SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) previews the 2020 Snooker Shoot Out from the Watford Colosseum.
Snooker Shoot Out | 20th-23rd February 2020 | Eurosport
Lets get this straight – you either love this event or hate it. Personally, I love it.
It’s something different. Snooker is wrongly perceived as boring, in some circles not entertaining but this one frame Shoot-Out is a one-off, with shouting and singing in the crowd permitted, it even brings out characters in snooker that you wouldn’t of known otherwise.
The James Bond theme will be sung out for Nigel Bond and Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” for Martin Gould!
I hope it carries on for years to come. It’s only four days of a snooker season after all.
I asked Barry Hearn on Twitter in 2018 when it was just made into a ranking event, on the reasons why. He replied: “Got to keep being innovative – if it didn’t work commercially then I wouldn’t do it. Let’s see the tv ratings but it’s one event out of 30 so calm down and enjoy the fun and the controversy.”
I’ve calmed down since then, and it’s still going strong into its 10th year. Commercially, it’s clearly working. And the TV ratings must be to his liking. He was right. Enjoy the fun and controversy!
I could literally pick half of the 128 field and be onto 64 losers so this is as tough as it gets in regards to snooker punting. A few bookies go a quarter of the odds for top four each-way places so a semi-final will suffice to get a return. The bookies going with this concession, are the ones I’m advising.
The event has added spice with the return of Ronnie O’Sullivan to the Watford Colosseum – his first appearance in this since 2015 and first since it was ‘wrongly’ made into a ranking event. This has made the bookies go 10/1 the field instead of regularly going 20/1.
If this quick-fire format is going to suit anyone down to the ground, the speed merchants will top a few lists like O’Sullivan, defending champion Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Jack Lisowski.
Zhao Xintong (40/1 BetVictor)
The other, who currently sits at number three ranked in AST (average shot time) is Zhao Xintong and I have had him in mind for this for a long time. A lot of pros have called him the ‘Federer of the baize’ as already in his short career, people see how flamboyant a player he is – a beautiful player to watch.
This format is made for Zhao. The clock won’t be any issue to him. A lot of players are thinking about the time instead of trying to forget about it. It’s unnatural to many. Zhao, like Un-Nooh are so naturally talented, they see a shot quicker than most on tour.
He’ll need lots of luck on the way to winning this, but comes here in good heart after an encouraging run in Cardiff last week, making the last 16, losing in a decider to Mark Selby. The majority of the winners and best players in this events history are quick minded.
A win here gave Un-Nooh’s career a huge boost and with the extra belief he could go well in the normal format. He made the World Open final in November nine months on so this win did just the ticket for him and could do for Zhao as well.
I’ll be surprised if Zhao never wins this title so why not this year at a generous 40/1 (BetVictor). He won’t be much bigger for this in years to come as his ranking is only going one way, higher. I’d have him a fair bit shorter personally.
Michael Holt (70/1 Betfair)
I can’t have Michael Holt out of the staking plan either given his terrific record in the event. He’s lost in one quarter-final, one semi-final and got to the final for the first time last season. He just seems to come alive in the Shoot-Out. He’s a bubbly character on the table (and off) and clearly relishes the atmosphere.
On paper, if there’s anything remotely easy, he plays the lowest ranked pro on tour in his first match Amine Amiri from Morocco. He’s the shortest price of any player in Round 1 at 1/6 to win so every chance he will start with a victory, something he’s done here six times before in nine appearances. In fact, he’s won 18 matches in this tournament which shows what a specialist he is.
He’s certainly not come here in the last few years in a better mindset either. Holt has been in good season form all season, recently playing in the World Grand Prix due to being ranked in the top 32 on the one year ranking list and losing 4-3 to Neil Robertson who went on to win it.
Sam Craigie (125/1 Betfair)
I tipped Sam Craigie for this event last season and he’s my last pig in a poke that’s not greater than 150/1.
When he’s got his head on the task and actually bothers to turn up for events (appallingly been drunk on few occasions and had to withdraw) he’s got the game to beat anyone. He is a loose cannon but has got a mountain of talent and I hope a big performance here, like in the case of Zhao, could kick start his career that is slightly on the wain.
He reminds me a lot of Michael Georgiou who won this in 2018. He has a cool head, can break build heavily and is fairly quick round the table. Sam got to round 3 in 2017 and with a kinder first round match this season to last (played very well in defeat to Ben Woollaston) versus a limited Peter Lines, he should get off to a positive start.
He’s yet to go past the Last 32 of a ranking event this season but made the last eight at the China Open in April last year to earmark his great potential. This event might be a ranking event but it’s more relaxed than any event on the roster and that might help the Geordie have a big run in Watford this week providing he takes it deadly seriously.
In my preview last year I called Sam “a dangerous customer and I don’t think too many will be happy drawing this lad”. I still go by that. 125/1 (Betfair) is a very decent price.
Igor Figueiredo (250/1 BetVictor)
A few big outsiders now and why not in this lottery type format.
The only South American pro on tour, Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo is becoming one to watch. He had a good run to the last 32 of the Welsh Open last week, scoring really well, eventually getting beat by world number one Judd Trump, 4-1.
He did have a terrific total clearance of 140 in the opening frame against Trump, which underlines his improvement this season. I watched that break live, and it was poetry in motion. Excellent cue ball control throughout, making it look ridiculously easy.
He also went 2-0 up on Neil Robertson at the German Masters, opening there with back-to-back tons. So again, this format might be well up his street. He could also become a bit of a crowd favourite too. It wouldn’t surprise me if they started singing a bit of “It’s just like watching Brazil!”
Igor faces amateur Sean Maddocks in the 1st Round and given Sean’s TV inexperience, you would have to fancy him to win that opener. 250/1 (BetVictor) on the Brazilian (was 300/1 on Sunday night) looks a no-brainer to me and a shot to nothing. Definitely the best value of the prices 200/1 north. Incidentally, he is 300/1 with Boyles but 1/2 odds 1,2.
Simon Lichtenberg (400/1 Ladbrokes)
Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg might of only won one match this season but he’s been playing very encouragingly for a while. A whipping boy as such last season, he’s showing why he’s a former European U21 champion recently. He beat Ryan Day at the Welsh Open and pushed another Welshman, Dominic Dale close in the round after.
Something that is becoming a trend for Lichtenberg though and it’s obviously a big positive for him going into a one-frame format like the Shoot-Out, is his record in first frames this season. In 12 matches, he’s won the first frame on nine occasions. Quite staggering when he’s lost 11 times. So he’s obviously a quick starter – a needed requirement here for certain.
He has a pick-em first match with tour rookie Lei Peifan in his opener. Lei has lost seven of his last nine first frames this season. Last season, Wales’ Jamie Clarke was in a similar boat to Lichtenberg, without barely a win on tour but made the semi-final here. So it’s far from impossible, if you get on a roll – ask Jamie!
He’s 400/1 (Ladbrokes) for the title and given his first frame stats, that’s not a bad price at all.
Snooker Shoot Out – Zhao Xintong (40/1 each-way Bet Victor)
Snooker Shoot Out – Michael Holt (70/1 each-way Betfair)
Snooker Shoot Out – Sam Craigie (125/1 each-way Betfair)
Snooker Shoot Out – Igor Figueiredo (250/1 each-way Bet Victor)
Snooker Shoot Out – Simon Lichtenberg (400/1 each-way Ladbrokes)