5, 2018

Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:28 am

Exhibit A

It’s the time of year again when World Snooker choose to completely ignore the hashtag #COC and pretend it doesn’t exist. Yes, it’s off to Coventry again for this season’s Champion of Champions, or as it should really be called Champion of Some Champions and others that are there because they are highest in the rankings and they have run out of champions.

So let’s get this out of the way, the main talking point about this tournament will be the table they are using. It can best be described as an oversized pool table when it comes to looks, it’s kind of what a snooker table would look like if you let a 3 year old design it with some crayons to keep them quiet on a rainy afternoon.

But that said, I’m actually a fan of changing things around a bit now and again. I used to look forward to the Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley when they used that light wood table. I know that sounds a bit sad but it made me happy as a nipper.

I can’t say that I’m a fan of the standard Star Tables when it comes to aesthetics, they look a bit tacky to me and my first thought about this table was that it resembled what a Star Table and a Pool Table’s bastard offspring would look like if they had a drunken shag after a heavy night out. But we’ll give it a chance I suppose and I hope it all works out for the best.

I actually really like this tournament, not only because it is a small select field but because we also get to watch the excellent ITV team in action (as well as the Johnstone Decorating Centre adverts). I’m particularly pleased that this year Dave Hendon is going to be along for the ride for the first section of the coverage, he continues to be head and shoulders above his regular Eurosport colleagues when it comes to commentary and pitches it at a level which Phil Studd could only dream about, combining his encyclopedic almost anorakian knowledge of the game with anecdotes aplenty.

As ever, they play this in mini-sections. Essentially it’s a 16 man knockout but the COC chiefs prefer to call them all groups. We play two best of seven ‘semi-finals’ in the afternoon followed by a best of eleven group ‘final’ in the evening. The four group winners then progress to the best of eleven frame semi-finals on Saturday and the two winners from those play a best of nineteen frame final on Sunday.

Last year saw Shaun Murphy topple Ronnie O’Sullivan (who for reasons only known to him calls this The Champions Cup) in an exciting final and as holder, Murphy kicks off the event this time against recent European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson, with Ding Junhui and Shootout King Michael Georgiou completing the Group 1 line up.

You can see how the draw pans out here and check out the official Champion of Champions website here.

We’re on a bit of a roll on the outright betting with recent winners Bingham (40/1) and Allen (22/1), so this is a chance for the treble. If you are a fan of horses for courses, there are some very big prices around about the holder Murphy, who has had a week off, has a winnable group and must at some point come back to form. There are likely to be a couple of weary souls in Robertson and Allen who are racing back from China as I write, and as ever it’s O’Sullivan that starts favourite in a format that we always think is tailor made for him, but he’s lost two finals on the spin here and has a potentially very tough group so I reckon there is some value in taking him on.

Recommended Bets: Barry Hawkins to win the COC @ 20/1 (Boosted at Ladbrokes). Stuart Bingham to win the COC at 33/1 (Skybet). 21 or more centuries in the event at 7/4 with Ladbrokes. 

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