Snookerbacker

January 19, 2020

The Masters Final

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:36 am

We meet again

They have been turf war rivals since they were juniors in Essex and today on the second biggest stage of all the two forty-somethings clash for the right to be crowned Masters Champion on the first year of a new decade.

Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham may not have been the names most were expecting to be lining up today (although ahem, I did advise Stuart as a decent each way bet in the original preview) but it’s still a scintillating prospect of a final for all sorts of reasons.

Ali of course shouldn’t even really be playing and has taken full advantage of the generous Christmas present afforded to him by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision not to play, I wonder how The Rocket is feeling now about that knee-jerk reaction given that the overall feel of the week has been very much the type of showpiece tournament he professes to love and in which he usually thrives? I’d hazard a guess that he won’t be missing next year.

Stuart has his eye on leg two of the triple crown having won the world but never the UK and the similarity of this run to his world championship win is not lost on snooker fans. At The Crucible too his previous record before going all the way was pretty woeful and he’s turned his previous Masters disasters on their head this week having been beaten first round eight times in nine appearances.

I’m not going to predict a result, I just hope it’s a decent spectacle to finish off what has been an entertaining week. If not the best standard of snooker overall, with only 15 centuries up to now, we have seen it has certainly served up several moments of drama.

Just a note that both players are yet to make a century in the tournament and I think if the winner were to keep that statistic it would be a major first in the modern game and something of a 21st century Perrie Mans tale, who famously won The Masters back in 1979 with a highest break of just 48. Quite amazing JV.

So let the Essex turf war commence, will be Ali’s Pally or Ballrun’s second crown? You can take a look at the dead level head to head record here. 

January 18, 2020

The Masters Semi Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:44 am

Do you remember the first time?

It may not be the line up that anyone was expecting but we still have a great weekend of snooker ahead of us at Ally Pally in what has been one of the strangest Masters tournaments of recent years.

The new set-up has been almost unanimously praised by the players and fans and it really feels now that this is a huge occasion again. I have always thought that this was the one to win after the World Championship and I think this week and the changes that have been made have cemented that reputation, so much so that I’m already looking forward to next year and possibly a trip to ‘that London’ to bag me a sofa.

Coupled with this overall feel in terms of tournament ranking lists is the downgrading of the UK Championship format which I hope will be the next thing to be looked at. Let’s get back to the last week being two session matches from the Last 32 onwards rather than this car boot sale feel with multiple tables, it would bring back the prestige to the event, much like the tweaks to this have done. Personally I don’t even think the UK is third in the rankings anymore, such is the extent to which the new format has ruined it.

I particularly like the new graphics that are being used this week and the montages made for each individual player based mostly on their nickname, but god knows what they are going to do if Ricky ‘I haven’t got a nickname’ Walden ever qualifies again. He’ll probably just have a big RW behind him as nicknames are forwarded and rejected by a panicked Rob Walker and the BBC nickname department. Fingers crossed that Ricky continues to operate outside of the upper echelons of the sport.

The sofas are innovative and I think definitely suit the arena, luckily the tournament is scheduled to coincide with a DFS sale, Bazza as ever doesn’t miss a trick. I’m less keen however on the bar at the top and a few people have commented that it’s not really sound proofed and can get a bit shouty as the free bar flows. I’m not a fan of all this corporate hospitality stuff and in my experience it is usually full of freeloading arseholes, usually rich (financially, definitely not intellectually), who are rude to the serving staff, but if that’s the way things are going then so be it. Give me the hushed tones of The Crucible any day of the week. Quiet please. 

Anyway, we’ve all got a semi on today so who is your winner from here?       

Shaun Murphy v Ali Carter (1pm Saturday)

Controversy overshadowed Ali Carter’s quarter final win over John Higgins, a win he somehow achieved by only making one break over 50 in the match. It’s clear that a lot of people on social media just don’t like Ali these days and decided that because of this, he cheated. This is quite a childish and simplistic way to approach things in my opinion and my guess is that if it had been a player they liked they’d have formed a different opinion, I prefer to judge the situation rather than the person in it. I’m of the belief that Ali obviously believed he’d made contact with the yellow ball and therefore immediately corrected the referee, who really should have taken one of two options at that point, either stand her ground or ask for a second opinion from the second referee (who arguably could have intervened to offer support), but it’s such an intense atmosphere out there especially for a referee relatively new to this type of occasion and who prior to this I have to say has been faultless. People are people and we all make errors of judgement, even I did that once. Whatever the outcome, I don’t think this affected the result either way and Carter is here because he won 6 frames and Higgins won 3. Murphy has been very workmanlike so far, nothing fancy but doing enough and clearly reaping the rewards of the hard hours on the practice table over the festive season while everyone else was getting trousered. Ali holds a slight advantage in the head to heads and I know that Murphy is a player he likes playing as almost inevitably you are going to get chances throughout the match. But if he doesn’t up his scoring in this, which I suspect he will, there is only one result. Murphy has that swagger about him this week and looks fully zoned in so I think he’ll just have a bit too much for Ali in the scoring department in this one, he’d still be my pick for the title at this stage.

Prediction: Murphy 6-4   

Dave Gilbert v Stuart Bingham (7pm Saturday)

Well, there is a head to head record to sit up and take notice of. These two have played each other ten times and Bingham has won every single time yet it is his opponent who starts this match as marginal favourite. It’s not even as if you can explain this away by saying that lots of these matches came at a time when Dave Gilbert wasn’t as good as he is now, Bingham clearly has his measure and that alone should really be enough to cast the form book aside and absolutely lump on the Essex man. There is no doubt that Dave is enjoying his debut at Ally Pally and his clinical scoring is seeing him establish unassailable leads against players who have traditionally been a notch ahead of him in the rankings, he’ll have to do the same again tonight you feel against a player who is slowly finding his touch and is now further in this than he has ever been before. I tipped up Stuart to reach the final in the original preview by virtue of what I considered to be a generous draw and I’m going to stick with him solely because of that head to head. If he could set up a final against Murphy it could be the biggest grudge match Ally Pally has ever seen.

Prediction: Bingham 6-3

January 16, 2020

The Masters Quarter Finals

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:10 am

After a first round full of surprises it’s time to move on to the last eight, the matches are covered below and if you click on the match it will take you to a magical place full of statistics for your inner anorak.

Shaun Murphy v Joe Perry (Thursday 1pm)

Plenty were expecting this to be a showdown between the Current World and UK Champions but Shaun and Joe had other ideas. Murphy looked as sharp as a tack in dispensing with Judd, he said afterwards that he’d only had Christmas Day off the table in the break and missed lots of family functions to practice, so there is a lesson to us all, it is clearly worth falling out with all your nearest and dearest over Christmas to get results. Joe was cool as the proverbial cucumber in his clinical dismantling of Ding, who apart from a 135 break in the second frame looked back to the Ding we knew and didn’t love before the UK, in other words, distinctly average. If you take out a couple of best of three framers these two have played which Joe won you will deduce that The Gent has only beaten Murphy once in 7 meetings and a head to head like that may play a part in the final outcome. For me Murphy may just have the edge here but I expect a high quality encounter between two players who have been there and bought the waistcoat. Murphy has a great chance to reach the final now the draw has opened up and it won’t have escaped him, I’d make him favourite for The Masters now.

Prediction: Murphy 6-3       

Ali Carter v John Higgins (Thursday 7pm)

These two went through a phase a couple of seasons back where they seemed to be meeting every other week and when you look at the head to heads they have locked horns many times over the years, more so than some players who have been in the highest ranks over the same period. Quite amazing JV. It has to be said that on the big stage Higgins has a decent advantage over Ali. Both you could argue are possibly past their best these days but the competitive spirit never dies and you won’t find many players with more of that than this pair. Higgins beat some bloke doing a poor impersonation of Barry Hawkins in the first round and looked OK, if a little shaky on the long ones. Ali used a Mark Selby fist-pump to inspire him to turn the tables on The Jester in the first round and is looking to make the semi-finals for the very first time in his career. I think this is a tough call, particularly if Carter gets an early lead. I suspect that whoever is ahead after five frames may kick on and win, but who?

Prediction: Higgins 6-4   

Dave Gilbert v Stephen Maguire (Friday 1pm)

Come on then, how well did Dave Gilbert play on his Masters debut? Perhaps because his wife Abbie was nearby on the sofa, presumably with a nice glass of something he might have just felt like he was practising at home, whatever it was he took to the Ally Pally like a racist to Brexit and if he reproduces that performance for the rest of the week he should really win this, what a sporting moment that would be. Maguire produced the mother of all comebacks against Robbo and left the stunned Aussie shell-shocked. Clearly Maguire has been knuckling down lately in practice and is reaping the rewards in the big events following his UK final appearance. As ever with this tournament it’s how they turn up and play on the day, if they both play their best we are in for an absolute classic and if that is the case get on the overs on the centuries. I’m plumping for Dave to win a classic because I kinda love the guy.

Prediction: Gilbert 6-5   

Kyren Wilson v Stuart Bingham (Friday 7pm)

Two of the more assured performances without the bells and whistles saw Kyren survive an early Jack Lisowski onslaught to win six on the spin and Stuart dominate after the mid-session interval to send Mark Williams packing. What strikes me most about this match up is what I’d say is an unlikely head to head record and whenever I see that I have to take it into account. Ballrun has only beaten Kyren once, albeit convincingly in their six meetings and given the vast gulf in experience between the pair I find that quite surprising. There is no doubt that Kyren raises his game to another level in the big events and the way he coolly dealt with Jack when he could easily have lost his head early on was testament to that. Stuart has a woeful record at The Masters, similar to the one he had at The Crucible before he lifted the trophy, could that be an omen? I did tip up Stuart in the main preview though I admit I wasn’t aware then that Kyren has something of a hold on him, but given Ballrun has hammered him once on the big stage, I’m sticking with the big man.

Prediction: Bingham 6-4 

January 9, 2020

The Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:30 pm

The World Champion and defending Master is back.

Sunday afternoon sees the start of the snooker showpiece of the winter as we all settle down to watch The Masters from Alexandra Palace in London, which isn’t really a palace but let’s not dwell on such things when we have sixteen of the best players on the planet competing for the top prize.

Much will be made of the absence of Ronnie O’Sullivan and my guess is that knowing him, he’ll find a way to grab a headline or two over the course of the week just to make sure we haven’t forgotten that he’s letting them all win by not coming. It’s a shame that he isn’t playing and I have to say when he said earlier on in the season that he’d not play in the UK, this or the World Championship I thought this was the one he was least likely to swerve, but he’s full of surprises is our Rocket.

Anyway, as we all know, he’s not the best anymore and Judd Trump is back to the scene of his triumph last year ahead of his World Championship procession to defend his title. As ever, it’s not necessarily the holder who plays in the opening match anymore and Judd fans will have to wait until Tuesday to see their hero, with newly crowned UK Champion Ding Junhui facing Joe Perry in this year’s BBC Sunday afternoon delicacy.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what the first four days have to offer up. Click on the match to take you to the head to head record as well as other anoraky facts and stats at Cue Tracker.

Top Half

Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy (Tuesday January 14 at 1pm)

An unlikely UK Championship exit at the hands of Nigel Bond put paid to Judd’s attempt to hold the UK, Masters and World Championship trophies in his cabinet at home the other side of Christmas. But his run from the start of the season to that defeat was very strong and you could argue that he was overdue a careless one. After his disastrous season last year, Murphy came firing out of the blocks to claim the China Championship at the start of the season just after a narrow defeat to Ronnie in Shanghai’s final, so his work over the closed season with Chris Henry has clearly reaped the rewards. Judd dished out a drubbing in their last meeting in the final of the International Championship and holds a narrow advantage in the head to heads. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to his defeat in York, whether it signals the start of a quiet period leading up to his defence in Sheffield or whether it will simply motivate him to recapture his best, it’s a real test for him this and I can see this being a tight one.

Recommended Bet: Over 9.5 Frames at 11/8 with Hills.     

Ding Junhui v Joe Perry (Sunday January 12 at 1pm)

The curtain raiser at Ally Pally on that cosy Sunday afternoon with Hazel and the gang is traditionally a match I tend to win money on. I don’t even usually look at the players in any great depth, don’t even glance at the head to heads, I don’t ask what the form book says, I don’t question whether one of them can bully the other in the scoring or tactical department, I merely back over 9.5 frames and have a punt on a decider. It’s amazing how many times this materialises. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  

Recommended Bets: Over 9.5 frames at 5/4. Match to go to a decider at 7/2.  

Mark Selby v Ali Carter (Sunday January 12 at 7pm)

Of all the people that Ali Carter would not have expected a Christmas present from it’s Ronnie, but that is precisely what he was given when O’Sullivan announced he wasn’t playing here so the World Number 17 takes his place in the tournament to face the three times Masters champion, who for one reason or another, hasn’t really done much in this since his last final in 2014, never progressing beyond the Quarter Finals since then. Selby has an extremely good record over Ali, the last time they met was at The Crucible back in 2014, in a match I watched from beginning to end from the press seats, it was a masterclass from Selby in keeping your opponent at arms length on his way to the title. Ali has only won 2 matches in The Masters in his whole career and sometimes I suppose a venue, or a feel of an event can do that, with that in mind, you’d have to fancy the in-form Jester to prevail here and perhaps recapture his best form on the BBC.

Recommended Bet: Selby -1.5 frames at 8/13 generally  

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins (Tuesday January 14 at 7pm)

A combined total of 50 years in the professional game between these two and surprisingly in all that time they have only met 10 times. Quite amazing JV. As you’d expect, Higgins has the upper hand but they have had two close battles in their most recent encounters with Barry most recently winning a decider in Shanghai. For a player of Higgins pedigree you could argue that his Masters haul of two titles is something of an underachievement and he’s made no secret of the fact that this isn’t a favourite venue of his. Barry has done OK here without setting the place alight and does tend to be a bit in and out just lately, with Higgins having had the best season of the two so far. I’m sensing that Higgins is beginning to just lose a little bit of the magic, particularly in his long game, but he obviously remains as tough as teeth to beat. This is another that I can see coming right down to the wire, possibly even the last few colours to decide who progresses, it just has that feel about it to me.

Recommended Bets: Over 9.5 frames at 11/10. Match to go to a decider at 10/3.     

Bottom Half

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire (Monday January 13 at 1pm)

The first thing that struck me when I looked at the head to head stats between these was the lead Maguire has; ‘have I missed something here?’ I mused, but it turns out that this is mostly attributable to the early days in Robbo’s professional career when Mags was arguably at his career best. Since Robbo became World Champion he’s established a lead in the head to heads between the pair, though Maguire has beaten him at The Masters before and quite convincingly too. The UK Championship to me represented the best chance Mags has had to win a major for a decade and I think part of him will see his defeat to Ding as a chance missed given the way he was playing to get to that stage. His main issue down the years much like Robertson has been consistency and I’m sure both of them would rather have been playing someone else. Robbo is very generously donating stacks of his own money for the centuries made in this event to the Australian bushfire victims and for any of the annual Masters Mugs like me who have a go on a ton in every match, I’d be very surprised if this was the match to let us down.

Recommended Bet: Maguire to make at least 1 century in the match at 11/8 with Marathon Bet.   

Mark Allen v Dave Gilbert (Monday January 13 at 7pm)

It’s great to see Dave Gilbert making his Masters debut after 17 years toiling away on the circuit, his run to the semis and so nearly the final in Sheffield capped off a tremendous season and he’s carrying through some of that form into this one and is now firmly established in the top 16. Mark Allen is always a threat at The Masters and the rowdy nature of the (unknowledgable) Ally Pally rabble seems to be right up the sharp-shooting Pistol’s alley. They’ve not met that often down the years but Allen as you’d expect is ahead on the stats, although their last meeting at the beginning of the season saw Gilbert winning 5-3, a sign that he can now mix it with the best of them. I just feel that a combination of a new venue and the fact that Allen likes it here will see the Northern Irishman over the line with a couple of frames to spare this time.

Recommended Bet: Mark Allen (-1.5 frames) at 20/21 (widely available)     

Kyren Wilson v Jack Lisowski (Wednesday January 15 at 1pm)

The two least experienced players in the line up face each other first up with Lisowski currently enjoying a superior head to head over his more successful opponent. Kyren has been a little subdued by his standards so far this season and hasn’t really troubled the business end of anything so far, other than a World Open semi-final appearance early in the season. He’s also lost quite a few matches to players outside the top 16, more perhaps than any other player here this season, so clearly that’s a concern for his fans. Lisowski, like Kyren, is another who has established himself in the top 16 in a relatively short period of time after a few years of that dreaded tag of being ‘the next big thing’. I think this could get a bit twitchy and I can’t see either of them running away with it, I also think that if one first round match won’t have a century in it and sends a few of us into therapy again, it is most likely to be this one.

Recommended Bet: Over 9.5 Frames at 6/5 with Hills.

Mark Williams v Stuart Bingham (Wednesday January 15 at 7pm)

The first round concludes with a battle between perhaps the two least likely world champions of the last decade. 52 years between them as professionals and a pretty close head to head to match, heads that incidentally have significantly less hair on them than when they started out. It’s actually quite surprising that they haven’t met more than they have considering they’ve both been in the upper(ish) echelons of the sport for the best part of 20 years, but sometimes that’s one of those strange quirks that snooker throws up. Talking of throwing up, MJW has taken to posting videos of him totally off his trolley over the festive period and if his preparation talk is to be believed he’s not really all that bothered at all about snooker anymore. Yeah Right. That said, I think Bingham is due a run in something and if he can get over this one I think he’ll make the semis and from there anything is possible.

Recommended Bet: Bingham to win at 10/11 (widely available)

Further recommended Bets: Outrights – Mark Selby at 7/1 and Stuart Bingham each way at 25/1

Recommended Treble – Over 9.5 frames in Ding/Perry, Higgins/Hawkins and Wilson/Lisowski pays almost 9/1 at Hills

Annual Masters Mugs Bet (recommended on Twitter last week) – 33/1 on a century in every match at Ladbrokes/Coral (now backed in to 22/1)    

November 25, 2019

Betway UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

Can anyone stop the big two?

It’s that time of year again, it’s time to head to York for the Christmas markets and the UK Championship, it’s also the week where the BBC come to town and pretend that this is the first tournament since The Crucible.

It’s always an exciting time for snooker fans, not only do we have this, but on the other side of the festive season we also have The Masters and a big part of proceedings here will involve players jostling for position and the right to make the top 16 for Ally Pally with only this and the Scottish Open left to go towards rankings.

But the main aim for the potters will be to add a major title to their CV. It’s usually a very familiar face who ends up taking home the trophy and to be honest for me it would be a big surprise if that weren’t to happen again with the big four players Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby all in great form coming into this, indeed each of the last 8 UK Championships have been won by one of those four and I’d say the odds on one of them winning it again would be very short.

There are many diehard snooker fans that bemoan the demise of this event, whether it be the 128 at the venue or the length of the matches, we do tend to hark back to the classic UK Championships in Preston. But I still think this one holds its own as a major, the venue and the city of York are fantastic and although I think they should reinstate the two session semi-finals, the matches are long enough to ensure that generally, the best players last until the end.

So is there anyone outside of the main four mentioned that might have a chance to break their stranglehold on this title? I suppose the first name that springs to mind now outside the top 4 is Mark Allen who is more than capable of raising his game at the highest level as he’s proved by winning The Masters, Shaun Murphy is coming back into form, John Higgins remains a danger but we’re yet to see much this season from the likes of Kyren Wilson or indeed the enigma that is Ding Junhui, who was last seen trying to hit a bulls arse with a shovel and missing, he currently lies 16th in the rankings, only £4000 ahead of Ali Carter so a poor show here will see him bumped out the Masters.

So, lets have a look at the quarters and see if there is anyone lurking within who might upset the odds.

Quarter 1

The defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan heads up the draw and I’d imagine he’s a man with a point to prove following his narrow defeat to Judd Trump in Belfast, meaning that with most bookies, Ronnie is now a firm second favourite. Looking at his draw it looks pretty straightforward up to the last 16 when I’d say he might have a test in the shape of Ali Carter or perhaps Ding Junhui who may end up having a Masters knockout match in the Last 32, but I’d say his main barrier to winning the quarter comes in the shape of Shaun Murphy. Murphy has been impressive since his season to forget last time with a narrow defeat to Ronnie in the Shanghai final and a title of his own at the China Championship, but on balance I think you have to side with Ronnie to at least make the semi-finals this year.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Quarter 2

This quarter contains the in-form Neil Robertson and John Higgins and they are seeded to meet in the quarter finals here, but there are a few players that may have something to say about that. Higgins has been posting some decent results as ever but for me he’s not quite as clinical as the Higgins of old and I think there are a couple of banana skins facing him here, not least Stuart Bingham who made his sixth career maximum in Belfast and to me looks to be playing very near his best lately. He can negotiate his opening three matches (though Thepchaiya Un-Nooh will prove a test) to set up a meeting with Higgins and if that happens I think he’ll progress further to a possible match up with Robertson in the quarter finals, at the odds on offer and considering he’s playing well I think Bingham is worth an each way bet in this.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Stuart Bingham

Quarter 3

Another wide open section this with the member of the fab four in this one being Mark ‘6 minutes and 13 seconds’ Selby. Other names that might fancy their chances in this section include Mark Williams, Dave Gilbert and Stephen Maguire and there are some fancy prices around in the quarter betting if you don’t fancy Selby to emerge, he’s arguably the most likely of the top four to perhaps slip up in the early stages with Ricky Walden, a player who likes it here, in his mini-section. Although he’s definitely playing better than he was last season, The Jester is still a little inconsistent and for me he’s not a player to be putting the mortgage on this week. If it wasn’t for the fact that he generally runs out of steam in long events I’d quite fancy a punt on Graeme Dott from what I think is a pretty decent section of the draw. Gilbert still seeks his maiden ranking title and what a week this would be to do that, he has to have a decent chance of making at least the semis and from there with his Masters debut surely already in the bag for after Christmas, who knows?

Predicted Quarter Winner: Dave Gilbert

Quarter 4

It’s only November and Judd Trump has already won £412,000 this season, with three ranking titles already won and the first talk in snooker for some time of potential domination of the sport, he’s definitely embraced his World Champion status and is sweeping all before him with some incredible snooker. It’s fair to say that his section of the draw right up to the Last 16 is extremely winnable, even if he isn’t on his A game so it would be a big shock not to see him at the business end of things again. The only threat I can really see to him making the last eight without coming out of first gear is Gary Wilson but you’d not expect Gary to reverse the Crucible semi-final result there. It’s all set up for a quarter final between him and Mark Allen who also has a fairly straightforward route to the last 16, try as I might I can’t see anything other than a Trump/Allen quarter final and I think if there is anyone this week that could possibly spring a surprise on Judd, it’s Allen.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Mark Allen.

Recommended Outright Bets: Mark Allen at 16/1, Stuart Bingham each way at 35/1, Dave Gilbert each way at 50/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh each way at 130/1. Allen at 9/2 and Bingham at 8/1 to win their quarter. Quarter 3 winner punts on Graeme Dott at 20/1, Ricky Walden at 25/1. 

You can view the draw here

November 1, 2019

Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

You wouldn’t want it in the house

I’ve really not been switched on at all to the snooker so far this season, but with the cold days and nights beginning to bite, I think this week will finally wake me from my slumber as we head to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry for the annual Champion of Champions event, covered by ITV4.

Now usually this corner of the internet would be peppered with childish quips relating to the unfortunate hashtag that this event has afforded itself, largely I’ll confess down to me. Knob gags and frankly juvenile innuendo would be well under way by now, but not this year, oh no, a brave new dawn means that I’m not going to be making any suggestive noises about feeling aroused by the week ahead or looking forward to the climax or anything of the sort. This is serious stuff and will be treated as such by me, no more Mr Smutty. I promise.

I’m really not sure why I’ve not taken any interest in the snooker so far this season, but as winter draws in and the heating goes on I’m hoping that this will bring with it a rebirth of my passion for all things baizey. It has happened to me before actually, I more or less switched off from snooker from around 1997 until I started this website in 2010. During that period I only really bothered with the World Championship and The Masters and even then you’d not find me in an arsedent in the sofa for 17 days in early Springtime. I can’t think what it was that got me back into it but since 2010 I’ve more or less been 24/7 snooker so I suppose I am due a bit of downtime now and then.

I like this event, which is weird really because I shouldn’t. It has best of seven matches, a weird group format for the first few days, far too much lighting and it’s played on what can only be described as an oversized pool table, yet it is one of the events in the calendar that I’ve come to look forward to, possibly because it’s the first of the ITV ones, whose coverage (and adverts for funeral planning) I think is excellent.

In terms of the table, it’s manufactured by Rasson and is probably one of the ugliest tables I have ever clapped eyes on. Despite it’s hideous exterior however it was roundly praised by all who graced it last season with several top players saying they preferred it to the Star Tables used at every other event, so it just goes to show that you shouldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

There has already been some controversy in terms of the field this year, at time of writing there is a strong possibility that Jimmy White will be lining up as World Seniors Champion, even though this is not a main tour event, this only won’t happen if Michael Holt wins the World Open, whoever it is will face Ronnie O’Sullivan on Thursday. Less controversially we also welcome Women’s World Champion Reanne Evans to the event and she lines up against Shaun Murphy on the opening Monday.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post something up about this to try and get my interest going again ahead of a few decent events coming up, not least the UK Championship at the end of the month in York which is always a great occasion, I might post a few bets up on Twitter in amongst my political rants and retweets about rescuing dogs and definitely NO smutty knob related snooker gags.

It wouldn’t really be fair of me to post any recommends up as I’ve hardly watched a ball this season but I’ll probably have a crack on Neil Robertson in the outrights as he’s had plenty of time to find his way there having not been playing in China this week. It should be a decent week and I look forward to settling down on the winter weeknights to watch it, there’s nothing like settling down to a bit of CO…..STOP IT. 

The official Champion of Champions website can be found here

CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS DRAW & SCHEDULE

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4 | GROUP 4
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)
Neil Robertson vs. Martin Gould

Shaun Murphy vs. Reanne Evans

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Robertson/Gould vs. Murphy/Evans

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5 | GROUP 3
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Mark Selby vs. Yan Bingtao
Mark Allen vs. Matthew Selt

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Selby/Yan vs. Allen/Selt

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6 | GROUP 2
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Judd Trump vs. Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson vs Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Trump/Maguire vs. Wilson/Un-Nooh

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7 | GROUP 1
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Jimmy White 
John Higgins vs. Stuart Bingham

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

O’Sullivan/White vs. Higgins/Bingham

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 | Semi-Final
Winner Group 1 vs. Winner Group 4

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9 | Semi-Final
Winner Group 2 vs. Winner Group 3

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10
The Final

September 8, 2019

Shanghai Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:07 pm

Ronnie defends his title in his first outing this season

It’s been a barren summer on the baize, which to be honest as a fan and an unashamed traditionalist, suits me down to the ground, but for players, particularly lower down the rankings, it’s been a bit of a blow to their earning capability, so much so that some of them have been claiming they are now once more, part-time players. 

In the past by this time of year they’d be chalking up and getting ready for the ranking events, but not this time around. After the mysterious and secretive invite handouts for the Paul Hunter Classic recently, we’re now treated to an invitational event containing the top 16 players in the world and some handpicked Chinese players, in this former ranking event in Shanghai.

It seems a long time since we saw anything in terms of rankers and last week a few of the top boys were invited to the Six Reds in Thailand for their annual piss up. Stephen Maguire ended up winning it, someone might have to remind him of that at some point when he gets home given his reputation as one of the hardened drinkers on the tour alongside his fellow Scot and finalist John Higgins. In fact given that these two also carried off the World Cup at the start of the season it’s been a very successful start for the pair of them, they both line up here again this week.

The only ‘real’ event of the season so far saw Judd Trump make a winning debut as World Champion at the International Championship beating a resurgent Shaun Murphy in the final. Murphy spent last year trying to hit a barn door with a shovel and missing, but whatever he did in the break between The Crucible and that tournament appears to have got him back into the groove, just in time to maybe try and save his top 16 place, which was beginning to look quite perilous.

Ronnie O’Sullivan seems to always enjoy himself in Shanghai and he seems to have been out there for a quite a while ahead of his title defence this week. He’s been photographing all the food he is eating, he’s been swimming with and cuddling Liang Wenbo and he looks to have fully engrossed himself in the Chinese culture. Of course he famously once claimed that China had ‘got it right’ and was the ‘best country in the world’, I’m not sure how that fits with his socialist beliefs in workers rights and I presume he is not a fan of boiling dogs alive in a pot to eat them, but it’s not the first time that The Rocket would have opened his gob before engaging Mr Brain.

Anyway, to the snooker. It’s usually a cracking watch this and Eurosport as usual is the place to be for the Chinese events. At time of writing the wildcards have only just been announced as Zhang Yi, Cao Jin, Wu Yize and Zhao Jianbo, however we still don’t know who they are playing as this will be decided at the party they have to open the event.

The rest of the draw can be viewed on the usual World Snooker ‘my first PDF’ here and the format here and it’s fair to say that once the wildcard matches are out of the way every match will have two familiar faces competing. The novelty also where Shanghai is concerned is that people ACTUALLY TURN UP TO WATCH! So that’s a bonus and perhaps a lesson to the authorities that perhaps it might be a better idea to hold events in major cities than in the arse end of nowhere.

I’ll probably have the odd bet here and there on this with them being decent length matches, indeed if you think this will go according to seedings and Ronnie and Judd are set for a showdown in the final, there are a few specials at Ladbrokes that are worth your attention, highlighted below.

So enjoy the event, it’s not a ranker which is a bummer for a lot of players, but in terms of a spectacle it usually delivers a decent week of snooker for the armchair fans.

Recommended Bets: Specials at Ladbrokes – O’Sullivan and Trump Final, both hit 5 tons in the tournament and a final of over 18.5 frames 12/1, same bet with 6 tons each 20/1, same with 7 tons each 28/1. Will there be a tournament 147? Yes @ 9/4. Each way to win outright on Yan Bingtao @160/1 and Lyu Haotian @250/1.

   

 

August 2, 2019

International Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:01 pm

Mark won’t want to let go of the vase

The International Championship burst onto the snooker calendar a few years ago with record breaking prize money and it remains one of the most prestigious tournaments in terms of cash prizes around, it gets underway on Sunday in Daqing where Mark Allen defends the title he won 12 months ago.

There are 8 heldover matches from the qualifiers kicking things off, these include Allen’s potential banana skin against Peter Lines and recent Riga Masters Champion Yan Bingtao’s opener against Alfie Burden.

It is also the first outing of the season for the World Champion Judd Trump, who comes into this as favourite, something that he’s going to have to get used to every time he lines up from now on, such is the expectancy following his dazzling Crucible performance.

As you would expect it’s a high quality field with only O’Sullivan missing from the big hitters so it will be very interesting to see who has been putting the hours in over the extended break and who has got a decent tan and a dusty cue case.

It’s always difficult to gauge form this early in the season but in the seven years this has been running it has only really produced one eyebrow raising winner, Ricky Walden (remember him?) back in 2014, from outside the upper echelons of the game, with Trump, Higgins, Selby and Allen sharing the other titles, so history tells us that you’d have to gamble that the winner will be someone with proven trophy pedigree and not from the lower ranks. The big question of course is who will be taking home the vase, I mean trophy?

In the top quarter, assuming Allen doesn’t slip on that banana skin early on you’d have to give him a favourites chance of reaching the semi-finals given he’d have a very winnable path to the last eight. In Quarter two, you have a few big hitters in the shape of John Higgins, who has already lifted the World Cup this season and has form here, recent Pink Ribbon winner Stuart Bingham and lurking at the bottom of the quarter, Neil Robertson, who I am assured will turn up on time for this one. It will also be interesting to see if Shaun Murphy can get back to anything like any form this early in the season at fancy prices in the outrights, but the bad news is that he’s in probably the toughest section of the draw.

Quarter three would usually be an automatic tick in the Mark Selby box, but until he starts playing like Mark Selby again I think I’d give him a wide berth and for me this is the section that could produce a semi-finalist from a little lower down the ranks, Crucible semi-finalist Dave Gilbert perhaps. The bottom quarter is where Judd opens his account for the season and he’s seeded to meet another member of the Riga Careless Crew Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals but there are obstacles for both along the way if there is any rustiness there. It will be interesting to see how Judd reacts to his new status of the man they all want a shot at, it’s a whole new ball game for him this season.

So, it’s potentially a very decent week of snooker ahead and it is of course all covered on Eurosport, I’ll back a couple to low stakes for some interest and just use this as an assessment early on of who might be looking good for a decent season.

Recommended Bets: (All E/W) Mark Allen @20/1, Stuart Bingham @22/1, Dave Gilbert @40/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh @190/1. Quarter Betting Doubles/Trebles/Acca on Allen, Bingham, Gilbert and K.Wilson, acca pays 749/1 at Ladbrokes.  

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Click here for the Eurosport listings

July 25, 2019

It’s Snooker Time!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:09 am

Snooker: A*, Model Painting A*, History: U

This weekend sees the return of competitive snooker on Eurosport as the potters, well some of them at least, head over again to Riga in Latvia for the Riga Masters.

The qualifiers for this were held about a month ago and since the Snooker World Cup, which I didn’t watch a ball of, it’s been a welcome break to allow both players and fans to regroup and look forward to the months ahead on the baize.

Despite it being holiday season, there are still a few big names who have decided to make the trip. Mark Selby will be attempting to put a fairly miserable season last time behind him and rediscover his winning ways early doors, Mark Williams is going there not having picked up his cue for a month, which he said when he won The World Open last season too, and Neil Robertson, fresh from his realisation that Chernobyl was actually real also adds prestige, if not an in depth understanding of political and nuclear history, to the starting line up.

But this has to be seen as a chance for some of the lower ranked players to pick up a bit of pocket money to help them on their way to another busy season, despite the fact that there are mutterings afoot that not all those lower down the rankings are that happy with the way the calendar is beginning to shape up.

There does seem to be an increasing move toward invitational events with the odd free-for-all car boot sale events so beloved of Ronnie O’Sullivan falling by the wayside. You don’t want to go upsetting those numpties too much Bazza, they’ve been propping the purse strings up for the last few years.

Ronnie himself as we know has vowed to not play in any of the Triple Crown events this season, which I will believe when I see it, instead opting for the likes of the Champions Cup (Champion of Champions) and the Regal Welsh (Welsh Open) to dazzle us with his brilliance, though I’d say we’ll definitely see him at Ally Pally in January and probably also at The Crucible, for his annual meltdown.

I’m going to be flitting in and out of tournaments this season and other than the three big ones I’ll not be going too heavy on the old gambling, unless something really stands out. I’ll bash up a couple of recommended outright bets for these lesser tournaments, but with the best of sevens back in town here, no match betting for me until the longer matches come around again.

Recommended Outright Bets (all E/W): Ali Carter (18/1), Joe Perry (25/1), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (33/1), Lyu Haotian (66/1). 

Enjoy if you are tuning in, here is the Eurosport schedule.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

June 13, 2019

Tipping Point

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:43 pm

There has been a noticeable rise lately in the number of snooker tipsters on social media. Tipsters exist in all sports so there is no reason whatsoever that snooker should be any different, but the way it’s increased lately, particularly in what I’d term the ‘wet behind the ears’ brigade, has awoken me from my semi-blog-retirement to recount my own experiences in this area, and hopefully offer some advice to those new to these shark-infested waters.

It may or may not interest you to know that I have never called or considered myself a snooker tipster. This is not the reason that I set up this website many years ago. My passion, if you can call it that, as well as snooker itself, was always the writing side of things and I’d been more or less bullied, in the nicest possible way on the old Betfair Snooker Forum to set it up, no doubt because everyone on there was sick of me and wanted to chat amongst themselves without me sticking my oar in all the time.

Indeed, the name of the site (Originally – Top Drawer – The Snookerbacker Blog) was only named as such because that was the name I chose at random for my Betfair handle, I was a backer not a layer, a lover not a fighter and it seemed obvious to me that simply carrying this over onto a new and different site would bring my online friends from Betfair here with me, which it duly did. A happy by-product of my chosen name (or as many have laughably referred to it in the past ‘my brand’) was the double meaning it gave later to my ambitious 5 year amateur tournament adventure backing grass roots snooker. This was purely by accident.

As I rambled on and on, sometimes posting several blogs daily, it became apparent from the increasingly busy comments section on here that it was gaining quite a following. The early obsession with ‘hits’ and ‘visitors’ which all bloggers have came and went and people seemed to enjoy what they were reading as much as I was enjoying writing it, but soon the questions started being asked by my original chums, those who put me up to it in the first place – ‘this is good and all that, but errrmm, where’s the tips snookerbacker?’

So, the almost accidental, and largely reluctant fall into writing previews for snooker events and accompanying them with bets began, with me trying as best I could to carry on enjoying the writing side of things while putting my neck on the line with my supposed in-depth knowledge of the sport.

To be fair, it started pretty well, and I have to say at this point that it was becoming rather enjoyable writing up conclusions and seeing the winners roll in, the very definition of beginners luck was happening to me. Of course there were bad calls, which inevitably brought about the odd, literally, negative comment.

One particular call that stands out was a recommended bet on Sam Baird in a World Championship qualifying match in the early days which he impressively managed to lose 10-0. This brought about probably my favourite insult of all time when one person, who had presumably been convinced enough by my rationale on Sam’s credentials to carry off a comfortable win and not lose 10-0 to follow me in accordingly with his pocket money, decided that he wanted me to ‘DIE in a house fire in my wheelchair clutching my benefit book’, quite why he dreamt this very specific scenario up I’ll never know, but suffice to say it didn’t happen, well not yet anyway.

It turned out that a very nice member of Sam’s family contacted me not long after the match to tell me he’d been in bed with flu in the week before the match. To be fair, I have met Sam a few times since those days and he always seems to have a cold, but how was I to know that then?

Anyway, where was I? Before I start losing the point and getting all rose-tinted about the good old days. Oh yes, that’s it, the pressures that tipping brings.

I was beginning to get interest from bookmakers wanting to advertise on the site and unlike now, in those days they were quite prepared to pay a decent sum of money for this once they saw the traffic this place was getting and the customers it could get for them in a market that was at this point just emerging in the early days of Barry Hearn’s dictator…I mean leadership. However, this increased the gambling focus of the site and with that came a more intense period of tipping up matches and tournaments, to such an extent that it was almost expected on a daily basis and the level of subsequent thought going into the bets diminished accordingly.

Coupled with this and a massively increased amount of traffic, people I’d never encountered before were starting to demand I publish my profits and losses even though I’d never reached into anyone’s pocket to tell them to back my tips, nor asked anyone for any subscription fee of any kind and I really couldn’t be arsed, but the inevitable accusations then began that I was ‘covering up’ and ‘hiding something’ (quite what I don’t know) and that I was ‘in bed with the bookies’, which I most definitely wasn’t as I always demanded a flat fee up front for any deal and not, unlike some I have heard about, who stood to gain more by people following in any losers they flagged up – the old ‘profit share’ payment agreements, I was always, and remain, on the side of the punters.

I didn’t really like where this was beginning to head to be honest and my honeymoon period was definitely over.

You have to remember that this was at a time when very few snooker websites existed and in terms of blogs, I was beginning to be talked about in the same sentence as Dave Hendon’s pioneering Snooker Scene Blog, where people went for in-depth behind the scenes news and the legendary Pro Snooker Blog, which was the information and rankings bible for anoraks. The only difference was that my clientele came for toilet humour and degenerative gambling. I did however consider myself, almost certainly delusionally, as one of the golden triangle of snooker bloggers and now it was all beginning to fall on its arse because of betting.

Anyway, as the sleepless nights worrying about flagging up losers and wondering where the next winner was coming from increased my lack of enjoyment, a saviour arrived in shape of a blog follower called Mark who offered to do all the profit and loss maths for me and send me a chart every time it needed updating, all I had to do was put it on here and not worry about people asking stuff like that anymore, he also reassured me that he’d checked already and that I was holding my own with reputable tipsters he’d encountered in other sports, so that made life a little easier and my deflated ego feel a little more stroked.

So in conclusion, to the new breed of tipster that has started inhabiting the old bogs and cesspits in which I used to forage and emerge stinking of shit, I can offer some advice and observations gained from experience, mostly because I have either done, or at least considered doing, all of them. You can take the advice if you like, you can ignore it, I really don’t give a toss, but here it is.

  1. You are never profiting as much as you think you are, take a step back, if you tip on things just because they are happening you can never win in the long term, you have to be selective and be prepared to leave whole events alone if nothing takes your fancy.
  2. Don’t cry when you lose, don’t make excuses, don’t claim that the match was bent and definitely don’t personally insult the player that lost. Oh and (quite specific this one) don’t claim that a fellow tipster was lucky to select a massive priced winner because you’d done the research and it shouldn’t have won, that can only make you look stupid and the other tipster look even better.
  3. Don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously, most rational people understand that you lose more than you win, in terms of quantity of bets. In my case that happened a lot and the reason I remain in decent profit year on year is that the winners are quality over quantity when it comes to the prices. In other words, nobody rational cares if you win or lose a few quid backing 20 short prices if you bag them a big winner every few weeks. On a personal level, at the end of this, the best you can hope for is that people respect your opinion if not always listening to it, the next best is that you are forgotten and not ridiculed and hated by the people you led astray with your awful tips. The worst does not bear thinking about. 
  4. Unless you have a tried and thoroughly tested method which is solidly based on mathematical theory, don’t even think about charging for tips because you think you’ve got it sussed. You haven’t, you will end up stressed out, looking stupid and people won’t trust you ever again. 
  5. Even if you think you are having a fair strike rate on a certain event, don’t go down the subscription route, refer back to Point 1 and read all these points again.

Anyway, it’s largely been fun being a reluctant tipster, with the occasional ‘oh fuck it’s time to end it all, where’s the matches, oh fuck they are in my other wheelchair with the benefit book in’ moment to spice it up. But I’ve definitely noticed a change of tone amongst those doing the tipping recently and I’m glad I did it when I did as I think you’d need either nerves of steel, a masochistic personality, a never ending supply of hard drugs or probably all three to take it on at the level I did. I’ll factor in that I think betting on snooker is much more difficult now than it was when I started out, so you’ll probably need more drugs.

Just remember, when the fun stops, make sure that big winner isn’t far away or you’re fucked.

Here endeth the lesson.                 

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