At this stage, with a number of events completed, the countdown is firmly on to the 2018 World Championships in Sheffield and, while the result market has been open for months, now is a good time to assess form and see if we can pick a winner.
As we would expect, the reigning World Champion together with the man who many think is the most naturally talented player to have ever picked up a cue, are tightly bunched at the top of the betting. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby are locked at the same outright win price by many bookmakers while elsewhere, Ronnie is the marginal favourite and available at best odds of 4/1 with SkyBet and MarathonBet.
Defending champion Selby is only marginally further back at a top price of 17/4 with Boylesports but neither has exactly surged into form at the start of the year. Neither man has actually won a ranking tournament in 2018 just yet but both enjoyed three victories apiece last year and for Selby, one of those was the World Championship at the Crucible.
Naturally we should check on form in upcoming tournaments including the World Grand Prix but the best players will generally lift their game for the biggest event of them all.
Behind the top two we have a gap to the third favourite Judd Trump who is on offer at best odds of 7/1 with Stan James and Boylesports. There’s no doubting the talent of this exciting left hander but lapses in concentration have been his downfall at times and any punt on Judd is a definite risk.
Behind Trump we have two men locked at the same best price of 14/1, one of whom is Neil Robertson who can be claimed at that figure with Winner Sports and MarathonBet. 2017 wasn’t the best of years for the Australian who failed to pick up enough ranking points to qualify for the Masters but he did end with victory in the Scottish Open right at the end of the year so he should be set for a more positive 12 months.
As a former World Champ, we can’t ignore Robertson’s credentials and the same can be said for John Higgins who is available at that same best price of 14/1 with Unibet. Moving further back, Mark Williams is a recent winner on the tour, claiming the German Masters in January and he will tempt many at his odds of 22/1 with bet365 and Betway.
With the ‘big guns’ missing out on early wins at the start of 2018, we should obviously consider those who have come through and lifted trophies in their place. With that in mind, Mark Allen is one to watch at his best odds of 25/1 with SportingBet to win the 2018 World Championship at the Crucible.
The ‘Pistol’ took out the Masters back in January, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan and playing some brilliant snooker along the way before defeating Kyren Wilson 10-7 in a rather nervous final. It’s not a ranking event but the Masters features the best players from the previous year and that win suggests that the 31 year old Allen may be about to deliver on his considerable potential.
The man he beat in that final, Kyren Wilson, has also made great strides in the last 12 months and many will be considering him here at his top price of 33/1 with Unibet and Ladbrokes. Having taken out his first ranking event in 2015 with the Shanghai Masters, Wilson has yet to follow that up with further wins but having achieved two runners up spots in 2017, plus that run to the Masters Final, we could be seeing much more of the 26 year old in the next 12 months.
Other players with prices in the mid-range bracket include Shaun Murphy at 25/1 with Ladbrokes and Betway, Barry Hawkins at 33/1 with SkyBet and the exciting youngster Yan Bingtao who made a good impression in 2017 and could be a tempter at best odds of 40/1 with MarathonBet.
At the time of writing, our most recent winner of a ranking event is Michael Georgiou who took out the Snooker Shootout in some style. The format of this tournament makes it something of a lottery at times and many would argue that it shouldn’t even be on the ranking list but Georgiou made a century break against the clock and played brilliantly as he became Cyprus’ first ever winner of a major snooker event.
The 30 year could very much be a late developer but for now, he is way out in the World Championship outrights at a best of 375/1 with MarathonBet.
The man who Georgiou beat in that final, Graeme Dott, is a former World Champion himself but is also a distant option for the 2018 renewal at a top price of 250/1 with 10Bet and Sport Pesa. While it may be true that his best years are behind him, we should also remember that the Scot reached the final of a more credible event in 2018 – the German Masters.
With some two months to go before the first ball is struck in anger at the Crucible, bookies have only made the outright winner market available for this year’s World Championships. However, in the days and weeks to follow, that will change and we will see a number of side bets, some of which will offer real potential for value.
To Reach the Final and Name the Finalists are two separate markets that always prove popular with punters while other tournament-long options include Highest Break and whether we will see a Maximum Break of 147.
Naturally you can also speculate on each individual match when the tournament starts on April 21. Within those matches, correct score options and other side markets will also appear so there will be plenty to consider as the tournament draws much closer.
For now, however, it’s all about picking a winner.
Form is obviously important when doing any form of analysis but as we mentioned, the world’s best will generally lift themselves for this tournament so don’t worry that Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have started 2018 in subdued fashion.
However, we would like to check on their form in events through February and March before committing to a bet but we’re certain that they will go deep into the tournament. Another man who is always competitive is John Higgins, the Scot who has won the World Title on four separate occasions.
The last of those wins came in 2011 but as a losing finalist last year, Higgins clearly still has the appetite to succeed at the age of 42. As we mentioned, you may want to wait for the World Grand Prix and other tournaments to conclude but as an early ante post bet, John Higgins at 14/1 with Unibet is a good value option.