Ali - King of the world
The World Championship starts this Saturday and it looks to be the most open tournament in many years with most of the top ten in the betting with genuine claims on the title.
The mercurial Ronnie O'Sullivan finds himself in the strange position of not being favourite for the tournament. If the betting was based on ability alone he would surely be odds-on but with his questionable temperament and concentration he gets a quote of 13/2.
That looks a fair price, if he fires then those odds will soon disappear. However, personally I would watch him for a couple of rounds to see which Ronnie turns up before placing any cash on him. He's got Dominic Dale first up and is 1/6 to progress.
John Higgins has had an eventful year since the last World Championships. He was banned for six months by Barry Hearn after a 'News of the World' sting appeared to show him agreeing to fix matches. The evidence was questionable and Higgins insisted he was intimidated and had no intention of throwing any frame or match. He was eventually banned for six months.
After returning from that ban he immediately showed some good form winning a minor tournament in Europe. He then went on to win a classic UK Championship final 10-9 against Mark Williams after trailing 9-5.
He already has the Welsh Open title to his name in 2011 and he can never be written off. If there is one player you can rely on to give it his all and hold his nerve in the tense games it's Higgins. He is the favourite for the tournament and I would certainly not put you off backing him at 5/1. If all goes to plan he may face O' Sullivan in the quarter-finals which could be a concern for each way backers.
Mark Selby has been in decent form this year, he made the China Open final but was defeated by up and coming star Judd Trump 10-8. He has made the final in Sheffield once before, losing out to John Higgins and you can back him at 6/1 to go one better this time.
I like Selby as a player but don't fancy him in the tight games and over the two weeks I think will be found out by the more experienced players.
Defending champion Neil Robertson is given a quote of 8/1. That could certainly prove some each way value but I would avoid backing him until you've watched his first round match. He's been very unlucky to draw Judd Trump. Trump (33/1) is finally showing signs that he is reaching his full potential and developing into a fine match player. If Robertson gets past Trump then he will be one to watch.
One of the success stories in snooker over the last twelve months has been the re-emergence of Mark Williams as a genuine force. The popular Welshman disappeared from the limelight for a few years, many commentators citing too many late nights playing online poker, and it looked like he would never return to his previous heights.
He's proved people wrong though and is now one of the most consistent players on the tour. This season he has won the Players Tour Championship, The German Masters and was runner-up in the UK Championship final. He is 8/1 for the title but is another with a tough first round against Ryan Day and for that reason I would avoid backing him at this stage.
Chinese sensation Ding Junhui is always popular with punters and is 7/1 to take the Crucible title. He's had a mixed season with some poor performances but he did win the Masters, seeing off Marco Fu 10-4 in the final.
He has a good draw, facing Jamie Burnett first up and I expect him to meet Mark Selby in the quarter-final. I would back him to win his quarter at 6/4. That's too big.
My tip for the tournament is Ali Carter at generous looking odds of 22/1. He has been given a favourable draw taking on Dave Harold in the first round then either Graeme Dott or Mark King in round two and I fully expect him to beat any of those players. Once he does his price will have halved.
He is a great player over the longer matches and always holds his nerve under pressure. He is not afraid of the bigger names as he proved when making last year's semi-final, losing out to the eventual winner Neil Robertson, and the World Number 8 has every chance again this year. I would suggest you take the 22/1 in an each way bet.
Others with realistic chances are Shaun Murphy (16/1) and Stephen Maguire (25/1) but I expect them to come unstuck at some stage. I would rather take the 25/1 on Mark Allen than those roly-poly potters. The Ulsterman made the semi-finals in 2009 only to be defeated by John Higgins. He's a fierce competitor and has more about him than most of his rivals.
Unfortunately Steve Davis didn't qualify for this one but Hendry (66/1) is there for anyone who wants to punt on a legend of the game.
Overall is should be a great tournament and you can bet on each and every match with William Hill. We have a variety of markets and each match will be available in-play. My recommendation is Ali Carter to win the tournament at 22/1.
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