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Hot on the heels of the BetVictor Shootout, the 2020 Players Championship gets underway on Monday evening from Southport. It’s the fourteenth ranking event of the 2019/2020 season which has now entered its hectic stage.

Ronnie O’Sullivan was a surprise participant in the Shootout but it’s an even bigger shock that he is missing from the 16 runner Players Championship, a competition he has won for the past two years.

Only the top 16 on the one-year ranking list qualify for this event and the Rocket slipped out of that group at the weekend when Michael Holt took his first ranking title in the Shootout. As a huge bonus, Holt now finds himself in this field as the 16th seed playing Judd Trump on Tuesday night. BetVictor make him a dismissive 11/2 to overcome Trump who, with 531,000 ranking points, is the No. 1 seed.

The format of this competition sees first round, quarters and semis all being a ‘best of 11’ frame format with the decider a race to 10 frames. There’s £385,000 in total prize money with £125,000 for the winner.

Form horses

Trying to identify the destination of the winner’s cheque may not be simple but it should be easy to narrow the field down dramatically by looking at this season’s winner’s to-date. Judd Trump has taken all four ranking finals he has contested, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy have both won two with an additional unsuccessful appearance in a final and Mark Selby took both his final table appearances – the English and Scottish Opens.

Ding JunhuiYan Bingtao and the aforementioned Michael Holt are the other competition winners this term with 22-year-old Zhou Yuelong worthy of a mention as he has made two finals – albeit he is not in this week’s field as he is ranked No. 17.

Of the ‘big four’ Selby and Trump are in the top bracket of the draw, meaning they cannot meet either Robertson or Murphy until the final as they are housed in the bottom end of the draw. Personally, I’d be amazed if the winner does not come from this quartet but I’m not alone; collectively they take around 75 percent of BetVictor’s book.

At the prices, I’m opting for Shaun Murphy who took the last conventional ranking tournament, the Welsh Open, two weeks ago. He blitzed Kyren Wilson 7-1 in the final of that competition and registered seven century breaks during the space of his seven wins. He dropped just three frames in winning four of those games, so he is red-hot right now.

Allen could find the Thai too hot to handle – again

Amongst the first-round games, I think Mark Allen is very beatable against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. The Northern Irishman has been badly out of form and he’s not beaten his Thai rival in three previous attempts. OK, he does have one victory over him but that was in the 2015 one-frame Shootout which surely cannot count for much.

Holt to get off to a flier?

I could be overthinking this one but fresh from beating seven rivals in a one frame mad-dash shootout, should Michael Holt be 15/8 to win the opening frame against Judd Trump?

He’s coming here on the crest of wave and might just be prone to taking on a difficult opening red and then feel invincible if it finds a pocket. It’s all theory but if he still has the Shootout mind-set, he is surely value at 15/8.

Tip: Shaun Murphy to win the competition
Tip: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh to beat Mark Allen (1pm Wednesday)
Tip: Michael Holt to win the opening frame against Judd Trump (7pm Tuesday)
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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