November 12, 2018

Northern Ireland Open

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

The snooker train ain’t slowing down and now Coventry is done it’s over the water we go to the Belfast Waterfront arena for the second leg of the Home Nations Series and the Northern Ireland Open, where we find a huge field of 128 players competing to lift the Alex Higgins trophy.

The only one of them who is still in with a slim chance of taking Bazza’s million pound bonus, otherwise known as the unicorn sitting at the foot of the rainbow, is English Open champion Stuart Bingham. Our pal First Poke is the only potter who can put the wind up the chairman by getting this hands on this trophy and placing it in his already overcrowded khazi.

Fresh from his success in Coventry, Ronnie O’Sullivan also lines up in this, which is surprising considering he’s no longer in with a chance of the million pound bonus and given all he’s had to say about this style of car boot snooker in leisure centres that stink of piss. Joining him following his disappointing defeat is Kyren Wilson and we’ll see what he has in terms of bouncebackability this week.

It’s covered by Eurosport and Quest TV, so expect the first few days to follow the tried and trusted format of one-sided matches on the main table until it gets to around the last 16 when they start getting a bit closer.

Also expect references to adopted Irishman Shaun Murphy, who has recently moved to the south of Ireland and will no doubt at some point start being heard saying things like ‘top o’the mornin’ to anyone who’ll listen whilst supping a pint of Guinness and wearing a shamrock. I actually think he stands a chance this week at a decent price as to me he showed signs of getting back to something like form in Coventry. All eyes will also be on home favourite Mark Allen, who is of course bang in form and I’m sure would love to win here, he’ll not be without his backers.       

You can take a look at the draw for this here and even play around with it to make your picks.

Recommended Bets: WIN ONLY: Shaun Murphy (28/1), Jack Lisowski (35/1), EACH WAY: Ali Carter (50/1), Noppon Saengkham (250/1), Chris Wakelin (300/1).

If you want to book tickets to go and watch you can call 028 9033 4455 or CLICK HERE

November 5, 2018

Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:28 am

Exhibit A

It’s the time of year again when World Snooker choose to completely ignore the hashtag #COC and pretend it doesn’t exist. Yes, it’s off to Coventry again for this season’s Champion of Champions, or as it should really be called Champion of Some Champions and others that are there because they are highest in the rankings and they have run out of champions.

So let’s get this out of the way, the main talking point about this tournament will be the table they are using. It can best be described as an oversized pool table when it comes to looks, it’s kind of what a snooker table would look like if you let a 3 year old design it with some crayons to keep them quiet on a rainy afternoon.

But that said, I’m actually a fan of changing things around a bit now and again. I used to look forward to the Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley when they used that light wood table. I know that sounds a bit sad but it made me happy as a nipper.

I can’t say that I’m a fan of the standard Star Tables when it comes to aesthetics, they look a bit tacky to me and my first thought about this table was that it resembled what a Star Table and a Pool Table’s bastard offspring would look like if they had a drunken shag after a heavy night out. But we’ll give it a chance I suppose and I hope it all works out for the best.

I actually really like this tournament, not only because it is a small select field but because we also get to watch the excellent ITV team in action (as well as the Johnstone Decorating Centre adverts). I’m particularly pleased that this year Dave Hendon is going to be along for the ride for the first section of the coverage, he continues to be head and shoulders above his regular Eurosport colleagues when it comes to commentary and pitches it at a level which Phil Studd could only dream about, combining his encyclopedic almost anorakian knowledge of the game with anecdotes aplenty.

As ever, they play this in mini-sections. Essentially it’s a 16 man knockout but the COC chiefs prefer to call them all groups. We play two best of seven ‘semi-finals’ in the afternoon followed by a best of eleven group ‘final’ in the evening. The four group winners then progress to the best of eleven frame semi-finals on Saturday and the two winners from those play a best of nineteen frame final on Sunday.

Last year saw Shaun Murphy topple Ronnie O’Sullivan (who for reasons only known to him calls this The Champions Cup) in an exciting final and as holder, Murphy kicks off the event this time against recent European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson, with Ding Junhui and Shootout King Michael Georgiou completing the Group 1 line up.

You can see how the draw pans out here and check out the official Champion of Champions website here.

We’re on a bit of a roll on the outright betting with recent winners Bingham (40/1) and Allen (22/1), so this is a chance for the treble. If you are a fan of horses for courses, there are some very big prices around about the holder Murphy, who has had a week off, has a winnable group and must at some point come back to form. There are likely to be a couple of weary souls in Robertson and Allen who are racing back from China as I write, and as ever it’s O’Sullivan that starts favourite in a format that we always think is tailor made for him, but he’s lost two finals on the spin here and has a potentially very tough group so I reckon there is some value in taking him on.

Recommended Bets: Barry Hawkins to win the COC @ 20/1 (Boosted at Ladbrokes). Stuart Bingham to win the COC at 33/1 (Skybet). 21 or more centuries in the event at 7/4 with Ladbrokes. 

October 25, 2018

International Championship

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

Plays better in front of one man and his dog these days

From 28th October snooker once again moves over to China, this time to Daqing for the annual International Championship, where China specialist Mark Selby will be looking to make it three on the spin in this particular event and bag the impressive £175,000 first prize.

Once again a huge arena awaits the players over there, if only the same could be said about the spectators, or should I say lack of them. One question that I am frequently asked is why the Chinese in general fail to turn up in numbers at venues when we are told how huge the sport is over there.

My best guess is that this is largely cultural, perhaps they like playing more than watching, or watching on TV more than live at the venue. Perhaps with China being so vast the venues are not accessible to sufficient numbers to form a respectable crowd, perhaps the ticket prices are restrictive…..perhaps it’s a bit of all of these.

But the fact is that year on year, event by event, the crowds are woefully poor. There is the odd exception which perhaps points to the fact that the cities they are holding these in are the main issue, the more affluent areas of Shanghai and Beijing always seem to attract the larger audience but some of the events in the arse end of the country are probably just too far away from the crowd or anyone with any money to draw in the punters. I do continue to wonder why they choose to hold them in vast arenas though, it adds nothing to the tournament and if anything makes it look a bit desperate as a spectacle in my opinion.

Anyway, Selby returns to try and take his third successive title here and he is becoming a player just lately who seems to be performing better on Far Eastern shores than he does at home for whatever reason. He’ll soon be facing a real fight with snooker’s newest playboi Mark Williams to hold on to his number one spot in the rankings and that one could well go right to the end of the season before we know who will finish on top this time around, but a nice drop of the £175k purse for either of them in this would probably help enormously to making that happen.

You can play around with the draw to make your selections here even entering the prediction competition if you so wish. I’ve done that and my selections are included below as I try and follow up the success from last week’s English Open with the recommended winner Stuart Bingham (40/1) and runner-up Dark Mavis (150/1) both being chalked up each way before a ball was struck.

Once again this is covered by the stalwarts at Eurosport though I’m guessing this one won’t include the studio bits, first off, Jimmy White has qualified for the main event and secondly Ronnie has decided to swerve it so I assume he has other plans, not sure the Eurosport snooker budget will stretch to first class flights to China for the regulars so it’s a scaled down coverage but coverage all the same and for that we should be very grateful as the Eurosport offering continues to go from strength to strength.    

Recommended Bets: WIN ONLY – Judd Trump (7/1) and Mark Allen (22/1) EACH WAY – Anthony McGill (160/1 – Boosted), Ali Carter (50/1) and Joe Perry (80/1 – Boosted).

Round 1 Acca – Anthony McGill, Martin Gould, Martin O’Donnell and Graeme Dott pays over 7/1.  

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 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…


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.

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