September 20, 2016

Shanghai Masters Day 3

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:04 pm

Big crowds so far over in Shanghai in what I think most of the players class as their favourite venue and event in China. We’ve already seen last year’s champion Kyren Wilson beaten as well as a 147 from Stephen Maguire, so it’s been an eventful start to the tournament.


Wednesday sees the last lot of the last 32 matches being played out with the Shaun Murphy/Stephen Maguire tie probably the pick of the bunch.

In case anyone missed it there was also some big news in the snooker world announced earlier this week when it was confirmed that a new financially lucrative China Championship will be played in November in the city of Guangzhou in the Guangdong Province of South East China.

It will be a 16 player event made up of the top ten on the main ranking list and the top 4 from the one year ranking list alongside 2 players nominated by the Chinese Snooker governing body. Following this and for the next three years it will be a 128 player full ranking event. The first prize is topped only by the World Championship with the winner set to carry off a no doubt oversized cheque for £250,000. So it’s great news for the players at the top of the sport who continue to grow richer and richer.

RECOMMENDED WEDNESDAY BET: Treble on Bingham (-1.5), Maflin (+2.5) and Williams (-2.5) pays over 9/2 at Marathon Bet. Stephen Maguire to beat Shaun Murphy at 11/8.

September 15, 2016

Shanghai Masters Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:48 am
Kyren is back to defend his maiden title

Kyren is back to defend his maiden title

To me it seems like longer than a year ago that Kyren Wilson’s meteoric rise up the rankings started here in Shanghai when he came all the way from the first day of qualifiers to lift the trophy and begin what was to be an incredible emergence and eventual breakthrough into the world’s top 16. I can’t think of a player in recent memory whose earning potential and ranking has changed as quickly as the defending champion’s here has.   

Shanghai used to symbolize the start of the season proper but of course these days we have a few events going on when it’s sunny. I have to say that I have struggled to get into the tournaments so far this season and haven’t really watched any of them with any great enthusiasm.

I’m obviously delighted that Ali Carter has risen so quickly up the rankings and back into the top 16 by virtue of his World Open triumph but aside from that I still remain in the camp that would like to see a closed season in summer before it all ramps up again from around this time of year.

Unfortunately, Shanghai in common with all the other Chinese ranking events continues to shoo-in wildcards after the qualifiers. This time there are 8 players competing from the start who have no right to be there. Hopefully they will all lose and we’ll say no more about it but history dictates that at least one of them will win and leave the player who has worked hard to qualify wondering why they are taking the early flight home before the tournament has even started.

No doubt another reason that this event will get the interest of a wider public is the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan makes his seasonal debut. It’s a long time since Ronnie has played competitively in China and he will face either Liang Wenbo or wildcard and Santa Claus impersonator Hu Hao in the first round, setting up a possible meeting with Kyren Wilson in Round 2. Indeed the top quarter is something of a *cliche claxon* ‘quarter of death’ with 6 Reds Champ Ding Junhui, recent Indian Champ Anthony McGill, the in-form Michael Holt and Mark Allen all in the mix.

The second quarter sees Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy seeded to meet in the quarter finals. I’m not sure how much preparation Shaun will have been able to put in seeing as he’s just become a dad for the first time, early days of fatherhood with all its sick, snot, nappies and stuff doesn’t tend to mix too well with snooker and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him not quite at his sharpest for a few months yet. Judd is fresh from his Eleven-30 series of exhibitions with Ronnie so has been keeping his eye in. Also in this half we have Stephen Maguire, who being outside the top 16 these days is scheduled to play an as yet unnamed wildcard before facing Murphy in round one, let’s hope he remembers his chalk. Also in the mix are Ricky Walden who is still searching for a nickname, Michael White, Barry Hawkins, Rob Milkins and Ben Woollaston. I think I’d personally take a punt on Judd to come through this quarter.

Down in quarter three we have former world champions Stuart Bingham and John Higgins seeded to meet in the last eight. But again there are plenty of hurdles for them to jump to make that. If Higgins manages to tackle Matt ‘Marmite’ Selt in Round 1 he will most likely face Ali Carter in the second round. These two don’t half seem to play each other a lot, it’s almost like their names are glued together in the draw hat sometimes (yes I know there isn’t a draw hat). But with the likes of Marco Fu, Dave Gilbert, Jamie Jones and Kurt Maflin all in here again it’s a tough section to call.

Finally in the bottom quarter we have two real heavyweights of the sport (not literally as I’ve seen more fat on a butchers pencil) in Neil Roberston and World Champion Mark Selby seeded to meet in the quarter finals. Despite the presence of Mark ‘semi-retired’ Williams, Joe Perry, Martin Gould, Ryan Day and Stuart Carrington, you’d have to say that it would be something of a shock if Robbo and The Jester didn’t square up for a battle at the business end and as ever when the two of them play it will be very much who is better on the day as you can’t really split them when they are both at their brilliant best.

The rumour is that this one will be aired on Eurosport TV, which will make a nice change. There seems to be a bit of confusion lately as to what this big deal Bazza was banging on about at The Crucible actually entails, I wasn’t one of them but there were some people moaning that the recent 6 Reds wasn’t on ES Player when it was advertised as such. The times these are played anyway are not that ideal for a European audience and as ever with the way the Chinese choose to format these we only see a fraction of the matches anyway with usually only one table being covered on the telly.

But we’ll enjoy it nonetheless, at least it’s best of nines, and I’m sure they will make sure that we get to see all Ronnie’s matches for as long as he decides to stick around. I wonder whether there has been any deal done on appearance money for him as it is a little out of character for him to play in this, perhaps he has a lucrative exhibition lined up afterwards or something, I don’t know.

Anyway Click here for the draw and Click here for the format.

Recommended Bets: Judd Trump to win Shanghai Masters at 8/1, Mark Selby to win Shanghai Masters at 7/1, John Higgins to win Shanghai Masters at 18/1. Match Betting to follow. 

September 2, 2016

Shanghai Masters Final Qualifying Round

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:16 am

It’s the final day of action in Barnsley before another mini-break in the snooker calendar, if you, like me, don’t count the 6 Reds as proper snooker (I am such a traditionalist I know wanting proper rules). The seeded players 17-32 are here today to take on those who have emerged from the wreckage of the week, it will be interesting to see who is sharpest as those with two or three matches under their belts may just have the momentum to cause an upset or two.

Recommended Bets: Doubles, Trebles and an Acca on Jack Lisowski 6/5, Kurt Maflin 5/4, Jamie Jones 5/4 and Nigel Bond 7/4 – acca pays 29/1 at Corals.  

September 1, 2016

Shanghai Masters Qualifying Day 3

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:45 am

Today sees the 32 winners from yesterday’s matches face up to each other in the penultimate qualifying round and the winners will face those seeded 17-32 tomorrow. It’s all to play for in Barnsley.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I much prefer this format to the flatter one, it’s also nice to at last get back to the best of nine frame matches, there’s nobody on the planet that can convince me that the best of seven conveyor belt format is better than these, it’s one of the poorer changes that has come about in the Bazza Revolution in my humble but correct opinion.

So the winners today go forward to play the likes of Martin Gould, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott, Anthony McGill, Michael Holt and Liang Wenbo tomorrow to book a seat on the plane to Shanghai. It’s great to see my mate Martin O’Donnell keeping up his form and he faces Matthew Stevens tonight.

Here’s a couple of bets for today:

Recommended Bets: Treble on Daniel Wells, Jimmy Robertson and Kurt Maflin pays 9/2. Doubles and a Treble on Fergal O’Brien, Ian Preece and Martin O’Donnell – treble pays 20/1. All at Marathonbet. 


August 31, 2016

Shanghai Masters Qualifying Day 2

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:34 am

BarnsleyThe qualifiers continue today from Barnsley as the second set of 32 players take on yesterday’s winners. I’d hazard a guess that in terms of betting this ranks amongst the highest of the season in terms of interest with the snooker punting fraternity.

There are still a lot of us out there who prefer this format over the flat structure which inevitably produces largely the same bunch of winners at the end, remember it was through this format that Kyren Wilson started his rocket up the rankings.

The main appeal for me is seeing the players at the start gradually improve having beaten the players around them in the rankings and gaining confidence with every match. Inevitably there will be one or two, perhaps more, who will end up boarding the plane to China having won their four openers, it just remains to be seen who they might be.

Compare this with someone ranked in the 90’s in their first season having to play a top 8 player first match all season and I’d argue that it’s this format that is the fairer one and offers more opportunity for improvement, but while snooker remains, in the words of the great man ‘commercially driven’, who wants to see these guys on the telly when you can trot out Ronnie, Judd, Selby, Robbo and Ding et al?

Talking of Ding and snooker being commercially driven, his inclusion in the line up for the Champion of Champions raised a few eyebrows last week. After all, the clue is in the title of the event and Ding actually isn’t one yet. His inclusion, unlike that of Shaun Murphy a few years back comes at the expense of players who are actually champions and not simply because there aren’t enough of them. Bazza also appeared to suggest the from now on the World Championship Runner Up is an honorary champion and therefore merits inclusion, so we’ll see what happens if Rod Lawler graces the final Crucible weekend next year having taken care of Ding and Liang Wenbo. My guess is those goalposts might be moved again and all talk of this consigned to the dustbin, but maybe that’s just me being cynical, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Anyway, we hit the bar yesterday with two out of three winners and a narrow loser for the big treble. Today is a little tougher and I can’t really see a great deal of value out there, unlike yesterday. So I think it’s back to the traditional favourites acca for me.

Recommended Bet: Accumulator on Jimmy Robertson, Jamie Cope, Zhang Anda and Rod Lawler pays almost 7/1 with Marathonbet. Treble on Joe Swail, Andy Hicks and Chris Wakelin pays 10/1 at Bet 365.  

August 30, 2016

Barnsley or Bust: Shanghai Masters Qualifiers

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:42 am

It’s over to Barnsley this week for the qualifiers of the Shanghai Masters, one of only a couple of tournaments that retain the old format of seeding with those higher up the rankings not starting until later in the week and the highest 16 seeds to enter going straight to the main venue in China, including for the first time this season a certain Ronnie O’Sullivan.

I’m a bit pushed for time today but having a quick scan I think there is a bit of value in doubles and trebles on the three below, with the treble paying over 21/1 at Stan James.

Recommended: Doubles and Treble on Chen Zhe, Ian Preece and David John.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

August 23, 2016

Paul Hunter Classic Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:30 am

Paul HunterIt’s been quite a while coming but this week sees the return of snooker action to our screens as the potters head to Bavaria, the Stadthalle Fürth to be precise, to compete for the Paul Hunter Classic, which was famously and poignantly won last season by newly crowned World Open Champion Ali Carter.

It’s one of only two events that provide top class action for the amateurs this season and they get underway on Wednesday at the venue. Again it’s played over the best of seven format all the way through to the final on Sunday, with €25,000 on offer for the eventual winner. It’s also a chance for the snooker community to remember Paul and again lament on what a tragic loss it was for the sport when he left us.

Unfortunately a few of the bigger names in the sport have chosen to give this a miss. Obviously there is no Ronnie O’Sullivan and also AWOL are the likes of Neil Robertson (too busy playing video games), Shaun Murphy (on baby watch), Judd Trump (on holiday), Ding Junhui (never plays in these) and Mark Williams (playing golf and bingo). But the current world champion is in the mix as is the holder and man in form Carter, so there is enough quality in there to keep us all entertained over the weekend.

I haven’t yet seen the Eurosport schedule but I am assuming it will get a bit of coverage on the TV stations (EDIT – it isn’t on the TV channel unfortunately) as well as full coverage on Eurosport Player, which seemed to be working fine once it got up and running for the last couple of events so might be worth an investment if you haven’t already, given that they cover everything on there throughout the season.

Mark Selby is a very short priced favourite for this in a huge field. Granted that he does look the stand out in his section of the draw but 4/1 best price in a field of 128 is a bit skinny for my liking. He might well win it of course but I’d prefer to take a punt on others that are more than capable over the shorter format at much longer odds.

Draws could have been worse for the likes of Ricky Walden, the holder Carter, the man he beat in China Joe Perry and lower down the experienced Angles McManus, so it’s worth just spreading some shrapnel around on others rather than steaming in to Selby in my humble opinion.

So here is my band of merry men, best of luck if you are having a punt.

Recommended Outright Bets: Ricky Walden (16/1), Ali Carter (25/1), Michael Holt (80/1), Joe Perry (22/1), Dave Gilbert (66/1), Alan McManus (125/1).

Click here to view the full draw.

Click here to view the format.

August 3, 2016

The Captain’s Log – Ali Carter Interview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:09 pm
Back in the winners enclosure

Back in the winners enclosure

I’ve caught up with the newly crowned World Open Champion Ali Carter, who chats to me below about how he feels about becoming a main ranking winner again after a turbulent period in his life and what it means to get back into the top sixteen. He also tells us about his plans to release the story of his life and career.

So Ali, obvious first question is how does it feel to be a big tournament winner again?

It feels fantastic, to be a main ranking event winner again so soon after my disappointment at The Crucible just feels a bit surreal, it really hasn’t sunk in yet to be honest. The win means so much to me and there was a lot more than just the trophy I was playing for, I’m set now to climb the rankings again so this is the best possible start to the season.  

It was a new venue and host city of course, with one player being bitten by a worm and you eating what looked like tomatoes in hot water (without egg obviously), all sounds a bit grim to me, what was it like out there?

There was a young guy called Chris from Shanghai who was looking after me over there, bear in mind he was from Shanghai and he had never heard of the place! What I can tell you is that it was 100% Chinese, absolutely no westernisation at all, no coffee shops, nothing, just nothing there! In fact on the Monday of the tournament, after a very long and uncomfortable journey and arriving at a hotel that I didn’t really like, having trouble communicating with the staff I was considering coming home, but I decided to stay put and lived all week on steamed rice, broccoli and carrots, the soup didn’t really hit the spot! What I will say is that the tables played really nice and they were the best conditions we have played on for a long time, all the players said the same. It’s a shame that the conditions were so bad at The Crucible and I was really disappointed to lose to Alan there, but he coped with the poor table better than I did and I can now forget about this and enjoy being a winner again.

You are back in the top sixteen at a really early stage in the season and look set to build on your ranking throughout the remainder of it, that must feel pretty good…

Exactly, because of the timing of my illness I have almost nothing to defend so the only way from here is up. I just need to keep up my form and I should be in The Masters again which is very important to me. I’m also in the Champion of Champions and it’s only August. Like I say, I don’t think it’s all sunk in yet as all I have been doing since I got back is sleeping and I just headed straight off from the venue as soon as they gave me the trophy. But it feels great to be back where I think I belong and now I’ll be looking to get higher.

We’ve been working together on your autobiography which we’re hoping to finalise and publish soon, what made you decide to do it? 

Well, the obvious trigger factor was beating cancer. I want to inspire people who find themselves in my position to fight back and believe in themselves. You have very very dark days and sometimes you are in unbearable pain, but if you keep fighting and think about the people you love and who love you it is amazing what you can achieve. It also changes you a lot as a person, changes your priorities in life. Before cancer, my snooker career and the money it made me was absolutely everything to me, I placed it above other things that are really far more important, relationships for one. As horrible a disease as it is, cancer helps you put things in perspective and it also helps you work out the things that you need to change in your life to help you stay strong. I wouldn’t ever say it was a blessing in disguise, but it does change your outlook on everything. 

Once I started telling my story and thinking about my life before my health issues, including my constant battle with Crohns, I realised that some of the problems I have had may be because of the type of person that I am. I think people will be surprised when they finally read it, I tend to keep myself to myself on the circuit and also in life, only a few people really actually know me very well. It’s going to be strange opening up for the first time about things fans and fellow players know nothing about, but I think I am at a stage of my life and my career that I’m ready to do this. There is one theme throughout the book that not even my close friends know anything about.

It is a brave and brutally honest story, so many sporting autobiographies tend to play it safe, this doesn’t….

No, it doesn’t do that at all and I think it helps a lot that we get on well. I don’t think I could have been so open with a stranger and the more I talked the more I realised that this was the direction it had to go. There is obviously an underlying theme of snooker but I like to think it’s firstly an account of Ali the person, rather than Ali Carter, the snooker player. We’ve also had some contributions from people close to me like Steve Daintry, Peter Ebdon and others outside the snooker world, so there is something for everyone to take away hopefully.

You talk quite a bit about your relationships with women down the years, it’s fair to say there are a few eye opening stories…

That’s one way of putting it! Yes, I’ve had some interesting times when it comes to relationships. I don’t break any confidences in the book and it’s not about settling scores or anything like that. It’s more about building a picture of the type of person that I was then and I am now. I’m in a new relationship now and I am as content and happy as I have ever been, which also seems to be helping with my snooker. What is it they say, behind every good man is a great woman? I never used to believe that but maybe it’s true after all!

Are you wary of upsetting anyone with the book, or maybe even changing the way your fans and fellow players think about you?

No, I hope that they will see that when you peel away the waistcoat and take my cue off me that I am only human. As well as my health issues, relationships and being a snooker player both on and off the table I also talk about my relationship with my son, who is the most important person in the world to me and about my upbringing and how that shaped me as a person. I think some of the scrapes I have got myself into down the years and some of the bizarre things I have done will make people laugh. Above all, it’s honest, it’s me and I hope people enjoy it.

Everyone is asking us when it’s coming out, it’s fair to say the world of publishing doesn’t really run at our pace does it?  

We’ve kind of done it in stages and I think it’s good that we have, I had planned to finish it with my win last season in the Paul Hunter Classic but so much has happened to me since then. It would have been lovely to end it as World Champion obviously but that wasn’t to be this year, but World Open Champion isn’t a bad second prize, who knows, if I keep on winning it might never come out! No, seriously, I think we will get it out there in the next six months, you seem to have come up with an innovative approach to doing this without relying too much on the lengthy timescales publishers work to, so again, that is exciting for me to see how that all goes as it’s a fresh way of doing things that is easily accessible to snooker fans all over the world.

Great stuff, we’d better get it finished then? 

Let’s get to work SB! Just so long as we don’t drift off into politics!

‘Ali Carter – To The Max’ will be out a few weeks after we’ve finished it….or possibly after that, we’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to World Snooker for the main image.

July 29, 2016

World Open Nears Conclusion

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:16 am
We're approaching another lull in the calendar

We’re approaching another lull in the calendar

We’re down to the final four at this season’s World Open from Yushan before another quite large gap in the calendar which sees almost a month without any snooker at all going on in this rather sedated start to the new campaign.

It’s been quite an entertaining tournament so far, though again for all but a handful of matches the attendance has been quite poor, not helped really by below par performances from the Chinese contingent, in particular Ding, who looked as rusty as a rusty thing covered in rust.

The large gaps that are appearing in the calendar are not to everyone’s liking, in particular I have noticed those who are a little newer to snooker and who perhaps were only switched on to it after the coronation of Herr Bazza, but for old hands like me it really isn’t a big deal and I look forward to events more when there has been a few weeks of inaction. It is however a far cry from the 365/24/7 snooker that the incoming chairman promised would happen when he was anointed. 

But the newbies need not be too despondent as when the calendar picks up again there are plenty of opportunities to watch snooker. It kicks off at the back end of August in Furth for the annual Paul Hunter Classic which of course was famously won last year by the returning Ali Carter, who is also involved at the business end of the current tournament.

Following this, September is dominated by the Shanghai Masters but it’s in October that things really start picking up with the European and English Opens as well as the lucrative International Championships all being played then, so that’s quite a month.


So as we approach the last throes of snooker for a while, it’s time again for a bit of downtime until Germany, no prizes for guessing who I’d like to win the World Open from here. Not least because he was recommended at 66/1 to do so.

Semi Finals

Ali Carter 6-1 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 

Neil Robertson 2-6 Joe Perry 


Ali Carter 10-8 Joe Perry

July 21, 2016

World Open Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

World OpenThe biggest tournament of the early season gets underway in China on 25th July as Yushan plays host to the World Open, it’s a new venue and officially Shaun Murphy is here to defend the title he won in 2014, with this having been scrapped from last season’s calendar.

There is over half a million quid on offer here which is a step up from the recent jaunts to Latvia and India, but this still isn’t enough to tempt Ronnie O’Sullivan to hop on a plane and take part, instead he was last seen skulking around Elvis Presley’s pool room. It’s probably more likely that The King himself jumps out of a nearby wardrobe to take up the challenge with The Rocket than Ronnie ever playing competitively in China again.

Perhaps more surprising is that Mark Allen, who won this two years on the spin before Murphy, also decided this was too early to come back to the baize, other top players all decided that this wasn’t one to miss so we’ll see how costly that decision could be to Mark at the end of the season, or arguably more importantly when seedings for the World Championship are decided, although looking at how much money he won last year he is unlikely to end up outside the top 16 any time soon.

It was good to see a new face lifting a trophy in India and Anthony McGill finally fulfilled the years of promise he has shown to become the latest virgin ranking winner beating Kyren Wilson, who surely has a good season ahead of him, in the final. Now anoraks everywhere are left to ponder who the next first time ranking winner will be, I’d take a punt on Michael Holt given his upturn in form recently, he can’t be far away now I don’t think and is still going off at three figure prices in almost everything. 

There isn’t much else really to report on the snooker front, the whole scene goes a little quiet over the sunnier months and that’s no bad thing. Who knows, by the time we get to November we might all be fully refreshed and chomping at the bit for a bit of baize having been starved of it for so long. I certainly prefer this to the 24/7 feel of a couple of seasons ago, but that said, I do wonder where the next generation of professionals are coming from given the lack of any effective replacement for the PTC’s for amateurs.

Anyway, back to this. One good thing about this event is that it returns to the best of 9 format for the early rounds so it’s nice that the Chinese events at least are not being swept away with this tedious move to best of sevens in everything. It’s making me like the Chinese events a lot more than the ones closer to home as I continue to be switched off by the shorter format, I’m particularly disappointed that such a great new initiative as the Home Nations series is subject again to best of sevens when most snooker fans yearn for longer matches to mix it up a bit.

This one is covered on Eurosport TV which is good and also available on Eurosport Player, which is now up and running after a few early teething problems in India, I signed up to it and it’s a pretty good service, at least so far.

Bettingwise, I’m happy to take a punt that Ding Junhui will come into this fresh and buoyed by his Sheffield adventure, he’ll have all the support as ever to lift him and perhaps this season we’ll see him get back to something like the player we saw at The Crucible, but who before that, hadn’t been seen for quite a while.

I’m also going to throw in a few each way punts on players that are more than capable of having a run in this. Snooker in the early season isn’t always dominated by the big name players and although you have to look at Neil Robertson’s draw and make him a worthy favourite, there really isn’t any such thing as a certainty when we get down to the last 32 or so of a ranking event, particularly this early in the season when a lot of them would probably much rather be on their holidays. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a player outside of the top 16 go deep in this so it’s worth spreading your bets around in each quarter in the hope that you’ve found the right man.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Recommended Bets: Win: Ding Junhui 10/1. Each Way: Ali Carter 66/1, Michael Holt 150/1, Liang Wenbo 80/1, Kurt Maflin 250/1, Zhou Yuelong 300/1. Quarter Bets: Michael Holt to win 3rd Quarter at 25/1, Kurt Maflin to win 1st Quarter at 40/1. 

Powered by WordPress

Website transfer complete