Snookerbacker

October 14, 2018

The English Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:07 pm

Back with the numpties at the car boot sale

This week sees the first of the four legs of the Home Nations events, with snooker being played in Crawley, where apparently there has been an event before, but I can’t remember what it was.

These are of course the events that form part of the pot at the end of the rainbow that is £1 million for anyone that can win all four of them. In fact, finding the pot at the end of said rainbow is probably a piece of piss compared to the nigh on impossible task here.

Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to competitive action and seems to be getting a bit confused with the ranking list. The recent Shanghai Masters winner and current world number three believes that if he were to win this event he’d be the lowest ranked player ever to win a professional tournament.

The hapless Rocket is basing this ridiculous assertion on the fact that he’s not earned any money so far this season in ranking events, on account that he hasn’t been playing in them. But he’ll clearly reassert this stupifying piece of buffoonary several times as the week goes on to try and make people believe him.

Don’t. It’s fake news.

He’s also been having a go at the poor old Numpties again, reminiscing back to the good old days when he just played at venues in front of huge crowds and never had to qualify for anything and wondering why people who in his words are ‘very poor at the game’ are professional.

What he appears to be blotting out is that as well as the holy trinity of the Class of ’92, who are still owning three of the top four spots on the tour in which he is of course included, there are also a few thousand others who were in that class who now put ‘ex-professional snooker player’ on their social media profiles, leaving out the bit that they were only professional because they paid to do it when the floodgates were opened for anyone with a cue and a bulging wallet to do so. Mark my words, he played a lot more numpties in his early days than he does now, The Norbreck in Blackpool was like a mecca for numpties back in the day.

Again, fake news.

What isn’t fake news is the suspension of Jamie Jones that happened this week which I wrote about here and also a rather bizarre outburst from Mark King in the qualifiers in Barnsley during his match with Gerard Greene. Poor old Kingy got so frustrated at his lack of form that he huffed and puffed, banged and clanged and even told the referee to piss off. I think despite his protestations and sincere apologies at the end of the match he might be at least £250 lighter in the coming weeks.

Anyway, oh yes, this comp. You can predict your own outcome of it here and watch it on Eurosport all week. It’s best of sevens until the latter stages with 128 players in from the start, or as Ronnie likes to call it ‘car boot snooker’.

Here’s my outright selections for Crawley (where is Crawley by the way?). I have a feeling O’Sullivan will win it, but his price is way too short so some value each way pokes are the order of the day.

To Win Outright: Barry Hawkins (25/1) and Mark Allen (45/1 – Boosted)

Each Way: Stuart Bingham (40/1) Ryan Day (66/1) Yan Bingtao (66/1) Dark Mavis (150/1) and Gary Wilson (250/1) 

October 11, 2018

Jamie Jones Suspended

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:27 am

Some surprising snooker news emerged this morning as Welshman Jamie Jones is the latest player to be suspended from the sport pending further investigation by the WPBSA. The suspension is in place with immediate effect meaning that he will miss his planned match up with Zhao Xintong tomorrow in Barnsley, which at least saves on the petrol I suppose.

“Following the investigation into alleged breaches of the WPBSA Rules by David John, a decision has been taken today that Jamie Jones has a case to answer.”

“The allegation is that Jamie Jones was party to, or facilitated the manipulation of, the outcome of David John’s match with Graeme Dott that was played at the International Championship Qualifiers in Preston on 29th September 2016.”

The WPBSA also stress that there are no matches that Jamie played which form any part of the investigation, which seems to indicate that this is focusing solely on the fact that he may have known in advance about Mr John’s plans and perhaps even may have had a hand in them.

Remember David John was suspended back in May alongside Chinese players Cao Yupeng and Yu De Lu.

The fact that, like the three players above, Jamie has been suspended immediately would suggest that the investigation is not focusing on betting alone.

Remember, we have seen a few players investigated for betting who have been allowed to continue playing while the investigation is being carried out, namely Stuart Bingham, who was later served with a ban and Alfie Burden and Joe Perry who both were given suspended suspensions and fined.

It’s part of the current crackdown on breaches of betting rules and regulations that is being undertaken by the WPBSA sniffer dogs. My understanding is that there are several other investigations ongoing so it’s really not a good time for snooker in this regard. Anyone who claims to be unaware of the rules nowadays would I’m sure be given short shrift by the firing squad before they pulled the trigger.

It would sound to me like Jamie may be facing a longer ban if there is any evidence that he was involved, but we’ll have to wait and see. His hearing is to be held on November 8th.

Meanwhile the Zhao Xintong fan club are celebrating as he was due to play him in the English Open next week aswell. Every cloud…..

October 1, 2018

European Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:03 am

No sooner has one ranking event finished than another one gets underway, this time the tour moves to Belgium for the European Masters in Lommel.

Mark Selby hotfoots it here following his China Championship triumph but runner-up over there John Higgins has joined World Champion Mark Williams in deciding to withdraw. It’s also an event that Ronnie O’Sullivan has chosen not to enter.

Judd Trump defends the title he won last season and you can take a look at who has entered and how they fit into the draw here, it’s being covered extensively on Eurosport.      

September 21, 2018

China Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

You wouldn’t know from the photo but Shaun actually lost.

It’s back to China we head again next week, this time for a ranking event and the China Championship in Guangzhou, which this year sees total prize money of £725,000 with the winner bagging £150,000 of that purse. Luca Brecel is back to defend the title he won in style here last year before he turned rubbish for the rest of the season. It’s the third year of this event and the second time it’s been a ranker. 

Shanghai Master Ronnie has decided to skip this to give the others a chance and there are a few players who would really benefit from getting their seasons up and running as we enter the busy winter months on the baize.

One of them is current world number one Mark Selby, who looks set to be knocked off his perch by Williams in the not too distant future. If he’s to finish the season yet again as the number one player these are the events that he needs to start winning, but as yet he’s not really looking in great shape and seems to be continuing where he left off at the back end of last season, namely badly.

Others who will be looking at this event to springboard their seasons will be the likes of Judd Trump, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham, while the recent form player so far this season Kyren Wilson will be looking to continue on the upward slope and climb up the rankings further EDIT – Kyren Wilson has withdrawn from the event since this preview was written.

Given O’Sullivan’s absence and the mediocre early form of some of the big players it’s wide open this one and this is reflected in the bookies going 11/2 on favourite Higgins, probably the first time for a while that Selby hasn’t gone off favourite in an event Ronnie isn’t in.

Looking at the draw however the 12/1 widely available on Ding Junhui could be a bit of value. I also raised an Roger Moore like eyebrow at the price on Bingham so that has to be backed.

Of the outsiders I think there is potential for the top quarter to throw up a semi-finalist at long odds so it’s worth having a punt on defending champion Brecel at 190/1 (Bet Boost) and Tom Ford at 200/1, either of whom are capable of making the last four if things go their way, Luca does look like he is returning to form and if you are a believer in horses for courses you’ll be positively salivating at that price. I’ll also throw in Graeme Dott at 190/1 (Bet Boost) from lower down in the tougher bottom half, so that’s my lot for this.

Recommended Outrights: Ding Junhui 12/1 (WIN), Stuart Bingham 45/1 (E/W), Luca Brecel 190/1 (E/W), Graeme Dott 190/1 (E/W), Tom Ford 200/1 (E/W).

Recommended Acca pays over 7/1 Joe Perry, Jamie Jones, Stuart Bingham, Dave Gilbert and Gary Wilson.    

You can view the full draw and even work out your predictions in this handy event planner here (and even enter the competition if you want to submit your predictions), view the match schedule here and view the Eurosport schedule here.

September 7, 2018

Shanghai Masters – All Change

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

Defending Champion Ronnie is amongst those competing for the big bucks here

I’ve been dipping in and out of the snooker so far this season and I plan to keep it that way for the most part, but now and again, as well as the big three UK based tournaments, I’ll awake from my semi-retirement slumber to focus on a decent event and this year, the newly formatted Shanghai Masters is one that I think might be a good watch.

The 2018 World Snooker Shanghai Masters will be held from 10th to 16th September at Shanghai Regal International East Asia Hotel and this year it becomes the richest ever invitational event in snooker’s history. 24 players, the top 16 from the current ranking list and 8 further Chinese players will battle it out for a total prize fund of £725,000.

Given that it’s always been referred to as a ‘Masters’ competition, it didn’t really make sense it being effectively a professional open event all these years and this fits far better with the remit.

Given the exclusive nature of this new format and the money at stake it now has a chance to cement itself in the calendar as the Chinese version of our own blue riband event at Alexandra Palace and it’s no surprise that all the big names will be there competing in what unanimously seems the Chinese city of choice amongst the players.

China is also keeping up its recent tradition of extending matches to a longer format, that’s one thing they do better than the UK. Matches here up to and including the quarter-finals will be played over the best of 11 frames, semi-finals best of 19 and the final a unique best of 21 frame encounter. 

Possibly the best way to work out your bets is by clicking away on the event prediction page at snooker.org as it seems the governing body still haven’t worked out how to get something resembling a readable, never mind interactive draw onto their spiders website, a website which is in dire need of some long overdue attention, it really is a mess.

It’s difficult to know how all of the top players are playing at the moment as they are mostly still feeling their way into the season, but early season winner Neil Robertson could face Ronnie early doors and recent (minor) ranking event winner in Germany Kyren Wilson could face Judd Trump. The whole draw just screams quality and I’d like to see all the players ranked 9-16 come through the first round to give this a real Masters feel. There is full coverage on Eurosport so this I reckon will really feel like the real start to the season as we look forward to some cracking ranking events around the corner, almost wall to wall until Christmas.

There is no such thing as a good draw in an event like this but you can look and see that a couple of the proven winners have potentially more comfortable paths to the semi-finals, after that of course it becomes coin-toss central. But looking at the draw I’d be prepared to risk a few quid on John Higgins. He tends to start winning stuff when he realises his holidays are done and dusted and he comes into this fresh having only played two competitive matches so far this season, winning both very easily. To me he looks a good bet to make it to the semis and there he could face O’Sullivan, who he has beaten 5-0 and 5-1 in their most recent meetings, over 2 sessions I’d be prepared to plump for the Scotsman again there.

In the other half, I’d say similarly World Champion and recent World Open winner Mark Williams looks to have a winnable path to the last four and I’d back him to be there before backing any of the players in the quarter of death above him. Mark Selby has won a minor event already this season but he admitted that he didn’t play that well to win it afterwards, but of course that’s what he does best and who would argue with him being able to do it again this week? 

So, in short I’d be backing the top 4 seeds to make the semi finals here, Higgins v Ronnie and Williams v Selby, but simply because I think he’ll have had the most comfortable route there and given his recent record against The Rocket, my only bet in the outrights here is Higgins. But you could of course try the quarter betting roll up too. I’ll post a first round acca here when all the wildcards have hopefully been dispatched.

RECOMMENDED BETS: John Higgins to win the Shanghai Masters @10/1 with Sportingbet. Acca pays over 17/1 boosted at Ladbrokes on Quarter winners being O’Sullivan, Higgins, Selby and Williams.   

August 23, 2018

The Paul Hunter Classic

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:24 am

After a busy week of qualifiers in Preston the tour returns this weekend to Germany, the town of Fürth near Nuremburg to be precise for the annual Paul Hunter Classic, which celebrates the all too short life of one of snooker’s great young stars.

Amateur players are already battling it out over there while the professionals make their way to the venue. It has to be said that it’s quite disappointing that so many of the top players are giving this a miss, it always seems like a very well run event in a nice arena, but unfortunately the prize money and prestige of it lessens year on year, despite the healthy German crowds that turn up to enjoy it all.

Of the really top players you can only really pick out Shaun Murphy and Kyren Wilson, which means that this is potentially a tournament that might produce snooker’s next ranking event winner, it’s not often you find Jack Lisowski, who is arguably the early player of the season, vying for favouritism in the outright markets but that’s exactly what has happened here.

Much like a lot of the tour, I’m not going to really be covering this in any depth but given the field it would be silly not to at least have a crack at the outrights, so a few against the field follows…

RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT BETS (ALL EACH WAY): GARY WILSON 25/1, JAMIE JONES 33/1, TOM FORD 33/1, ROBERT MILKINS 40/1, JIMMY ROBERTSON 50/1.   

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

 

August 5, 2018

The Yushan World Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:39 pm

Back to winning ways in Haining

The second ranking event this season gets under way on Monday in what has in the past affectionately (I think, might be wrong here) been known by one of the players as ‘the arse end of China’ AKA the county of Yushan in China’s Jiangxi Province, where last year Ding Junhui lifted the title on home soil.

It’s a real planes, trains and automobiles trip for the potters this one, some of whom will turn up, get beat and then wonder why they bothered. But that’s the nature of the beast these days and for all the tough decisions about leaving your wife and that little person who doesn’t know who you are back home, that’s what it takes to make it at this game and these Chinese comps aren’t going anywhere soon. This week sees total prize money of £735,000 with a top prize of £150,000.

The past week has seen a few of the potters doing battle with some select Chinese players in the very secretive annual Haining Open, though in truth it’s about as open as that Book of Condolences they had for Jimmy Savile in Leeds Cathedral. I’ve no idea how the players playing in this are selected but anyway, there were some right old shenanigans going on there over the course of the event.

Marmite Matt Selt continued his charm offensive by letting a huge roar out with accompanying fist pump when beating a Chinese opponent who it is claimed was determined to put poor old Selty off at every opportunity, the after match handshake was more of a brush of hands and the Chinese player appeared to flick the finger at someone just after it. All very schoolyard.

Elsewhere, Liang Wenbo continued to do his second rate impression of Ronnie O’Sullivan by conceding a match early after missing a black off its spot. The petulant bendy faced cueman worships our Ronald and is frequently seen out dining with him on ducks gonads and antelopes arsecheeks and Ronnie has clearly been giving him advice on etiquette, I wonder what the Chinese for gobble is?

Anyway, amongst all this anarchy at least one thing didn’t change. World Number 1 Mark Selby ran off with the title having trailed Li Hang 4-1 in a best of nine final, so The Jester comes to Yushan with a trophy in tow and looking more like the man we all know and love.

As for this, it’s still very early in the season for me to bet with any confidence but I’ve had a good look at the draw and I think there might be one or two lesser known names making the last four, so I’ll just play on a few outrights and possibly put a few match bets up on Twitter each morning. Best of luck if you are getting involved.

Recommended Bets: Win Bets – Neil Robertson @9/1 Mark Allen @22/1. Each Way Bets – Marco Fu @40/1, Luca Brecel @125/1, Chris Wakelin @160/1 and Gary Wilson @200/1.  

The best way to work out your outright bets probably continues to be by playing around with the main draw here whilst the Eurosport 2 television schedule can be found here.

July 24, 2018

Snooker Returns – The Riga Masters

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

Ryan defends in Riga

OK, technically it had already returned with the qualifiers in Preston, but let’s be honest, only the most ardent of anoraks will have taken any notice of that. This week however it’s back on the box as the annual Riga Masters from Latvia opens up the snooker season proper.

Ryan Day made his ranking breakthrough in this last season, the first of three tournament wins in his best season as a professional and he is back to defend his crown having had his match heldover, also involved is World Champion Mark Williams.

Unfortunately, but largely understandably, a few of the other top players have decided to give this one a miss, there’s no Ronnie, no Selby, no Ding or Judd but there is the likes of Robbo, Murphy, Allen, Carter and Hawkins. The take up however was so low that there were a few walkover versus walkover matches in the qualifiers (to be fair they were more entertaining than a few of the others), so it’s fair to say that this one isn’t exactly ticking all the boxes with the players, I think probably through a mix of the time of year and the relatively low prize money.

But on the plus side it gives the numpties more of a chance. It’s a good opportunity for the lower ranked players to hit the ground running in what is again a marathon season, but even at this early stage, a semi-final or better showing from a lowly ranked numpty might mean the difference between staying on tour and dropping off, so it could be a good week for one or two to find some early season form and get their tail up for when we really get going.

In terms of the blog, I’ll be again dipping in and out of the snooker this season. The days of chasing hits and visits are long gone and it can get a little repetitive covering everything so I’ve decided to also work on a seperate snooker-related project that I’m quite excited about. I’ll be starting this when the weather gets a bit cooler and probably asking a few general questions on here and on Twitter as research.

In the absence of anything that makes any sense on the World Snooker website of late, probably the best way to view the draw (and enter the competition if you so wish) is the excellent Event Prediction draw page at snooker.org – until the governing body make some sort of effort to sort out their website to make it more informative and accessible then I’ll carry on linking to these, which are much simpler to work out, sometimes as they say, less is more.

I’ll leave you with a few outright bets, which looking at the draw might be worth a few early season quid.

Recommended Outright Bets: Kyren Wilson win at 7/1, Marco Fu each way at 35/1 (Bet Boost at Ladbrokes), Jamie Jones each way at 66/1, Zhou Yuelong each way at 80/1. 

July 2, 2018

Riga Masters and World Open Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:48 am

The snooker season gets underway today in Preston with qualifiers for the Riga Masters and the World Open being played out this week. As regular readers will know, I’m not a fan of snooker in the sun and firmly believe that there should be at least a three month break between the end of the previous season and the start of the new one.

But for those of you that like your snooker alongside your Wimbledon strawberries and cream you can find all you need to know about what’s going on at the usual outlets, as for me, I’m happy to duck out of this one until the weather starts getting back to the usual British crapness.  

June 21, 2018

The New Season – Ones to Watch

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

A big season awaits

Amid all the hullabaloo of the World Cup, we might not notice that early July signals the beginning of the snooker season. The players head to Preston Guild Hall to play the Riga Masters and World Open qualifiers before another short break sees them launch into pretty much wall to wall snooker right up to Christmas. Before we know it the cold nights will have drawn in and we’ll be heading to freezing York for the UK Championship. Bliss.

It’s always exciting looking forward to what the new season will bring and looking at who the big movers and shakers will be. Last season was very much about the Class of ’92, O’Sullivan, Higgins and World Champion Mark Williams dominated the season and there was very little room for anyone else. There were only two breakthrough ranking winners in Ryan Day and Luca Brecel (I don’t count the Shootout, sorry Michael) as all the other events were captured by repeat ranking winners, so will this season see a different trend?

Well, the good news is I have found my crystal ball in a dusty old box in the attic and I’ve given it a polish to give you my players to watch this season, all for different reasons, maybe I think they will be holding trophies or maybe I think they will make giant strides in the rankings or just have a decent season without making the business end. Either way, here are my ones to watch, you can always list yours to me on Twitter if you have nothing better to do with your life.

The one I think will win trophies: Kyren Wilson

Kyren proved in Sheffield to any remaining doubters that he is the real deal. His run to the semi-finals was not unexpected and I’m happy to jump on board the standing-room only bandwagon that predict he is a future Crucible champion. My feeling is that it won’t be for at least a couple of years yet because he’ll have to get used to winning big events first and this is the season where I think that particular stage of his career can begin. He’s firmly lodged in the top 16 now and I see this as the year he goes top 6, I’d not be surprised to see him carry off a couple of the lesser ranking events this season and perhaps even push for the UK and The Masters, where I think he could well go one better than his runners-up spot last season.

The one I think needs to make that leap forward: Jack Lisowski

It seems like Jack has been around for donkey’s years, but in snooker terms he’s still very young. He’s always been a ferocious potter and by all accounts in practice you’ve got more chance of Elvis serving you your pie and chips behind the snooker club bar than seeing Jack miss. But he’s never quite fulfilled what everyone knows he is capable of and has also to some extent lived in the shadow of Judd Trump. Despite his crushing defeat at the hands of John Higgins at The Crucible he can take heart that he’s had his best professional season and that he is now not losing very often to players ranked below him. I hope he keeps his head down, continues to cut out the silly risks from his game (it works Jack!) and makes that big push. He’s as exciting a future prospect in terms of putting bums on seats that snooker has these days.

The dark horse who can have his breakthrough season: Chris Wakelin 

I have summed up here why I think Chris is one to watch this season, he’s a player that I think really has the temperament to make it into the top 16 in the next couple of seasons. He’s also probably won me more money betting on him in matches than 90% of the tour, not that this plays a part in my choice of course.  

The next big thing from China: Zhou Yuelong (aka Ghou Yolonge)

The vast majority of avid snooker watchers seem to believe that stablemate Yan Bingtao is the next Chinese sensation, but I’ve always thought Zhou was the more rounded player of the two and the one most likely to keep his nerve and his cue action when the pressure is on, something that I still think is the downfall of a lot of the Chinese players. His grounding in Sheffield with the other Chinese boys is obviously key to his success and the reason why I now think that we will see a challenge to Ding coming from someone other than Liang Wenbo. Whilst he is still young, he is already showing maturity in his game that I think can win him titles, I’d not be at all surprised if he won one of the lesser ranking events this season to a fanfare of ‘Chinese Revolution’ articles online and further afield.

Liam Highfield – improved a bit.

The lowly ranked improver: Liam Highfield

Liam caught my eye last season at the UK Championship when I was there and I thought immediately after seeing him close up how much he had improved since the last time I’d seen him play live the season before. His cue action was a lot more assured, his demeanour around the table was confident and he didn’t beat himself up when he threw in a careless one. He still thinks India is the size of Blackpool but you can’t have everything (little snooker in-joke there). His qualification to The Crucible will have given him added confidence going into the new season and I think he’ll be a player that makes his way quietly up the rankings and not looking over his shoulder like he has been for most of the last couple. He’s ranked 60th at the minute but I’d say he’s potentially top 32 so keep a close eye on him in match betting early on in the season as I reckon he won’t lose to many, if any, who are ranked below him and could easily shock a few who are higher up.

The second-chancer: Sam Craigie

Somehow, Sam managed to fall off the tour last season but immediately bounced back through Q-School to take his place back where he belongs straight away. For a player with his talent this should work as a wake up call to start really putting the graft in. I’m not exaggerating here when I say I really think he is a top 16 player in the making. His break building is solid, his shot selection is measured and his safety play is as good as anyone on the tour so one can only assume that the problems start and end upstairs in the department marked ‘Brain’. I hope the shock to the system that losing his place gave him will act as a positive, he’s got a second chance now and two years experience under his belt at this level, so now is the time to kick on.

The season begins on July 2nd in Preston with the qualifiers for the Riga Masters and World Open. Tickets are available on the day or through the Guild Hall website. 

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