Snookerbacker

February 7, 2016

The German Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:34 pm

Perhaps an unlikely conclusion to the German Masters for some sees Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel take on the Pinner Potter Martin Gould to see who carries off their first ever ranking title.

The head to head for the two can be viewed here as they prepare to do battle over 17 frames and my guess is that they’ll probably use up a fair amount of them to find the eventual winner.

Brecel will have to improve on how he played yesterday to win it has to be said but I just have a feeling he might relax a little more into the final than Martin. Either way I will be delighted for whoever wins as they are both entertaining players who like to go for their shots.

I wasn’t going to have a bet on it but Dani Martinez, the luckiest punter on earth has just alerted me to a bet that surely can’t be missed, so from not having a bet it’s a maximum pointer on the punt below.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on the final being over 14.5 frames at 10/11 with William Hills. 

February 5, 2016

German Masters Day 3

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:43 am

Day 3It’s day three in Berlin and this is the day which sees four players playing in both sessions as the afternoon marks the end of the Last 16 and tonight sees all four Quarter Finals played, so it’s a very testing day for the four winners this afternoon, particularly if they start off with a close one.

It could be said that it’s been a tournament of shocks so far but it’s very rare now in snooker that everything goes to plan. Since we got here we’ve said goodbye against the odds to players like Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Mark Allen and Marco Fu, but none of the players that beat them can really be described as David to their Goliath. It seems to be the nature of snooker these days that anyone can beat anyone on any given day, even more so now given the frequency of tournaments, which makes betting on snooker that bit more difficult than it used to be.

One player that does look very focused again this week is Judd Trump, he’s dropped just one frame so far and made a century in three of the five frames he won against Zhang Anda. His new found dedication to the baize at the expense of ‘going out’ seems to be paying dividends and he has to be considered favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday on his current form, but we’ve said that a few times before and he’s not got over the line so you can’t really be too careful. Once again, the unpredictability of snooker.

Still in the hunt are two of my outright picks, main pick Maguire (22/1) is now second favourite after knocking out Selby last night and Kyren Wilson (40/1) produced a gritty fightback from 4-1 down to The Dentist, Rory McLeod yesterday to set up a match against Hitman Holt this afternoon, a dentist one day and a hitman the next, that’s rough. I also flagged up Mark King for the quarter he is in but didn’t include him in my bets, so just in case this wild punt goes any further and while he is still the rank outsider at the bookies I will correct that with a little bet below.

King faces Mark Joyce who knocked out Allen. Now I don’t know what the score is with these two but there certainly doesn’t appear to be any love lost on Allen’s part. He did a Q&A on Twitter after the match and more than once told the tweeting public of his dislike for both Joyce’s game and almost everything else about the seemingly mild-mannered Walsall potter. I’m not sure if the two have ever had words but it seems one of snooker’s more unlikely rivalries, hopefully they’ll draw each other at The Crucible this year and we’ll see full on handbags at dawn and a good old fashioned bit of needle.

This half of the draw does really offer a chance for a new name to make a ranking final, Luca Brecel and Kurt Maflin will both fancy their chances of at least a semi-final spot as will King and Joyce, there is the small matter of the World Champion at the bottom of the draw but he faces a tough one today in the shape of Ryan Day, another who many think should have a few titles under his belt at this stage in his career. With Kyren and Holty also in the mix, it’s all to play for in the bottom section.

The top half sees more established names already into the quarter finals with Judd taking on Martin Gould next and Mags facing a jock derby against Dotty. It’s still very hard to call so I’m not going to be going mad, just a daft acca below and that ‘just in case’ on King.

Recommended Bets: 1 point acca pays over 23/1 on Maflin, King, Wilson, Bingham, Maguire and Trump. 0.5 point each way on Mark King at 50/1.   

 

February 4, 2016

German Masters Day 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:22 am

It’s Day 2 at the Tempodrom in Berlin and this sees the conclusion of Round 1 as well as the start of the second round for the winners from Wednesday. It’s an early start at 9am UK Time, 10am Local Time and you can follow the action live, starting with the match between Brecel and Xintong on Eurosport as well as the usual bookie streams. 

Day 2

Recommended Match Bet: 3 point treble on Joyce (+2.5), O’Brien (+2.5) and Woollaston (+2.5) pays over 3/1 at Marathon Bet.

February 3, 2016

German Masters Day 1

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:51 am

Here is the schedule for Berlin today, note that the match times are German time so start an hour earlier in the UK. My full preview can be seen here, I’m going to hang fire on the match betting until the next round but will list my predicted winners below.

Wednesday

PREDICTED WEDNESDAY WINNERS: Selby, Maguire, Pengfei, Hawkins, Carter, Burden, Gould, Murphy.

February 2, 2016

German Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:59 pm
The Tempodrom

The Tempodrom

Following two snooker competitions last week that I wasn’t interested in at all, it’s now that time of year again where we head to the land of sausages and plentiful facial hair as Berlin once again hosts the German Masters, in the magnificent Tempodrom Arena.

It seems ages ago that the qualifiers were played for this in Wigan but they did see some big name casualties, most notably Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Neil Robertson and less notably given his recent form, Ding Junhui. There are however plenty of familiar faces turning up to what surely is snooker’s best viewing arena for the fans who generate an electric atmosphere when the place is packed out, which it inevitably is for most sessions.

One point that is sometimes missed, well I never thought about it anyway, is something that was mentioned to me by Peter Ebdon recently, namely the lighting on the outside tables. It’s not really something which as a fan sitting in there watching you really take into account, but it can be quite dimly lit around there, unlike the main TV table which is as it should be. The nature of the vast arena is such that this is probably unavoidable, but it just goes to show that however good this event appears to be to the spectators, there are challenging and unusual conditions for the players who find themselves on one of the surrounding tables which need to be overcome in order for them to produce their best stuff.

It’s pretty much full on from now until the World Championship on the baize and the season is now focused around jostling for those all important top 16 places which guarantee a spot at The Crucible, which is now just a few weeks away. There are a few players here who could do with a good run to get them into the elite 16, there are a few that can put themselves in contention with a winning sequence and there are others who will be looking to cement their places so they don’t have to worry too much for the rest of the season leading up to it and focus fully on preparation for the big one.

You can check the head to head records for each match by clicking on it, if you can’t click on it the two are meeting for the first time. I’ll have a look at these and recommend a few bets in the hope that the poor recent run is nearing an end.  

You can view the Order of Play here. The action will be live on Eurosport from Wednesday. Here is a look at the quarters.   

QUARTER ONE

Mark Selby v Steven Hallworth
Stephen Maguire v Ken Doherty
Graeme Dott v Tian Pengfei
Alan McManus v Barry Hawkins

Mark Selby, who is hugely popular in Germany, returns to defend the title he won 12 months ago. He’s yet to capture a title this season and it’s now 10 months since we saw him with a trophy in his hand, which for him, possibly qualifies as a minor state of emergency. I’m not ready to call the ambulance on him just yet and I still believe that he’ll win something and he can possibly take heart that the year he won the World Championship he was a long time potless too. As I’m not recommending him for this, unlike the previous umpteen tournaments, he’ll probably win it again. Stephen Maguire had a great game at The Masters with Judd despite losing and I think he’ll cause Selby a few problems in their probable second round clash and perhaps emerge from this quarter as the semi-finalist. Under this, I think Dott and Pengfei is a match to leave alone as they are both capable of throwing in a great or careless display at a moment’s notice these days, a more interesting proposition is Masters runner-up Hawkins who is now getting into the groove after a shaky start to the season although Angles is still a force to be reckoned with. This is a difficult quarter to really nail your colours to but I’m going to plump for Maguire, who is of course under pressure to secure a Crucible place.

PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Stephen Maguire.

QUARTER TWO

Judd Trump v Ali Carter
Alfie Burden v Zhang Anda
Martin Gould v Mark Williams
Ben Woollaston v Shaun Murphy

Eyes are immediately drawn to the top match here and it’s a shame that former champion Ali and Judd meet so early. They played one of the top three matches I have ever seen live at The Crucible back in 2012 and but for a few knockarounds at Crondon Park haven’t met since. Judd is obviously in fine form but Ali seems to save his best for Germany of late and that’s a coin toss for me so at the outright prices you have to take a chance on The Captain. Alfie Burden is coming into a bit of form after a very bad patch and I’d back him to take care of Anda. Surprisingly Gould and MJW have only met in lesser events and it’s very much about who’s on song on the day there but I can’t see much safety involved, I’d marginally side with Gould but think that Shaun Murphy will probably come through that section anyway. If that’s the case and he faces Carter, given the recent history between the pair, I’d side with The Captain, but the match with Judd first off is obviously the key to the bet below, if he beats Judd, he can make a good week of this and move up those rankings.

PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Ali Carter. 

QUARTER THREE

Zhao Xintong v Luca Brecel
Marco Fu v Kurt Maflin
Mark Joyce v Mark Allen
Mark King v Stuart Carrington

Luca Brecel seems to be beginning to fulfill the promise he has shown over the last few years and it would be nice to see him have a run in this with what might be considered not the worst of draws. That said, the underestimation of Marco Fu is almost folklore now in snooker circles and who would bet against the former runner-up coming through this quarter unscathed. I don’t think Mark Allen likes playing Mark Joyce, it seems that something about Joyce’s game seems to sometimes get to The Pistol and he’ll want to get off to a good start there to avoid a repeat of their meeting in Australia when Allen flew half way around the globe to lose to the Walsall man. Stuart Carrington of course is responsible for knocking out Ronnie and his reward is a match against Mark King, who I’m sure will be looking at the draw thinking he’s in with a chance of going deep here. I’ve got a funny feeling about King this week and wouldn’t be surprised if he made the semi-finals, particularly if Joyce knocks out Allen, so it’s time for my wild, probably half-witted punt of the week.

PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Mark King.

QUARTER FOUR

Ian Burns v Michael Holt
Rory McLeod v Kyren Wilson
Ryan Day v Liang Wenbo
Fergal O’Brien v Stuart Bingham

Another section which could potentially see a name not usually at the business end of things come through, I do get a sense that this week might see a ‘surprise’ winner, if there is any such thing in snooker anymore. World Champion Bingham is obviously favourite to progress but has a tough opener against a player who has already beaten him this season in Fergal, so that alone is enough to have you looking around for a possible alternative. Day, Wenbo and Holt are all names that would be on most people’s shortlist of players that are not far off winning a ranking event and Rory of course has already won a PTC this season. But my attention keeps coming back to Shanghai champion Kyren Wilson, even though Rory has given him a couple of good hidings in the past I think he’s now a totally different proposition and I think he’s the man that I’ll trust in this quarter. If he does make it through the momentum he’ll have may make him difficult to beat. 

PREDICTED QUARTER WINNER: Kyren Wilson.  

RECOMMENDED BETS: 2 points on Stephen Maguire to win the German Masters at 22/1. 1 point each way on Ali Carter at 60/1. 1 point each way on Kyren Wilson at 40/1. MATCH BETS WILL BE POSTED ON A DAILY BASIS. 

January 17, 2016

The Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:31 am
Mr Ronnie O'Sullivan MBE

Mr Ronnie O’Sullivan MBE

A fantastic tournament reaches its conclusion today as Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Barry Hawkins in a repeat of their 2013 World Championship Final, which Ronnie won 18-12.

Hawkins thoroughly deserves his place in the final and has improved as each match has gone on, topping this off with a fine display over Judd Trump yesterday. He’s definitely a player that should be in everyone’s calculations come April and he proved again that on the big stage he is increasingly comfortable and I should think he’ll be really looking forward to the challenge ahead today.

The bad news is that he’s only beaten Ronnie once, way back in 2002 with all nine of their subsequent meetings being won by The Rocket. You can take a look at the head to head here.

As for Ronnie, he came through against Stuart Bingham last night and then marched into his press conference, declaring just before it started that he had ‘the touch of a rapist’. I’m sure this was off the record but it’s been put out there and I’d be surprised if a few people don’t take offence to his rather colourful, industrial language.

I think it’s a southern England thing, the only people I have ever heard put things in these terms seem to be southerners, unless I have just led such a sheltered and privileged life as to not have been exposed to such phraseology, I doubt it though as I worked in some right shitholes around Liverpool in my earlier working life and I have never heard that said around here by anyone. I wouldn’t say I am particularly offended, I just don’t find it a very nice thing to say when our language could offer up something a little more appropriate to the situation. 

Anyway, as we all know Ronnie can do and say what he wants so he won’t give a flying fuck who he has offended. He continues to proclaim that he isn’t cueing well but he looks in pretty good shape to me. Perhaps that is what comes of such high self expectation, for as we all know, he is his own harshest critic.

So what can we expect today? Well it’s been such a brilliant tournament can we really expect anything other than an even more brilliant end to it? The downside obviously remains the oxygen thieving shaved chimps that they let in to shout GWOORRNN RONNIE at a volume which increases in direct correlation to how many pints of lager the mostly fat, bald middle-aged men have consumed. I’m sure they’d find his rape comment just a good bit of bants and dismiss anyone taking offence as a lard arsed feminist or swamp donkey. It’s just a laugh so get over it.

Yesterday I posted up the right results for both semi-finals so I hope at least one of you got on the double which paid well over 70/1. Today, I think it might go closer than some would have it, the 10/3 best odds on Hawkins looks about right and given the head to head history it’s going to take a massive psychological effort from him to win. I wouldn’t totally dismiss it though if he can just forget who he is playing.

But when we have a tournament this memorable, it usually ends up having a memorable winner so for me it has to be Ronnie, in terms of a scoreline I’d plump for 10-7 to The Rocket which is a best price of 8/1. Now to go and start praying that Dennis isn’t commentating.    

January 16, 2016

Masters Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:27 am
His partying days are over.

His partying days are over.

The weekend sees what promises to be a pulsating conclusion to a great Masters at Ally Pally which further delighted the crowds yesterday with a quite extraordinary match between Robbo and Judd, Judd’s total clearance in the final frame being not just the break of this tournament, but possibly of any tournament of the last decade.

What we may be seeing here after a few false starts is the new improved Judd, gone is the party going, hedonistic playboi and what has emerged from the wreckage seems to me to be what I’ve always thought he has always been anyway, a dedicated and focused player who is now doing what he really enjoys more, playing snooker. It also helps I suppose that he appears to have Miss World there supporting him.

He faces Barry Hawkins this afternoon, who is gradually getting better and better and will be hoping that Judd has had his big performance so that he can come in under the radar. Judd himself admitted yesterday that he prefers being the underdog in matches, something he most definitely won’t be very often if this form continues and today he finds himself as firm favourite against a fellow one time Crucible runner-up.

Tonight sees the return of Ronnie after his fine performance against Selby, though it has to be said that Selby didn’t really play all that well. The commentators continue to suffer from a dose of verbal orgasms whenever Ron strokes one in and I do feel that sometimes they over-egg things a little. Judd’s break yesterday far outshone Ronnie’s 70-odd to clinch the match against Selby, however good that was.

That moves me on to something that always takes the shine off a great performance from The Rocket. His fans. Not all of them, just the pre-pubescent ones who continue to spout verbal wank whenever he beats The Jester. They seem to blot out the times that the boot has been on the other foot and when reminded stick to the delusion that he only beats Ronnie when Ronnie lets him. Not only are they terrible losers, but also even more distastefully for me, they are ungracious winners.

Anyway, he faces World Champion Bingham who came through against the odds against Higgins last night. I’m really pleased for Stuart and it would be some achievement to win this so soon after the World Championship and still not be rated by some people who should know better. Maybe some will never accept how good he is, I’m sure Ronnie’s fans will have something to say if their hero lets him win again like he did in Sheffield.

In terms of betting this week, it’s been a total write off. From the first match when Murphy lost, subsequently letting down not only the main first round acca but also the 29/1 sevenfold, the writing has been on the wall. Therefore I will simply list the matches below with a link to the head to heads and give what I think the score will be. I’ll just stick to a correct score cross double but I won’t trouble you all with that.

Click on the match for the Head to Head Record, courtesy of Cue Tracker.

1pm

Barry Hawkins v Judd Trump

Prediction: Hawkins to win 6-4

7pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham

Prediction: O’Sullivan to win 6-3 

Open an account and bet below at Marathon Bet by clicking the banner.     SB

January 13, 2016

Masters Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:02 pm
The Best of Enemies

The Best of Enemies

The Masters moves into the quarter final stages on Thursday and kicks off with an absolute belter as Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Mark Selby for the first time since Selby snatched away his World Crown at the Crucible two seasons ago. This was a match that many believe wounded O’Sullivan as much and possibly more than any other in his long career and left a battle scar which he hasn’t ever really recovered from fully to this day.

In Selby and O’Sullivan snooker still retains one of sport’s big rivalries. The disdain with which Ronnie sometimes talks about Mark makes it all the more exciting. He often unfairly dismisses him as a negative, slow, methodical player, the only player in the game who can win when he’s playing crap and generally someone who audiences don’t want to watch. Selby usually rises above these childish taunts but hardly ever refers to Ronnie by his first name these days, preferring instead the far less endearing and much more impersonal ‘O’Sullivan’ when he is forced to talk about him. 

To fuel the flames, it’s fair to say that you also very rarely find someone in the partisan world of snooker fandom who likes them both, in fact more often than not they adore one and detest the other in equal measure. Insults from both camps fly around on social media like cluster bombs and it can all get a bit schoolyard at times, but it all adds to the perceived needle between the two, so it’s largely harmless I suppose. As far as I know it’s never resulted in any physical violence, although this may only be because some of the more dedicated/insane people who indulge in such quarreling can’t track their online sparring partners down in real life to knock the shit out of them.

Personally, I like watching them both play, though admittedly it did take me longer to appreciate exactly how good Selby really is and I’m all for these differences in approach and think that is why, apart from growing up with Jimmy and crying like a baby in 1984 when he lost to Steve Davis at The Crucible, I have never really been one to get upset at the player I want to win not winning. After all, it’s all part of sport and I don’t really take it all that seriously as there are far more important things in life than knocking a few balls around with a stick, particularly when it’s not even you holding the stick.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed this so far and I much prefer this type of tournament to the cramped, rushed, conveyor belt type feel of some of the others, the UK Championship now included. The match between Ronnie and MJW obviously stood out, the standard wasn’t great and both needed more chances than they would have done at their best to finish frames off but that made for great theatre, it may have sharpened Ronnie up for Thursday, where he’ll need to improve to stand a chance against The Jester.

Shaun Murphy stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons on the opening day for carelessly missing three times and forfeiting a frame on his way to defeat by Mark Allen. Selby himself whitewashed Ricky Walden, who like Ding Junhui, beaten by Ballrun in a match currently being used to cure insomnia, looks a shadow of the player we know he can be. Judd and Mags produced a decent match too and Judd did well to kick on following a Maguire comeback. The reformed playboi later proclaimed that he is bored of ‘going out’ now so is going to dedicate himself 100% to snooker rather than partying. He even divulged that he didn’t have a day off the table over Christmas, so it seems 2016 may see the new improved Trump at long last. Partying after all, is hugely overrated – just ask Charlie Sheen.

Elsewhere, Barry Hawkins showed glimpses of a return to form in beating Joe Perry and at time of writing I don’t yet know if Robbo will have set up the big Friday afternoon second rounder with his stablemate following John Higgins fine performance to continue his 100% win rate over Liang Wenbo to set up a clash with the World Champion and put himself firmly in the mix in the process with some stunning snooker.

Below is a look at each of the matches, starting with Thursday afternoon. My advice is to phone in sick, blatantly lie that a close relative has died, alternatively kill a close relative, but just make sure you do anything humanly possible to be on a sofa with a mug of tea and your biscuit of choice for the best rivalry in the sport.

Click on the match for the Head to Head Record, courtesy of Cue Tracker.        

Thursday 1pm

Mark Selby v Ronnie O’Sullivan

Well, I’ve covered most of the personal stuff above so all that remains now is to give an opinion on who is going to win. I plumped for Selby to win the championship at the start and I thankfully didn’t see anything in the first round to totally put me off, though Higgins is now firmly on the radar in this half. Ronnie’s matches here are always a spectacle and the dramatic way in which he defeated Williams probably masked over some of the cracks that are evident in his game, demonstrating that this is definitely a different kettle of fish than the Mock Tudor splendour and relaxed surroundings of Crondon Park. Ronnie needed multiple chances in most frames, he looked a little shaky when on the real pressure balls at times and relied a lot on mistakes by his opponent. He showed flashes of brilliance, but he usually does and this has to be matched by consistency if he’s going to clinch the title this week. I think Selby is due a big win and that’s why I am sticking with him here, I’m surprised Ronnie is favourite actually. Selby has proved time and again that he is not the type to crumble under pressure and hopefully he’ll have his fair share of support in there for this to combat the GWOORN RONNIE bellends. I hope it’s a classic but I genuinely think Selby will win with a bit in hand and wouldn’t put anyone off the 11/8 on offer.

Predicted Score: Selby 6-3.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on more than 1 century in the match pays 6/5. 

Thursday 7pm

Mark Allen v Barry Hawkins

The decisive head to head stat in favour of Allen does slightly mask the fact that it is Hawkins who has prevailed in their two most notable recent meetings, if you are prepared to discount a best of 7 in the recent Champion of Champions, which I am. They met at The Crucible last April and Hawkins won 13-11, a few years earlier Allen had won 13-12 at the same last 16 stage so these two have had a few tussles down the years. Hawkins has been struggling a bit to find any really consistent form this season so far but he showed signs that a return to something like his best isn’t far away against Perry in the last round. Allen benefited from Murphy’s carelessness and despite looking very nervous when closing the match out he did so with his trademark grit and determination. I think this one is pretty evenly matched to be honest and it could well be the better of the two Thursday matches in terms of overall standard, I fancy it to go close, perhaps even all the way for a thrilling Thursday night finale, gun to head, Allen.

Predicted Score: Allen 6-5.

Recommended Bet: 3 points on there being over 9.5 frames in the match at 6/5. 

Friday 1pm

Judd Trump v Neil Robertson

Before you read on I’m not recommending a bet on this match, it’s not one I’d feel comfortable calling after Neil’s practice session last night against a clearly unwell Marco Fu who looked beaten after a couple of shots. We can’t really gauge how Robbo is playing from that as it was just a case of going through the motions in the end. What I will say is that I’d give Judd more of a chance now than I would have done before seeing his game and his all round attitude against Maguire. Oh yes, and just look at that head to head! 201 frames played and Trump leads by a single frame, with the matches, 24 in all, standing at 12/12. As Dennis would probably say, incorrectly, you can’t get any closer than that. There are obviously a few very close matches in amongst these that have been contested by Django Fung’s two top boys, there is no reason to think that this will be anything other than close. Perhaps it’s Judd’s turn this week.

Predicted Score: Trump 6-5

Friday 7pm

John Higgins v Stuart Bingham

As you might expect, Higgins holds the aces in terms of the head to head record between these two with Stuart’s only really half decent competition win against John coming all the way back in 1999 in the Welsh Open. On first round form this is a no-brainer. Higgins was fantastic against Liang Wenbo who definitely caused him some problems while Ballrun overcame Ding in a very forgettable match for the two of them. Their form will have to differ drastically from their opening matches for this to be anything other than an easy win for Higgins. So can that happen? Of course it can, anything can and this is the World Champion we are talking about, he can beat anyone on his day as he’s shown, but at the prices, with the momentum with Higgins I think The Wizard of Wishaw still looks like value at 4/6 with Marathon Bet, I would have had him at 2/5 on his first round showing alone, it’s another day yes, but I just can’t see either of their form turning around so quickly, it has to be Higgins.

Predicted Score: Higgins 6-2.

Recommended Bet: 5 points on Higgins at 4/6 with Marathon Bet. 2 points on Higgins (-1.5 frames) at 11/10. 2 point double on Selby and Higgins pays almost bang on 11/4. 

Open an account and bet below at Marathon Bet by clicking the banner.  

SB

January 8, 2016

The Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:50 pm
Selby sports his new designer boil on the poster this year.

Selby sports his new designer boil on the poster this year.

Sunday sees the start of one of my favourite tournaments on the calendar, The Masters, from it’s new home of Alexandra Palace in that London. Whilst the atmosphere there is always lively, thankfully it won’t be anything like that darts circus that’s just packed up and left town. They’ll probably sell more packets of hard boiled sweets and cups of tea (none of that fancy modern-flavoured muck) than pints of lager, vodka red bull chasers and E-Cigs once the snooker crowd show up and long may that difference continue.

While there are those who aren’t that fond of this type of invitational event, I think they are an absolute must. This is the mid-season reward for a top 16 ranking place as is automatic qualification for The Crucible at the end of the season, if that weren’t the case, the ranking list would be even more irrelevant than it already is for all bar the end of season standings so I’m glad that this showpiece and the Crucible reward are still very much part of snooker’s make-up. Again, long may this continue.

Much will be made of two things this week. Firstly and inevitably, this sees the return of Ronnie O’Sullivan to the main stage. His lower profile outings in the run up have produced mixed fortunes, he lost to Stuart Carrington in the German Masters qualifiers in Wigan, looking quite rusty, but then hit back at Crondon Park this week with a 100% winning run to snatch the first group of the Championship League, playing some very impressive stuff in the process and smashing through the 800 career century breaks barrier. Whether he can bring that game to this very different stage is the big question, if he does, he’s going to be very hard to stop.

The other big talking point will undoubtedly be the toilet breaks. The new rules on pissing and shitting come into force here and anyone seen to be taking one dump shot too many will be landed with a fine. So as well as holding their nerves, the players now have to hold their bladders too. I don’t know about you, but if I drank as much water as some of them do in the hot arena to stay hydrated I’d be struggling to hold it in if the frames went scrappy. I’ve no doubt that the aforementioned Rocket will flout the new rules with his usual healthy disrespect for authority and if he does, I for one will applaud him. It’s an absolutely stupid decision and one which will again bring the discussion at the BBC back to anything other than the snooker itself.

The whole thing kicks off with the holder Shaun Murphy up against Mark Allen. The other day, some of you may know that I ran this whole tournament to a poll vote on Twitter, playing out the matches on the basis of the poll results and attracting over 3500 votes in all. Predictably perhaps and despite me pleading with people to not just vote for their favourite player, Ronnie won it, beating Robbo in the final. But one surprise earlier in the exercise for me was the huge margin of Murphy’s poll rating over Allen. If Twitter is right, this one will be over in the blink of an eye and Murphy will coast to an easy victory. My guess is that on this occasion, the social media machine may have called it wrong.

So basically below I am laying down the gauntlet to the social media giant, it’s SB v Twitter, Judgement Day.

Either way, it will be interesting to see if the results pan out anything like the snooker community predicted en masse. Below, as well as a bit of blurb on each match I’ll list what Twitter predicted and whether I agree or not. Either way, let’s hope for a great week on the baize and not too much focus on the toilet habits of the current top 16 players in the sport, snooker after all, is much better than that. It’s the potting, not the potty, that should be our focus.

For a look at all the head to head records in this tournament on one handy page, head to the excellent Cue Tracker link by clicking here.   

First round:

Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen –  Sunday January 10 at 1pm

The first match of the Masters, beamed live to the freezing and rain soaked UK via the BBC usually serves us up an appetizer for the main course later in the week and I can’t really see this match being too much of an exception. Murphy has a decent advantage on the head to heads and seems to have Allen’s measure in the big events. You could argue that when it comes to the matches that really carry weight, Murphy has a 100% record. I find this quite odd really as Allen is more than a match for the reigning champion and if I was bracketing players together in terms of ability I’d have these two pretty close to each other. But the record is there for all to see and for me that means I have to side with Murphy, but my guess is that the BBC will get the curtain raising drama they want and I wouldn’t be surprised if this went all the way.

Twitter Predicted: Easy win for Murphy.

SB predicts: Very close, Murphy to edge it. 

Barry Hawkins v Joe Perry – Monday January 11 at 7pm

Very little to choose between these two both in terms of ability and career records and it’s quite surprising that they haven’t played each other more often in anything that really matters than they have over the past decade. Joe holds the aces in terms of head to heads but you have to factor in that most of these are on the small stage and that this is in reality the biggest match that the two have ever played against each other. In terms of winning to losing matches this season there is very little to choose between them and they have both had a warm up at Crondon this week with Barry being knocked out in Group 2. This is very much a ‘gut-feeling’ type of match and again I suspect that there won’t be much in it. Gun to head, it’s Hawkins for me, although his form hasn’t been great he’ll probably turn it around at some point. 

Twitter Predicted: Close one, but Perry edges it.

SB predicts: A narrow win for Hawkins.

Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire – Monday January 11 at 1pm

These two meet at this stage for the second consecutive season, Maguire last year running out a 6-4 winner. Indeed, Mags holds a commanding head to head lead over Judd, although it’s different in character to the Murphy and Allen profile, in that they have beaten each other more than once in really big events, so again, like the previous two matches you would expect this one to go very close to the distance. Maguire is a player that usually tends to start playing his best stuff at around this point in the season so that makes him very dangerous and more than capable of going all the way this week. Judd had a nice warm up at Crondon and followed Ronnie into the final stages of that by winning Group 2. I’m going to stick with a horses for courses theory here and take a punt that the result this year will be similar, if not identical, to last season. 

Twitter Predicted: Judd to book his second round place.

SB predicts: Maguire to repeat his win at the same stage last season. 

Neil Robertson v Marco Fu – Wednesday January 13 at 7pm

Strange things happen in Wigan, I once saw a pie shop there that sold Meat and Potato, as well as Potato and Meat pies, when I enquired what the difference was and why the prices differed, the man inside told me there was no difference and looked at me like I had three heads. I’d mistakenly thought it had something to do with ratios, but no, this was Wigan. Anyway, I digress, my point is that in January Robbo strode there like a prize peacock after wiping away the opposition at the UK with a display as good as you will see anywhere, he even threw in a maximum in the final for good measure. The way he demolished Selby there was something I thought I’d never see, he looked clinical, ruthless and just, well, just Robbo. Then he gets to Wigan for the German Masters qualifiers and gets walloped by amateur Ashley Hugill. Talk about coming back to earth with a bump. Here he faces Marco, who holds a slender advantage over the slender Aussie in the head to heads, which may surprise some. Again though, lots of these meetings have been in minor events, though Fu did beat Neil in the final in Australia a couple of seasons back so when it comes to the big stage he’ll not have anything to fear. But I suspect Robbo has his eye on a Grand Slam this season and I’d be surprised if he fell at the first fence here and I suspect we’ll see him in the Final on Sunday.   

Twitter Predicted: Easy win for Robbo.

SB predicts: Robbo with at least a frame to spare.

Mark Selby v Ricky Walden – Tuesday January 12 at 7pm

Most snooker enthusiasts will already be salivating at the prospect of a quarter final between The Jester and The Rocket next Thursday afternoon. It remains one of the best, if not the best, rivalries that the sport has to offer and I for one would like to see them lock horns again for the first time since ‘that world final’ to see if the scars Selby inflicted on O’Sullivan that Bank Holiday weekend have truly healed. If it happens, I suspect that the winner may go on to face Robertson on Sunday. But first off Selby must take care of Ricky Walden, a player who has suffered an amazing slump in form over the last few months. As you might expect, Selby holds the aces in the head to heads winning most, if not all, of the bigger ones. Just on recent form alone you’d have to be a very brave punter to back against Selby winning here so I’m going to vote with the majority on this one. 

Twitter Predicted: A Selby procession.

SB predicts: Selby to win with a bit in hand.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Williams- Tuesday January 12 at 1pm

Whatever you think of Ronnie, tournaments have more of a buzz when he is in them. His hint that he quite likes the idea of making 1000 centuries before hanging up his waistcoat will have his fans in a goosebump inducing frenzy, let’s enjoy him while we still can as he doesn’t grace us with his presence that often anymore. Here he faces old sparring partner MJW, who has been playing some decent stuff the last year or two despite trying to tell us all that he’s a shadow of his former self. His record against Ronnie, for whatever reason, makes pretty grim reading. He did however beat him for the first time in 12 years in 2014, after a series of beatings in events big and small in all corners of the globe. I’d really like this one to live up to the billing, Ronnie did look very sharp towards the end at Crondon and I suspect he’s probably quite happy to be coming back to play a familiar face playing a familiar game who he has beaten so often. I’d take Ronnie to win this 6-3 or 6-4, to set up the tie that we all want to see in the next round, well apart from Ricky and Willo that is.   

Twitter Predicted: Ronnie in a canter.

SB predicts: Ronnie to start with a solid display.

John Higgins v Liang Wenbo – Wednesday January 13 at 1pm

Liang Wenbo has never beaten John Higgins in a professional match. He got close in 2012 at The Crucible but bottled his numerous chances against an under-par Wizard who would be walloped next round by a retiring Stephen Hendry. Other than that, every match they have played has been very one-sided, seven in all, with Higgins leading the frame tally 41-16 with 9 of Liang’s frames coming in that match at Sheffield. So anyone predicting an upset here is not so much swimming against a tide of evidence as walking head on into a hurricane. Despite this, I am sure there will be those who will see Higgins’ frankly hapless display this week at Crondon, his admittance that he only played for half an hour over Christmas, his poor recent Masters record coupled with Liang’s elevation to ranking event runner-up in the UK as a sign that this could reverse the trend, but I’m not one of them. I suspect Liang will get closer to him than he usually does, but I think John will have enough, even in a rusty locker, to close the match out if it gets tight.

Twitter Predicted: Higgins, but not without a scare.

SB predicts: Liang threatens an upset but Higgins to just scrape through.

Stuart Bingham v Ding Junhui – Sunday January 10 at 7pm

We’ll start this one with another fascinating fact. World Champion Bingham has won all of the last 7 meetings between the pair, most of them being in the period before Ding’s rather inexplicable slump in form. The last time China’s finest managed to beat Stuart was in a decider at The Crucible nearly five years ago; Bingham holding a commanding head to head lead. Despite this, the World Champion isn’t even on the poster for the tournament, yet his opponent, who was last seen trying to hit a bulls arse with a shovel and missing, is there for all to see. I do wonder when some of the shrewdies will see just how much Ding has lost his way lately, it’s not just his game, his whole demeanour has the look of a man who has given the sport his best and perhaps has very little more left to give. I may be wrong, but until there are some signs that he’s going to come back stronger than before, you just can’t back him to beat the current World Champion, who still remains underrated by some who should really know better.  

Twitter Predicted: Close, but Ballrun to prevail.

SB predicts: World Champion to gain revenge for being bumped off the poster by his opponent.

RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT AND FIRST ROUND MATCH BETS:

2 points on Mark Selby to win The Masters at 9/1. 2 points on the final to be O’Sullivan v Robertson at 9/1 and 2 points on the final to be Selby v Robertson at 14/1.

3 point acca pays almost 5/1 on Murphy, Robertson, Selby, O’Sullivan and Higgins add Hawkins and Bingham for a 2 point 19/1 sevenfold and add Maguire for a 1 point 53/1 eightfold at Marathon Bet.

2 point treble on all these three matches having more than 9 frames – Murphy/Allen, Hawkins/Perry and Trump/Maguire pays over 8/1.

2 points on Murphy to beat Allen 6-5 at 15/2, 1 point on Allen to beat Murphy 6-5 at 17/2.    

Open an account and bet below at Marathon Bet by clicking the banner.  

SB

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For reference, Twitter had the later rounds as Quarter Finals: Murphy > Perry, Robbo > Trump, Ronnie > Selby, Higgins > Bingham. Semi Finals: Robbo > Murphy, Ronnie > Higgins. Final: Ronnie > Robbo. 

December 19, 2015

German Masters Round 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:07 pm

Round 2 of the German Masters starts on Saturday evening and concludes on Sunday and it’s here that we get to see who will be boarding the plane to Berlin towards the end of January.

The big shock of course from Round 1 was the exit of Neil Robertson, made all the more surprising by the fact he was beaten by amateur Ashley Hugill in a very impressive display. Hugill faces Zhao Xintong tonight for an unlikely place in the final 32.

As I write not all matches in Round 1 are complete so this will have to be finished off tomorrow. Wins for Martin O’Donnell, Andy Hicks and Alfie Burden locked in a meagre profit for Round 1 and it could have been a lot worse. Robertson’s loss let down the ‘banker’ acca as well as the fifteen fold that was stuck up, so he’s not getting a Christmas card for starters.

Saturday 7pm

Saturday Night

Some big hitters are amongst the lucky bunch who don’t have to stay in Wigan for an extra day and Mark Selby, having had a bye in Round 1 will be hoping not to go the same way as Robbo in a tricky tie against David Morris. Ghou Yolonge, who continues to have his name spelt incorrectly by everyone except myself and Dennis Taylor must have a decent chance against Barry Hawkins, he’s been very impressive from what I have seen of him and I’d give him a decent chance in that one. Similarly, Mark Williams will need to be on his mettle against the dangerous Li Hang though I do fancy Murphy to come through against his Chinese opponent Lu Ning despite the latters win over Oli Lines in Round 1. I have to fancy the Chinese players again to stop Ashley Hugill and I’d also side with Mark Joyce against Ross Muir. King and McGill should be a close one I’d say but given my record of betting in matches with Mark King in them I’ll pass on that one, you’d have to give Hamilton a fighting chance against Bingham following their recent high quality UK match, so no formality there for the World Champion I’d say, but I would marginally fancy him to progress of the two. 

Sunday 10am

Sunday Morning

This session sees another ‘amateur’, the far too good to be off the tour Andy Hicks trying to bagsy a seat on the plane at the expense of a professional and I’d take him to continue in the same vein and see off Steven Hallworth though he is a player I think I probably need to reassess soon. Maguire I’d have as a banker in this session alongside Judd and Ali, it looks like Michael White is beginning to play a bit again too so I’d confidentally back him to see off Kendo, who came through a tight first rounder in typical fighting style. I’d really like to see Zak Surety, an SB Classic veteran, progress and make his mark in an event, his style is similar to his opponent here Graeme Dott in that he likes to get on with it and is a very positive player so that one could be very entertaining and it would be nice if they streamed it, which of course they won’t. Ding and Tian, who knows? But Ding looks a shadow of his former self at the moment and I’m tempted to back against him again here faced with a very talented if a little wayward and inconsistent opponent. Alan McManus and Mike Dunn are two players who are pretty consistent these days and for me that will go to the wire and is too tough to call, gun to head, Angles.

Recommended Bets: 2 point acca pays just over 4/1 on Xintong, Joyce, Maguire, White and Carter.

6 x 0.5 point doubles and a 0.5 point acca on Li Hang (29/12), Zhou Yuelong (2/1), Zak Surety (58/19) and Tian Pengfei (20/9) pays best price over 132/1 for the acca at Marathonbet.

SB 

Sunday 2pm

Today 230

Sunday’s afternoon session sees a few very tough calls and a match in Peter Ebdon and Fergal O’Brien that could take quite a while. I’ve been impressed with Ebdon’s tenacity of late and he appears to be getting back to somewhere near his standard of a few years ago, but still some way off his best, I’d take him to win that one but I’d imagine it could be quite a tough watch. Alfie Burden appears to have turned the corner after a succession of poor results and I’d take him to overcome Finland’s Robin Hull. Poomjaeng also appears to be playing well lately and I’d take him to prevail over Zhang Anda as well as Gibraltar champion Marco Fu who should account for Yu De Lu on recent form and Martin Gould who I’d take to beat Bondy with a bit to spare. Jamie Jones and Luca Brecel should be a decent match and I fancy that one to go close, possibly a decider so that’s a coin toss for me, similarly Woollaston and Guodong is one I can see going to the wire, unfortunately the bookies aren’t really making much effort with markets on this other than match winner. Finally, I’ll take another punt on my pal Martin O’Donnell to cause an upset in his match against Kurt Maflin. All in all though this is a tricky session to find a bet.

Recommended Bet: 2 point double pays just on 11/4 on Alfie Burden and Peter Ebdon. 1 point on Martin O’Donnell at 5/2.   

Sunday 7pm

Tonight

The final session sees three matches where I’d say the short priced favourites will prevail and in those I’d include Mark Allen, John Higgins and Joe Perry. I’d actually say at the odds available it’s worth having a punt on Stuart Carrington against a rusty Rocket just on the off chance. Carrington is no mug and he’ll probably get chances so don’t discount himfrom causing an upset. Another I’d be prepared to side with against the odds is Joe Swail, who takes on Liang Wenbo in a repeat of a famous Crucible match where Wenbo cheated. Kyren Wilson is fast becoming one of your bankers but I’d not expect him to have it all his own way against Jack Lisowski but I think the bookies have priced this about right so no real value in backing either of them there. It could end up being a night for the outsiders this and I’d be prepared to chance small wagers on Rod Lawler and on Matthew Stevens in matches it would not really be that big a shock if they won.

Recommended Bets: 1 point on Carrington at 63/10 with Marathon Bet. 3 x 1 point doubles and a 1 point treble on Swail, Stevens and Lawler pays best odds over 19/1 for the treble at Marathon Bet.

SB

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