The winter months are fantastic: crisp, frosty mornings, roasting fires and the lure of Father Christmas just around the corner to usher in gifts, goodwill and – most importantly – some time off work.
The winter months also serve up a bounty of snooker. The Masters, the much-loved tournament held at London’s Alexandra Palace, is poised on the horizon in January. But first there’s the rather tasty appetiser of the 2016 Betway UK Championships from York’s Barbican Centre.
Kicking off on 22 November with the first round matches, the UK Championships are unique in that they follow a 128-man open draw, which means that the best players in the world could meet in the first round or the final. It’s a format, not popular with all it must be said, that can deliver surprise results – world number 81 David Grace reached the semi-finals in 2015.
As snooker betting goes, this is one of the most anticipated events in the calendar. There have been seven different winners of this trophy in the last eight years and a grand total of 15 different finalists in the past decade. Grace showed last year that even long-priced each way flutters have value.
You can expect both bookmakers and online betting sites to go into overdrive as a consequence.
Making any bold predictions for snooker success is fraught with danger for the reasons outlined above and so ‘best bets’ columns should be treated with caution.
If you do take advantage of any number of welcome promotions that the key bookies are running then you’ll have an arsenal of free bets at your disposal; perfect for tough-to-call World Snooker events like this one. With exclusive odds and offers available, picking the right online betting platform is essential.
No betting preview can be written without an attempt to pin down a few potential champions or finalists. Certainly, the first port of call must be a player in form. The nature of the open draw format means that the potential champion could have to play the best eight players in the world on his way to glory, so clearly anybody with confidence and on something of a winning streak must come into consideration.
This tournament is one of snooker’s majors and forms part of the so-called ‘Triple Crown’, along with the Masters and World Championships. The ability to handle the pressure of trying to create a little piece of snooker history is hugely important. Grace admitted that he ‘twitched’ when attempting to pot a pink against Liang Wenbo in last year’s semi-final, while Liang himself looked like a rabbit in the headlights at times in his defeat to Neil Robertson in the final. Big match bottle should not be underestimated.
When it comes to pinning colours to the mast of a proven champion who has all the necessary boxes ticked to win here, backing Mark Selby is a must.
Available at best odds of 6/1 with Coral, the Jester from Leicester’s record at the Barbican Centre is no laughing matter. He lifted this trophy in 2012, reached the final a year later and has appeared in another pair of semi-finals. Few players enjoy the Barbican baize quite like the 33-year-old.
A stellar year on the circuit sets Selby up quite nicely for an assault on the title too. He won the World Championships, snooker’s greatest prize, back in April and has since lifted three other trophies in ranking events. Recent events in China suggest he is striking the ball rather nicely at the moment – of those at the head of the market it is the six-time major winner that holds the most appeal.
Alternatively, Stuart Bingham can be backed at the rather generous price of 25/1 with NetBet. He looks well placed to cut a swathe through the open draw thanks to some excellent recent form.
The former world champion has come alive in the second half of 2016, triumphing in the Shanghai Masters and reaching the final of the China Championship, where it took an outstanding performance from John Higgins to deprive the 40-year-old of adding to his growing collection of silverware.
Bingham reached the last four of this tournament in 2013 and 2014. With his best form returning the omens are good for another strong showing.
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