It’s a joyous time for snooker fans as top-quality action returns to our screens on the 13th January with the 2019 renewal of the Dafabet Masters. With only the world’s leading 16 players take part we can expect a week of close battles in the hunt for the Paul Hunter Trophy and the £200K first prize.
Alexandra Palace in London is the excellent setting and the Snooker Masters looks to have found a new long-term home here. Hopefully the beer supplies have been restocked as the venue has played host to enjoyable renewals of the Mosconi Cup and PDC Darts World Championship in the last month. I was on Eric Roberts excellent tip of Michael Smith in the Darts. Sadly Bully Boy couldn’t quite get over the line to add the win part to the each-way money.
Being limited to the Top 16 means there’ll be few easy openers for any players. As we can see from the draw below there’ll be big name battles right from the off.
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(1) Mark Allen v (15) Luca Brecel.
(8) Ding Junhui v (16) Jack Lisowski.
(4) Ronnie O’Sullivan v (12) Stuart Bingham.
(5) John Higgins v (13) Ryan Day.
(3) Mark Selby v (14) Stephen Maguire.
(6) Judd Trump v (10) Kyren Wilson.
(2) Mark Williams v (9) Neil Robertson.
(7) Barry Hawkins v (11) Shaun Murphy.
The format is best of 11 frames up to and including the semi-finals. This almost counts as ‘long-format’ these days. The final is a day-long best of 19 frames. Coverage as usual will be on Eurosport and BBC. Eurosport do a superb job with these events nowadays and hopefully the BBC will step up the mark as well.
Mark Allen is top seed after a brilliant win last year, beating Luca Brecel, Ronnie, John Higgins and Kyren Wilson. He has had an excellent 12 months since with a £175K win in China in November being the highlight.
He then reached the final of the UK Championship (tipped here on sbo.net at +1600 ) before running into an A-Game Ronnie. Allen quickly got over any disappointment from that with a £70K win in the big field Scottish Open the week before Christmas. So he can go well again here, but priced at just 11 it appears the bookies are beginning to catch up with him.
A likely semi-final v Ronnie O’Sullivan is a negative for Allen’s outright Masters Snooker chances. Far more tempting is winning the first quarter which seems the weakest. Luca Brecel will pose little danger in the first round again, and Ding or Lisowski in the quarter-final looks acceptable as well. Ding’s form has been patchy for a long time, whilst Lisowski has been hailed by snooker hipsters as the next big thing for nearly a decade without quite getting there. Allen at +138 with BetVictor won’t get us rich but looks rock solid.
TOP TIP! – Mark Allen to win Quarter One @ +138
Ronnie obviously makes the outright market again for everyone else. +225 in such a quality field is the sort of price I can’t touch. It does mean we get large prices about some serious contenders, albeit Ronnie is capable of dotting up making the opposition (and me) look like complete mugs.
There are plenty of claimants to the Masters Snooker title here. Incredibly eight of the sixteen players (Ronnie, Allen, John Higgins, Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy) are prior winners of the event. So we aren’t going to get too many clues from ‘course and distance’ form.
Mark Selby at 9 is becoming a back-able price in these events again. His recent form is very worrying though. Whilst I can always forgive a flair player an off-day it’s much harder to ignore form issues with players like Selby who have a game based on being solid and mistake-free. It would be nice to see some hints of a recovery which would make him a possible tip for the Worlds in Sheffield in April.
Judd Trump is one I always try to swerve unless there’s a compelling case. Priced at 9 there is no such compelling case. John Higgins rarely gets over the line these days and is quickly passed over at +1200 .
Kyren Wilson will eventually start winning these events and is a possible at +1400 . I think his time is probably still a year or two away though.
Dafabet Masters Snooker Tip – Mark Williams to win outright +1200 .
So its Mark Williams at +1200 who will carry my punting hopes in the Masters Snooker this time. His resurgence to form in his 40s has been a joy to behold and he will fancy his chances of adding this event to his World Championship win last May. His results this season have been fine with a £150K win in China and some middling performances in the best of 7 events which litter the circuit. 1500 fans and the single table layout at the Ally Pally will likely bring out the best in him.
His first-round opponent Neil Robertson is tricky but manageable. Shaun Murphy or more likely Barry Hawkins in the quarter final will hold no fear either. His semi-final opponent will be the winner of the third quarter and clearly that will be tough, but as we said at the start there are no easy routes in this event.
So there we have it folks. Top green baize action, Tottenham v MUFC and my beloved New England Patriots back in action in the NFL Divisional Round. All on the one day. All live on TV. January isn’t really that bad after all is it?
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