SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the 2019 Dafabet Masters tournament, picking out his favourite outright fancies and best quarter-finalist bets.
The Dafabet Masters | 13th January – 20th January 2019 | BBC
Last year, Mark Allen won the 44th Masters, his first Triple Crown title. He was the 22nd different winner of this great tournament and third Northern Irishman after Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor.
I still fancy a 23rd different winner this year – and what would be his first Triple Crown – in ante-post selection Kyren Wilson (tipped at 20/1 in mid-November, best price 16/1 now in one place).
Since picking him, he got to the quarter-final in the UK Championship (losing 6-1 to Stuart Bingham), the last 16 of the Scottish Open (losing 4-3 to Shaun Murphy) and qualified comfortably for the German Masters just before Christmas (winning 5-1 and 5-2).
He had some unfair criticism from a few on social media after losing to Bingham. People were acting like he had blown a great opportunity.
It wasn't like he had a walk-through for the title. Had he beaten Bingham, it was then the two best players of the season, Allen then the irrepressible Ronnie O'Sullivan.
This is a guy who has just turned 27 and has been professional for only six seasons. In Triple Crown events alone, he's made a final, two semis, and five quarters. For a guy who lacks the experience of most of his peers, he plays so far above his station, it's scary.
Like a top novice chaser in horse racing who steps up in grade into championship races, he doesn't lack belief that he can mix it with the best. He very rarely bottles it.
The draw has been made since I selected Wilson and he's been paired with new nemesis Judd Trump (more on that in my first round match previews). It could well be three-time Masters champion and world number one Mark Selby in the quarter-final. So a tough draw but this event involves the top 16 in the world, hence no draw is easy.
In the ‘Chinese equivalent', the Shanghai Masters back in September, Wilson made the semi-final, losing to Ronnie O'Sullivan. He won't have to meet the Rocket until the final here, like he had to do at the Champion of Champions, losing in a decider 10-9.
Hopefully he's forgotten about that near miss. I've got plenty of faith that Kyren will step up to the plate this week ahead at the Ally Pally. It's only matter of time until he wins a first ‘big one'.
I won't be advising any more outrights for the tournament. I was very tempted by reigning champion Allen but his price now of 12/1 (as low as 7/1 in some places) is too short, even though I think he will give it a very good go.
Since 1975, the only first-time winners to successfully defend the Masters title the following year were Stephen Hendry and the late Paul Hunter. So it's asking a lot of the Northern Irishman. He was 25/1 for this, just after his International Championship success in early November. That was top value but12/1 now, not so.
I will delve into the quarter betting where I have a few fancies.
Quarter 1 contains Allen. With two ranking titles to his name this season already, break-building for fun, clearly flourishing on the table and off it and back to the scene of his success here 12 months ago, Allen, on paper, has a soft early draw.
He opens with Luca Brecel which should be a comfortable win. Then he faces the winner of Ding Junhui and the only debutant in the Masters this year, Jack Lisowski.
Allen has a poor record against both (lost four from five against Jack, and lost 11 from 15 versus Ding). That doesn't worry me too much though. Head-to-head records only generally bother the lesser likes, and Allen isn't one of those.
I expect Allen to come through either challenger. He's not what I call amazing value at 11/8 to win the quarter but throw in the greatest player to ever pick up a cue into a double with Allen, it might look a tad more inviting.
Yes, I'm talking about O'Sullivan. The newly-crowned king of the Triple Crown events and certainly the king of the Masters with seven past wins. In 24 appearances, he's made the semis 13 times. Since 2004, he's only failed to make the last four on three occasions.
Ronnie has conquered here at the Palace three times. I don't foresee winning a record 19th Triple Crown event in December at the UK Championship being any hindrance to his chances this week. He's hungry for more.
His opener with Bingham could well be his toughest match of the quarter. Ronnie has lost to Bingham in two of the Triple Crown events; UK in 2013 and the Worlds in 2015. O'Sullivan has a lot of respect for Bingham, who is having a good season, winning the English Open in October then making the semi-final in York.
Ronnie has only lost twice this season (against Mark Davis in the English Open semi and Trump in the Northern Ireland Open final) and looks on a real mission to collect all three Triple Crown tournaments in a season for the first time in his career. It's pretty much the only thing he's yet to add to a sparkling resume.
Going back to the Bingham match, he does seem to have the Indian sign over his fellow Essex potter. Ronnie has won 14 of their 17 matches, including two wins this season. I think win number 15 is looming for the Rocket, but I don't think it will be a stroll.
In the quarter-final, O'Sullivan would play John Higgins or Ryan Day. Higgins has threatened retirement on a few occasions recently. He's said in a few interviews he's hardly practising. Opponent Day is a class act. He can beat anyone if he flies out the traps, but even if he defeats Higgins, I think he'll come a cropper against O'Sullivan.
The double with Allen and O'Sullivan pays virtually 11/4 with SkyBet.
After a dire start to the season, the real Murphy has stood up just before Christmas. He played some terrific stuff in Glasgow, making the final, losing 9-7 to Allen. He then drilled in seven tons in two matches in German Masters qualifying. I can't have him as the outsider in the fourth quarter.
First up, he faces Barry Hawkins who has six first-round defeats in eight appearances in the Masters and is having a surprisingly stuttering time of it since September. Also in the quarter, Mark Williams has only made one semi-final at the Masters since 2004 (in 12 visits). The main threat to Murphy looks to be Neil Robertson.
He's having the more consistent season out of the four and better recent Masters record (appeared in three finals in six years). But he's top price 11/4, and Murphy is 4/1. The value lies with the Englishman. He does often play better in the invitational events. Remember, he's made the final (and won) and semi-final of the last two Champion of Champions.
I've seen worse bets than Murphy for the title at 25/1. However, he's made just two finals here in 14 attempts. The safer option is two wins and a semi-final berth for Murphy at 4s rather than four wins and the title at 25s.
Kyren Wilson outright (already advised 20/1)
Allen Quarter 1 & O'Sullivan Quarter 2
Double Pays 11/4 SkyBet
Murphy Quarter 4 4/1 Betfred
Allen Quarter 1, O'Sullivan Quarter 2 & Murphy Quarter 4
Treble Pays 15/1 SkyBet