December 2, 2016

UK Championship: Quarter Finals Friday

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:08 am

qfA cracking day of snooker lies ahead today in York as eight become four with all four quarter finals played today, two of which involve clashes between multiple world champions, with the other two offering two players in particular a golden chance of a great payday this weekend.

Jamie Jones is the latest in a long line of players to claim he’s skint, whilst it is easy to make light of these matters it is now becoming increasingly evident that this is a real issue in snooker and one that should really be being addressed head on.

Jamie is a middling professional who had a great run in Sheffield a few years back but hasn’t really kicked on as expected, with that comes huge financial pressures which only a run like this can ease, just ask Mark King.

Is it time that professional players were guaranteed a base wage? Even if they lose in the first round of everything? That’s a question that there is some disagreement on and while the tour is so big in terms of player numbers it’s very unlikely to happen. Another argument perhaps to trim it a little and have a supporting tour in the background which rewards hard graft?

But this week Jamie is rising to the challenge and if he can win tonight against Marco Fu his financial worries will be eased for a bit at least. Marco himself is busy with other things and selling huge wristclocks to anyone that wants one so he’s stuck his finger in a pie outside of snooker to try and get by, he was of course one of the players who lost out financially from the demise of the old management stable at 110 Sport, apparently he lost a lot of dosh as a result and was one of the worst affected.

But all this talk of money is a far cry from the heavy wallets of this afternoon’s clash between moneybags John Higgins and World Champion Mark Selby, which should be a cracker. They’ve had some great battles down the years, notably at The Crucible with Selby ahead in matches and just one frame ahead in the 183 frames they have played with each other. I get the feeling that this match will set the scene for the big one this evening between MJW and Ronnie, who for me are the two best players to watch in the game when they are at their best.

Shaun Murphy takes on Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel in this afternoon’s other tie, Luca seems to come alive in York and rumour has it can be found in the queue every morning at the iconic local tea establishment ‘Betty’s’ to fuel up for the day ahead. Whatever Betty is putting in his tea seems to be working judging by his win over Mags last night, he might have a lovely smile but inside there is a ruthless competitor who surely at some point will be getting his hands on some silverware, I think he has a great chance against Murphy today if he can keep his form going, he doesn’t seem to get phased by the big occasions at all.

It should be a cracking day and I’m hoping to be able to get to somewhere in the vicinity of the arse dent in the living room sofa for the start of it all at 1pm. I’d advise you to do likewise.

Recommended Bets: SINGLES AND A DOUBLE – More than one century in Higgins v Selby at 6/5 and O’Sullivan v Williams at 6/5.    

December 1, 2016

Ronnie Shakes it Up

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:07 am
He's been at it again

He can’t help himself

Yesterday saw another fairly straightforward win for Ronnie O’Sullivan in York as he progressed into the quarter finals alongside Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby and Marco Fu, but once again the headlines and talking points were as much about his off-table antics as his performance on it.

Already this week he’s likened snooker to a big car boot sale much to the annoyance of his boss, rubbished some of his fellow professionals calling some of them ‘numpties’ who are not good enough to be real snooker players and claimed that the sport has become a cheap TV filler and nothing more. As an aside and more bizarrely he also claimed to be a ‘secret closet’, but I think that’s best left parked for now.

Before he played yesterday he appeared to backtrack on these observations somewhat (apart from the closet bit) on his blog before throwing another grenade after his win over Stevens.

This time his focus was on the way top players are treated and the need to not so much trim the tour numbers but saw it in half and have just 64 playing, with half of them being promoted and relegated each season from and to a supporting amateur tour. This of course isn’t a new idea and something that I myself have suggested in part in the past, even getting as far as tabling a bid to the authorities with a plan for the amateur game on it.

He claimed that the image of the sport is failing to attract sponsors of a high calibre like the likes of Formula 1 and Tennis do, a view that I know is shared by a lot of snooker fans and fellow players. Initially this was part of Bazza’s plan, to get those big blue chip companies interested in the sport and grow it globally, but despite the growth and the numbers who watch snooker, it’s still heavily tilted in favour of the gambling industry when it comes to sponsorship, something that clearly irks The Rocket.

He also told us that he’d got a tournament arranged for 8 players over 2 days for a stackload of cash only to be told by World Snooker that it couldn’t happen as it didn’t cater for 128, I’m not sure what this tournament initiative is all about but he didn’t seem too happy about it being given the elbow. You can see exactly what he said if you have access to BBC IPlayer, just fast forward to 02.59.00 if you are interested. If you can’t access IPlayer but would like to listen to what he had to say, you can do that here.

Anyway, on the table Ronnie is now odds on 19/20 favourite with this tournament’s sponsor Betway who for me are at least one of those sponsors who actually make an effort to draw some interest into the event and the sport in general, very much like World Championship sponsors Betfred. 

There aren’t many sponsors who would have taken the time to set up a new snooker based game and invite two of the world’s top players along to play it. They also have an interactive snooker quiz game with prizes on offer as well as a series of decent articles about the tour on a blog. I don’t think anyone can accuse them of not doing their bit, it’s just a shame that all the sponsors don’t give that level of commitment to the fans.

The move to the two table set up clearly benefited the more experienced players yesterday with a combined score of 24-5 in their favour, but today’s matches with the possible exception of one of them, if that pattern continues, look set to be a lot closer with a lot more even match ups, so given the goings on of yesterday I think a revised handicap bet is probably in order.

Recommended Bet: Treble pays over 5/1 on MJW (-2.5), Maguire (-1.5) and Jones (+2.5) 

November 30, 2016

UK Championship Last 16

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:51 am

The next two days sees the third transformation of the set up at the Barbican as we move to the two table scenario to play the 8 matches of the next round which will see 16 players whittled down to the final 8.

Increasingly now we are used to seeing names left in at the business end which raise an eyebrow and this is no exception. Undoubtedly local lad Oli Lines is the one that most will be rooting for at the venue and he continues today against Marco Fu following his impressive disposal of Jimmy Robertson yesterday, also still in there are Ghou Yolonge and Zhang Anda from China, England’s Liam Highfield, Neath’s Jamie Jones and the Belgian Bullet Luca Brecel.

Whilst big names are toppling like skittles there are still those in there lurking that we might expect to go deep, World Champion Selby, Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Mark Allen and a certain Mr O’Sullivan will all have their eyes on the prize and you’d imagine that some combination of these names will be going toe to toe on Sunday, but the way snooker is these days this is by no means guaranteed, this is 2016 after all.

Ronnie faces his first proper test this afternoon against Matthew Stevens who usually gives him a decent game, it should provide an indication as to whether Ronnie is a worthy tournament favourite as we can’t really judge this on his first three matches against very lowly ranked players, despite him only dropping a frame. He did at least acknowledge after the last one that he’s concerned at not being in the top 16 when the World Championship gets underway so we know he has one eye on his ranking status.

Anyway, it should be an interesting couple of days and it would be nice to see Oli get further, I think he has a decent chance today against Marco, after that, anything is a bonus.   


RECOMMENDED BETS: ACCA pays over 9/2 all handicaps plus 3.5 frames – Lines, Anda, Highfield, Yolonge. CHANCEY SINGLE – Oli Lines @5/2. TRICKY TRIXIE – Jamie Jones, Luca Brecel and Oli Lines (+1.5) – treble pays over 13/1. 

November 28, 2016

UK Championship Third Round

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:59 am

It’s time to bid a not so fond farewell to the Sports Hall today as the action now moves to the four tables in the main arena at The Barbican in York for the third round of the UK Championship.

It’s been a pretty eventful couple of days which saw some unlikely headline grabbers in amongst those still left competing. It seems Fergal O’Brien is following in the footsteps of recent fellow oldies in upping his game. The man with possibly the strangest facial expression when down on the shot banged in five centuries in his 6-5 win over Barry Hawkins, the first person ever to achieve such a feat. It’s also very much a case of ‘keep it in the family’ as Peter and Oli Lines continue their quest to keep the trophy in Yorkshire, Peter of course knocked out Robbo earlier in the contest and Oli last night completed a great win over Judd.

Of course there are still lots of established names left, not least Ronnie O’Sullivan who is yet to lose a frame, but let’s face it, he hasn’t exactly got a bad draw in this has he? He faces Michael Georgiou today and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he might carry on that streak and be 18-0 by around 2.30 this afternoon. Less convincing so far have been Ding Junhui and Mark Selby who will both need to lift their game several notches as the week goes on. John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, 147 man Mark Allen, Ali Carter and a few other established winners are all still in the mix too so there is still plenty to play for.

The running order for the next two days can be found by clicking here with how the draw pans out below, followed by a few bets.


Recommended Bets: Tasty Treble – Ali Carter, Peter Lines and Mark Williams pays over 13/2. Single Punt: Ronnie O’Sullivan to win 6-0 at 7/1. Tricky Trixie: Jamie Jones, Mitchell Mann and Fergal O’Brien – treble pays over 58/1. 

November 25, 2016

UK Championship Continues

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:12 pm

Saturday sees the start of the tournament proper as the BBC rolls into town to cover the remainder of the UK Championship from The Barbican in York, this being the first snooker they have covered this season, have you missed them? No, I didn’t think so.

See the thing is with the BBC, I used to really look forward to them getting involved but increasingly now I find myself tuning in to Eurosport instead whilst wishing everything was on ITV. Each broadcaster has their strengths, Eurosport I’d argue have landed a real coup with Ronnie and Jimmy but do need to improve their commentary team, ITV seem to me to be as close to the real deal as any of them and BBC retain a couple of decent commentators and the best in the business at keeping everything in check in Hazel. In addition, they do now and again provide the odd (literally) feature to keep us all entertained during the intervals, also benefiting from not having to break to adverts starring Fred Flintstone or being whistled in by a painter after every frame of course.

The BBC remain the most popular station for coverage with the wider baize viewing public, if not the hardcore snooker fraternity, two very different beasts with differing televisual needs. I’ll see the usual huge hike in hits and visitors to this place that the UK always brings, I’ll get more followers on Twitter and the other place simply because it’s on the BBC, still then, despite the efforts of its competitors the real Home of Snooker in the UK at least.

The holder Neil Robertson has already bitten the dust and Ding very nearly did too, there were easy wins for Ronnie, Selby and Judd and a comeback from 5-0 down to win 6-5 from Alan McManus. The schedule for Saturday and Sunday is contained below as 64 become 32 going into week two. Bets at the foot of the post, I hope a few of you got on the first round big acca which managed to dodge the exit of Robertson and come home in style with McManus, could that be an omen?




MAIN ACCA – MJW, Maguire, McManus, Carter, Gilbert, Allen and Fu pays over 9/1.

TRICKY TRIXIE – Jimmy Robertson, Kurt Maflin and Peter Lines, treble pays over 14/1.

PUNTING DOUBLES AND TREBLES (Best Prices Quoted) – Sam Craigie (5/2), Mitchell Mann (2/1), Paul Davison (23/5) and Hammad Miah (5/2), acca pays 164/1.

November 23, 2016

Crazy Snooker with Robbo and Jester

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:49 pm

Now and again I get approached by companies wanting me to bash a few things up on here on their behalf, 99% of them are a waste of time, but when Betway asked me to help them promote Neil Robertson and Mark Selby playing ‘Crazy Snooker’ ahead of the UK Championship, how could I possibly not take a look?

The resultant videos of these two clowning around on the snooker equivalent of Mousetrap are contained below, it’s fair to say that The Jester takes a healthy lead against a hapless Robbo early on, who seems to become increasingly frustrated as he realises he’s pretty crap at it and The Jester is starting to patronise him a bit. But can the determined Aussie pull it round on the inward leg? Stranger things have happened…..not many I’ll grant you but it’s a nail-biting finish. A bit like Billiards, I’m not sure it will catch on, it’s better than the Shootout though.

If you feel so inclined you can also play along with the Betway interactive quiz and follow their tournament blog by clicking here 

November 21, 2016

The UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:07 pm
Coming in from the cold

Coming in from the cold

We all know the feeling, after spending a week roughing it in a tent it’s always nice to get back indoors and have a nice hot bath, well after the Belfast camping trip it’s time now to get back to the more theatrical surroundings of York’s Barbican for this season’s UK Championship which runs for the best part of a fortnight starting on Tuesday.

At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, it’s once more that point in the season where I start moaning about the format of this once great event. The reduction in match length which happened almost immediately after Bazza’s dictatorship started has taken away a big slice of what made this such a great event back in the day.

From a players point of view it’s all very much ‘us and them’ for the opening rounds as the lower ranked players get shoved in a quite inadequate sports hall to play their opening matches whilst those higher up the rankings or those considered more ‘box office’ are treated to the main arena from the off, meaning that in effect the higher ranked players have an advantage from the start. The 128 players at the venue is in my opinion one of Bazza’s least successful initiatives, save that for the Home Nations, not for this.

That isn’t to say that players from lower down the ranks can’t have a run as David Grace proved last year making the semi-finals but usually we find one of the ‘big guns’ getting their mits on the trophy at the end. Neil Robertson returns to defend the title this time around.

It usually feels like Christmas is just around the corner when this starts but after it we’ve still got German Masters qualifying and the Scottish Open to play before the potters can start writing their lists to Santa, such is the way of the snooker world these days.

As you’d expect it’s a full field of big names and these days it’s so difficult to predict tournament winners. Mark King winning in Belfast proved that and according to a poll I ran on Twitter came as more of a surprise than Brexit, President Trump and the deaths of Prince and Bowie put together. Whether the win will promote him to the main arena for his first round match against SB Classic Champ Sam Craigie remains to be seen, but World Snooker have a habit of bringing players down to earth with a bump so I wouldn’t be too hopeful if I was him.

I actually, rather boringly think Ronnie is the man to beat in this. He is clearly focusing on the big events now and said as much in Belfast, he played well enough there to suggest he isn’t far off top form and this type of event usually brings out the best in him so I’m happy to take the 4/1 floating around on him to win it.

In terms of match betting, there are so many going on I’ll be putting them up on here daily for the first few rounds until we get to the last 32. Eurosport Player or the bookie sites will be covering the streamed tables from the start and the BBC and Eurosport will be covering the main event from next Saturday.

RECOMMENDED OUTRIGHT BETS: Ronnie O’Sullivan at 4/1, Each Way Stuart Bingham at 28/1.

FIRST ROUND BIG ACCA: Pays over 2/1 at Marathon:  Hawkins, Ding, Trump, Woollaston, Higgins, Dunn, Carter, MJW, McManus. 



November 17, 2016

The Northern Irish Open Continues

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:13 am
It's a bit breezy in Belfast

It’s a bit breezy in Belfast

I’m actually quite enjoying this, I wasn’t intending to get that involved in it but there is so much going on in Belfast it seems silly not to at least blog about it once.

The fact that it is being held next to a busy airport runway is one thing but add to this the fact that they appear to be playing in a tent in the windiest corner of the globe and you have probably the noisiest venue ever visited by World Snooker, at one point yesterday it actually sounded like the whole place was going to cave in.

I suppose it’s all very apt given the frequent references to The Hurricane, in whose honour the trophy (not the tournament as Jimmy keeps saying) is named. If there is an afterlife (there isn’t) then Alex is having a ball up there turning on the wind machine to remind them all why they are still earning, what happens today might not have done had Alex not been the player and character he was.

Talking of characters, what’s all that about with Mark’s Allen and Joyce? Allen says he’s a ‘dick’, thinks ‘he’s something that he isn’t’, ‘isn’t even a good player’ and generally ‘is just not a nice person’ while Joyce says nothing in retaliation. Talk about one way traffic?

I’ve tried in vain to find out what the background is to this, I know that Allen spent a bit of time earlier in his career around Joyce’s neck of the woods so maybe they have some previous from then, if anyone knows what the blazers this is all about please feel free to let us know. It’s even got a few of his fellow professionals baffled with one saying to me he thought it might all be a big act on Allen’s part for the benefit of his home tournament, but it looked pretty real to me so if it is I think Mark has a back up in the acting profession if the snooker goes tits up.

Last night saw snooker’s very own shrinking man Jimmy outplayed by The Rocket, beforehand the two had a look at a few old photographs together while struggling to remember where they were taken. In one, Ronnie can be seen gazing up at his hero in an almost doe-eyed fashion, however he was later to reveal that he’d had no sleep and been out on the lash for 24 hours before it was taken, Jimmy confirming in a rare moment of clarity that Ronald was indeed in quite a state that day and was struggling to even stand up never mind play snooker.

Another photograph led Dafabet Ambassador Jimmy to start reminiscing about a time ‘when I used to like a bet’ as he recalled scuttling around the qualifying venue tables on the balcony of the Guild Hall checking on his 8 match accumulator. Thankfully now Saint Jimmy has seen the light, as well as cutting out the pies he now just leads people off the betting cliff rather than jumping off himself with his ambitious morning accumulators delivered as part of his ambassadorial duties, no wonder Dafabet are so fond of him, he’s making them a packet with those tips.

Just before last night’s spectacle John Higgins had continued his mercurial recent run with a 4-1 win over SB Classic Champion Sam Craigie, topping it off with a maximum break to earn another 10 grand on top of the zillion quid he has already won over the past few weeks, it would be a brave man to bet against him lifting his namesake’s trophy come Sunday.

Anyway, it’s a 12 noon start in the Big Top today, I haven’t looked at the forecast but if the wind gets up again they are going to be lucky to get this finished before the venue collapses, then Alex really would have had the last laugh.

The schedule for the rest of the tournament can be found here

November 14, 2016

Northern Ireland Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:04 am

The November marathon of snooker continues today with the new Northern Ireland Open, the second of the million pound Grand Slam tournaments which are basically PTC’s by any other name.

It’s a somewhat depleted field with a few withdrawals late on but there are still a few big names in there, Ronnie O’Sullivan is still in the mix and joins the zoo full of amateurs on Monday evening. I’m not going to bother with this one in terms of a preview or coverage as the best of seven events aren’t really my cup of tea. Remember that Liang Wenbo is the only person who can nab the million quid off Bazza, he won’t of course but it would be quite funny if he won this too.

Order of play can be found here and the draw here 

November 11, 2016

The COC Semis

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:47 am
It's been a while

It’s been a while

Now the groups are all done it’s time for the final four to battle it out in two best of eleven frame semi finals in Coventry before tomorrow sees the two session final decide who will be this season’s COC of snooker.

The groups were all entertaining enough and I do have some time for this format, at least it’s a bit different and obviously the coverage afforded this event by the excellent ITV team adds very much to it. So much so in fact that Neal Foulds has said that this event should be ‘up there’ with snooker’s most prestigious events like the Masters, the UK and the World Championship. Personally I’d have this on the second rung of the ladder as I think there are at least two tournaments in China that merit inclusion in a Grand Slam type bracket more than this one, but we’ll agree to differ on that.

Talking of agreeing to differ, Twitter is getting a bit more tetchy these days. All I have to do is simply say something mildly non ‘on message’ about John Higgins and all hell breaks loose. It’s almost like to some I have accused them of rogering a goat the way people can react. Maybe that’s the post-Donald world we now live in, where people can do something wrong one minute and the next it’s all forgotten about like it never happened, much like Donny himself who now seems to love, respect and admire those who he has been spouting his venomous bile towards these last few months. He was only joking.

One Trump who won’t be triumphant this week is Judd, the ‘Ace in the Pack’ himself being trumped by Higgins who progresses again to face Ding Junhui this afternoon in the first semi-final. It’s quite a remarkable run that Higgins is putting together, it makes you wonder why he’s been so poor at The Crucible these past few years, never looking like adding to his tally of four world titles, perhaps this season he might re-emerge as a contender again as he clearly still has everything it takes to be at the top of the tree. Ding in the meantime came through a pretty mediocre affair with Ali Carter before dispensing with Stuart Bingham who frankly looked like he just wanted to go to bed by the end.

In the other semi-final tonight we find Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen. Ronnie struggled through his group on Monday, he looked at times a little disinterested but was never really asked a serious question all day and by the end looked a bit bored by it all, his post match interview showed signs that his inner chimp was escaping from the box. He also had a go at Marks and Spencers about his new shoes, so much so that the following day the retail giant announced it was closing loads of shops and concentrating on food rather than clothing, such is the power The Rocket yields.

Allen is in great form and must fancy his chances of upsetting the crowd tonight. I suspect the Ronnie that we’ll see later won’t be the one we saw on Monday, I’d imagine he’ll be relishing the possible match up with Higgins in the final for a real old school battle of the greats. They haven’t really locked horns on the big stage now since 2011 when Higgins beat him on the way to what could prove his last world title win, for the fans I think it would be a real treat to see them battle it out in a big final again, it’s almost a decade since they met in a major final so it’s very much overdue.

So it’s unsurprisingly from me a nod to nostalgia and I’ll go for a Higgins versus O’Sullivan final, if you click on the match fixtures below you’ll find the head to head stats on Cue Tracker. The Even money available on Higgins to win this afternoon looks like a decent bet to me.

Semi Finals

1pm – Ding Junhui v John Higgins

7pm – Mark Allen v Ronnie O’Sullivan

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