As we are five months into the snooker season and its concluding event, the World Championship, starts in less than four months you can be forgiven for thinking we are halfway through the calendar. But that’s not true. Only eight ranking tournaments have been ticked off and 11 events remain, so we have a busy time ahead of us.

Two competitions start in January, there are four in February and March, and then it’s the ‘biggie’ which gets underway on April 18th at its spiritual home, Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

These are all ranking events but the second biggest prize in the sport, The Masters, does not come with valuable ranking points and it has a January 12th start date. The second leg of the Triple Crown is actually the next tournament on the calendar.

The Triple Crown has not been achieved since the 2002/2003 season when Mark Williams conquered all. And with Ding Junhui taking the first leg, the UK Championship, this season many believe it is safe for another year. He is 9/1 fourth favourite amongst the 16 runner field.

 

Trump to Master the field

The betting is headed by Judd Trump who is 8/11.

Undoubtedly the reigning World Champion, who can boast no less than five nicknames, would be bigger in the betting if Ronnie O’Sullivan were taking part but the enigmatic player, a seven-time winner of the Masters, pulled out in early December citing ‘personal reasons’.

Trump is the reigning champion and he has been in flying form for a solid year. This term he has taken the International Championship, World Open and Northern Ireland Open – half of the six ranking events he has contested. Given this strong showing it is difficult to oppose him.

But there are some grounds to take him on. Mark Selby, 7/1 in the outright betting, has displayed a return to form by taking two ranking events this campaign, the most recent Scottish Open being one of them.

Shaun Murphy, Junhui and Bingtao are this season’s other winners while Maguire, Williams, Gilbert, O’Sullivan, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Gilbert, Lisowski and Mark Joyce have all been a beaten finalist.

 

Can Robertson ‘win’ the bottom bracket?

Selby is in the same top bracket of the draw as Judd Trump which explains why Neil Robertson is second favourite at 9/2. The Australian has not progressed beyond the fourth round of a ranking event this season but he did win the non-ranking ‘Champion of Champions’ at the start of November.

But it is hard to see beyond this trio. Mark Williams and John Higgins are ‘disinterested’, Dave Gilbert and Jack Lisowski are ‘nearly men’, Hawkins and Carter are marginally lacking in class.

 

Why Allen is the each-way value

YORK, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09: Mark Allen in action against Ronnie O'Sullivan during the final of the Betway UK Snooker Championship 2018 at Barbican on December 09, 2018 in York, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

So my pin is landing in Mark Allen to win three successive games and make it to the final. The draw sees the Northern Irish player face Dave Gilbert in the opening round then Neil Robertson or Stephen Maguire.

On Paper, Mark Williams or Kyren Wilson would be the best of his potential semi-final candidates.

Allen is 11/1 in the ‘long lists’ and BetVictor’s each-way terms are ½ odds 1-2. The winner in 2018, Mark Allen seems a spot of each-way value everything considered. If there was confirmation his head was straight, he’d actually be a strong fancy to make the final as I think he only really has Robertson to worry about.

Outright Tip: Mark Allen Each Way

 

1st round betting

Betvictor have priced-up the opening round matches of the Masters nice and early. There will be two games on Sunday 12th followed by two more every day for the following three days.

All matches start at 1pm and 7pm and are a ‘best of 11 frame’ format.

 

Perry can claim some frames

In the first game, I simply don’t know what to make of Ding Junui’s apparent return to form in the UK Championship. It was his first victory in over two years and he was beaten 4-0 by Graeme Dott in the subsequent Scottish Open.

It’s slightly unoriginal and very short but I fancy Joe Perry can claim at least three frames in this encounter and kick us off with a winner, to stick in the multiples, in the handicap market.

 

Maguire’s better record

YORK, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Stephen Maguire plays a shot during his match against Ding Junhui in the Final of the Betway UK Championship at The Barbican on December 08, 2019 in York, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

On Monday, Stephen Maguire, who was beaten in the UK Championship by Ding Junui, tackles Neil Robertson and he is considered a good-priced underdog to lose.

12/5 is available about the Scotsman and considering he has won 16 of the 26 games this duo have played, it is a huge price.

Once again I’ll head to the handicap though, where you can back the underdog at 5/6 with a +2.5 frame start.

 

Higgo and the Hawk can push each other close

Betvictor can barely separate Barry Hawkins and John Higgins and based on their historical stats they are right to have this one so open.

They have played 17 times and Higgins just holds sway with nine wins to Hawkins’ eight.

Invariably, their matches are close run affairs – two frames or less have separated them in 11 of those 17 meetings – and so the best way to approach this one is on the ‘total frames’ market where you can back over 9.5 match frames at 11/10.

 

Jack to bomb or breeze

Two of the games younger stars clash on Thursday when Kyren Wilson and Jack Lisowski face-off for the twelfth time.

Lisowski must be on a high after his appearance in the most recent tournament – the Scottish Open – and he has a superior record in the head-to-heads, beating Wilson seven times.

I can see Lisowski blitzing this one as easily as I can envisage him sinking, but in either case, I can only really see a decisive scoreline and therefore I’m going low on the total number of frames line.

Tips:

Joe Perry (+3.5) to beat Ding Junui on the handicap

Stephen Maguire (+2.5) to beat Neil Robertson

John Higgins vs Barry Hawkins: Over 9.5 match frames

Jack Lisowski vs Kyren Wilson: Under 9.5 match frames

 

Selby on stats for the World’s

As for the current betting in the Worlds… Ronnie has thrown a spanner in the works by going AWOL but the fact remains you would be doing your money if backing him year-in-year-out. He is 5/27 and has been beaten in his last six attempts. That 18.5 percent win ratio is in line with his current 9/2 quote but I’ve no interest in him.

It is Mark Selby that has the most impressive stats. He has won the competition three times in the past six years and he tends to peak at the right time – often winning the preceding China Open.

Arguably his bright start to the 2019/20 season could be seen as a negative but we would not be looking at the 36-year-old if he had not showed a return to form.

Interestingly, Selby’s 2019 victories both came in Home Nations events and they have a notoriously tricky ‘quick format’.

An exceptional talent in longer formatted games, I cannot see him starting much bigger than his current 9/1 odds but I’d not be surprised if he was considerably shorter by mid-March or early April.

Tip: Mark Selby

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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