Saturday, 30 April 2011

Higgins shows heart. But did he play a push shot...?

In the second semi-final where John Higgins beat Mark Williams 17-14, the 30th frame had a touch of controversy. The Welshman needed two snookers on the green and Higgins miscued when close to the object ball. It looked very much as if it was a push shot or a double hit ( the distinction can be unclear). No surprise it wasn't called by referee Eirian Williams despite raised eyebrows from Mark Williams. I can't remember him giving one unprompted by a player and I can only remember Michaela Tabb giving more than one although I think Micheala may have called this as a foul.

Lots occur nowadays to the point where newer players on the circuit are unsure what a push shot is because they've grown up in a game where it is ignored unless it's blatant. For example by striking say more than half of the object ball with the balls almost touching. It's especially difficult to call when the balls are a fraction apart and a player, even though playing a thin edge of the object ball often plays a foul. It's almost impossible as current convention dictates for it to be called

Three or four years ago when profiles of the referees was a regular feature in Snooker Scene they were asked which rule they would change. Most said foul and a miss but Michaela said the push shot.

When was the last time you witnessed a push shot on TV which was given by a referee without prompting by  the offender? There was another probable push by Higgins in the last session off a thin safety when attempting a snooker by playing the white up into baulk. I think the law needs to be looked at so the referees and players are clearer about what constitutes a push and it's enforceable so referees aren't kept in this very difficult position.

Higgins wants it more

John Higgins hasn't felt the pressure as much as Mark Williams and they head into the final session of their semi-final with the Scot 13-11 up after winning the last four frames.

Simply because he is playing for his late father too which is helping him focus more and worry about losing less. Williams has started to look like a loser and it's difficult to see him turning it around against the best safety player in the game. And against someone who thinks he is going to win.

An early opening that the Welshman takes and wins from is critical for him to have any chance tonight.

Should be great television.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Who fancies it the most?

Simply Judd Trump. He's enjoying it - is used to the environment and really believes he can win it. A very dangerous animal indeed. He was 40/1 pre tournament but the best you can get now is 5/1 which is about right.

I know he's young and hasn't been at the business end that much, never mind here. He did win in China and Championship League Snooker but that's only light success for how long he's been around. And this is the key, we're used to him not delivering.

He will here, it doesn't mean he will win but someone will have to play very well to beat him because he fancies the job.

What we can say with certainty is that this is the strongest last eight in history.

In the other matches Mark Williams confirmed why he's a threat. Winning games from unlikely positions and just being canny really. His understanding of the game dwarves that of his opponent Mark Allen who is wondering how  he's 11-5 behind when they've missed a similar amount of balls.

John Higgins looked a bit tired which is a worry. There is no let up from here either. This will be a factor at this stage of his career simply because his address includes such fierce concentration he will reach the punch-drunk stage earlier that some of his competitors.

Ronnie played ok but missed too many and is clearly struggling with getting his back arm through the ball.

I recommended Williams at 17/2 but Trump and Ding Jun Hui are in with a real decent shout too.

Layers go 4/1 the field at this stage with only eight players left and the odds won't change if we discount Allen and Graeme Dott so it's really 4/1 the field in a six horse race.


Monday, 25 April 2011

State of the Market ...

The outright prices for all players are reasonably similar as we would expect. But under close scrutiny one notable fact emerges. The current book of prices by the sponsors Betfred is likely the least generous.

For example -

Betfred are the best prices on only three players. Here is their book below

Selby, Mark
Higgins, John
O'Sullivan, Ronnie
Williams, Mark
Junhui, Ding
Trump, Judd
Dott, Graeme
Allen, Mark
Murphy, Shaun
Bingham, Stuart
Mcleod, Rory
Hendry, Stephen

They are joint best price on Selby (7/2), Higgins (4/1) and O'Sullivan (9/2).

They are joint worst price on Ding (15/2), Allen (12/1), Murphy (20/1) and Hendry (500/1). 

And are worst price alone on Trump (15/2) and Dott (8/1). True the firm might have big liabilities on both but usually you'd expect bigger odds then on other players to attract some money and help balance the book. They aren't best price outright on any player.

You can compare all the odds at oddschecker here

Put simply layers price up a book on any event with built in profit. 

For example a three horse race with all selections at 2/1 with a £1 on each returns £3 (including stake). So if you back all three you'll neither win or lose. And the layer won't make a profit. So we could have two horses at 2/1 and the third at 6/4 (1.5/1). Which produces on average a near 7% profit for the layer. In a nutshell even backing all selections with different layers the odds should always be in the bookies favour even if it's only marginal. 

This means that the book is in profit and over-round (over 100%). A book that is under 100% is called over-broke and a gamble. Something bookies never do! This is why layers don't differ too much from each other because they'd all be out of business.

Betfred in this book are over-round by 26.1% so their book is 126.1%

I haven't worked all the other layers prices out and what percentage over-round they are but they are very likely all less than Betfred. 

I just calculated Skybet (picked at random) World Snooker Odds for comparison and they bet to 118.5%.

I haven't included the exchanges because the prices are perpetually fluid.

This is not having a go at Betfred. After all they've the sponsorship to recoup and their involvement with snooker was a godsend when it was on it's knees. It's just an observation that's all.

Coincidentally I did go for a job with Betfred (Done Bookmakers as they then were) in the late 1980's and they offered me the position of Shop Manager in Toxteth which I declined and stayed in London working for Ladbrokes.


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Rocket not given top billing

The walk on order for this afternoons games brought Ronnie O'Sullivan into the arena before Shaun Murphy. This is the first time I can remember The Rocket not receiving 'top billing'. Presume it's because World Snooker have stopped treating him like royalty.

He played well too but Murphy does blow hot and cold and certainly suffered from the Ronnie factor. Still he was likely to lose anyhow and it's great for the tournament the his next opponent if he wins will be John Higgins. It's a pretty safe assumption and O'Sullivan is still 9/2 with sponsors Betfred.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Go for Gould

Sorry to harp on about Martin Gould in the snooker but I'm one for value and you can get 11/1 for him to win his quarter of the draw (Boylesports).

This means for the bet to be successful he needs to make the semis so must beat Judd Trump and then beat the winner of the Ali Carter and Graeme Dott match.


This should be around the 6/1 mark and is heavily recommended simply because Gould has illustrated he's here to enjoy himself. Last night it was clear he fancied the job and played well - taking on (and getting) some trademark tough pots. And this in front of a packed Crucible crowd.Though he started badly going 3-0 down but said it took a couple of frames to get used to the new cloth on the table which causes the balls to slide a bit more. This meant the pockets played a lot bigger when the balls were hit at gentle pace. Though they will tighten up markedly until the cloth is changed again next week.

Gould and Trump resume this afternoon at 2.30.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Overpriced Gould still a threat.

Martin Gould showed bottle and desire to end his first session 5-3 down against a confident Judd Trump.

Totesport are still going 150/1 about the Pinner Potter and with the market still 1/2 the odds each -way the first two this is a steal. I've just had some of it. It's the easiest quarter of the draw and if he makes it through plays Ali Carter or Graeme Dott for a place in the semis, a match where he'd have a real chance

In other matches John Higgins won readily playing very well and it's a shame the draw is so skewed. In the bottom quarter we have Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Ronnie O'Sullivan which is why layers still go 9/2 the field headed by The Scot.

Mark Selby's form in beating Jimmy Robertson showed cause for concern, he looked tentative even though his experience meant he won easily 10-1. But he won't win the World Championship playing snooker like that, there are two many players in peak form including in his quarter Ding Junhui who could easily come up on the rails.

Head for Totesport and just say Martin Gould. Quick!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Rocket On Fire

Ronnie O'Sullivan put on a display of top drawer match snooker in his first round session where he  leads Dominic Dale 7-2. In addition his mid-distance game was very strong too - an area which is usually the first to go in the thirty-somethings. If he keeps potting theses this makes him very dangerous in this tournament

He is now best-priced 6/1 with Betfred the sponsors. This seems quite big still after his performance but it is simply because he is in the toughest quarter of the draw.

Great to see Barry Hawkins finally win a first round match at the Crucible after five first round defeats including twice losing 10-9. His final frame victory was initiated by a free ball from which Hawkins potted the brown and then laid a snooker behind the green from which Maguire's escape failed to leave safe. Incidentally at this crucial stage of the match the free ball wasn't seen by referee Terry Camilleri and only called after prompting from Hawkins. He then held himself together brilliantly to make the frame and match winning break.

More about Ronnie later.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Classy Williams confirms backers confidence

Mark Williams beat Ryan Day 10-5 - a scoreline heavily influenced by Day's contribution - he played well and stayed committed even though he could see his opponent was still playing like a champion despite the variables in the playing conditions.

Williams took many really tough pressure pots on in a game which would have felt shorter for both players than a best of 19 because as expected they both got on with it. And his touch and finesse were a real joy to watch. When the game goes scrappy his shot choice in my opinion is the best there is. With the less than perfect playing environment we've seen to date this will really help him too.

Looking forward to tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope Ronnie O'Sullivan can put his demons to bed while playing in the tournament. The BBC today made hay about O'Sullivans comments in the press at the weekend and  his reported belief that he has carried the game alone for far too long and that the burden has been too great. Chatting in the studio Ken Doherty diplomatically disputed this but before Barry Hearn took over snooker needed O'Sullivan. Hearn has let The Rocket know this is no longer the case.

There is the old adage of one man and his dog attending some qualifying matches and under the old regime this applied sometimes to TV rankings events. Though when Ronnie was playing you could almost guarantee a packed house and decent viewing figures. Now the game has a full calendar and massive interest in Northern Europe and China this is a factor in O'Sullivan strugging with not automatically being in the limelight. But he has other off table issues too for which the cumulative effect has been a burden for perhaps too long. If he starts badly tomorrow it could be really good television... Let's hope he has his head on and brings his A Game. Because he can be so brilliant.

He opens against Dominic Dale and the winner plays Shaun Murphy. If O'Sullivan does implode then anything could happen but it would obviously increase Dale's chances.

Murphy despite a heavy 10-1 win over Marcus Campbell wasn't overly impressive. He needs a silky fine cloth and glassy balls and sliding pockets to bring out his best. Tables covered in chalk dust and fingermarks with balls kicking regularly aren't his bag at all so the 14/1 still available about him is best left alone.

Regardless of O'Sullivan's comments and recent poor showings he is still serious box office.

Roll on tomorrow.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Crucible is alive, with the sound of kicks.

Judd Trump tonight deservedly beat Neil Robertson and the 10-8 scoreline could have been a tad wider. Trump missed some important balls but still played confidently enough even when under the cosh and in this easier quarter of the draw is now a live pick in the Championship - currently best-priced at 16/1 (Bet365, stanjames).

I thought the tables didn't play great today. The pockets played big because of the new shiny cloth though they will tighten up a little. But the biggest problem was the huge amount of kicks although this is often the case in Sheffield especially with the two table set-up. This was at an extreme in the Mark Williams - Ryan Day match although things did improve slightly this evening. The humidity always seems raised at the Crucible and this, combined with the close proximity of the spectators and all the enclosed energy sources it's sometimes akin to playing in an arena which is electrically charged.

Going back here three years and the memorable second round match where Liang Wenbo beat Joe Swail there were so many kicks Swail said he was playing shots expecting one.

There was slight controversy in the first session of the Jamie Cope - Andrew Pagett match. In frame five Cope had been 26 adrift with 27 on the table and after fouling the black (intentionally or not) to be 33 behind conceded the frame which he was entitled to do (apart from the rules of etiquette). However it looked as if referee Eirian Williams didn't see the foul and considered it was a concession while the frame was still 'live' - a clear breach of the rules and promptly warned Cope. As things stand he will be reported to the Disciplinary Committee of the WPBSA . Although it didn't affect the rest of the opening session which ended up with Cope leading 5-4. They play to a finish tomorrow morning.

Until then.

World Championship Snooker - 2011

It's been worth the wait.

So who is going to win?
Neil Robertson the title holder is only 10/1 to retain his title. Too short in my view given his form - And Higgins and Williams are flying.

Will The Rocket explode or implode? The trouble is even if with his head on and even if he turns it on the standard is now so high because of the amount of professional snooker that it may not be good enough anyhow.

You can read my preview for right here
I've just noticed Mark Williams has gone 9.8 on Betfair which after commission is 8.36/1 - currently the best on offer. I've taken this and yesterday also had a bit of Marcus Campbell at erm... 800/1. Though in the toughest quarter he is in the form of his life.

Lots more updates throughout the next fortnight and good luck.