Last week’s big-priced winner was hard to find but, as the players head to York’s Barbican Centre for the 2016 UK Championship (November 22nd to December 4th), don’t expect a repeat – as the cream tends to rise to the top in what is the snooker’s second-largest ranking tournament.
Look back at the history of the event and you’ll see it was dominated by Steve Davies in the early to mid-80’s with a record 6 titles in 8 years, whilst Stephen Hendry won 5 titles between 1989 and 1996. Sandwiched in there in 1993 was Ronnie O’Sullivan, who won his first of five titles at the tender age of just 17. The Rocket has since taken his tally of titles to 5 in 23 years but, unlike Davies and Hendry, he has yet to taste defeat in the final here. Therefore, if you want to back him, a win-bet rather than an each-way bet may be the way forward.
Lots of other class players have also won the title in between Ronnie’s victories, and those still playing include 3-time winner John Higgins, two-time winner Ding Junhui, and 2013 and 2015 Champion Neil Robertson. Meanwhile, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire will all be hoping to add to their single title.
The UK Championship is the first-leg of snooker’s Triple Crown, and involves 128 players who will be eager to get their hands on the prestigious trophy and the first-prize of £170,000. The Best-of-11 First-round matches are less of a lottery than the best-of-7 matches many tournaments use, which is another reason why the better players are less likely to exit early. 11-frames are then used to decide all matches up to the final – which is then the best of 19 frames.
UK Championship Betting
Ronnie O’Sullivan 9/2, Mark Selby 7/1, Judd Trump 17/2, Neil Robertson 11/1, Ding Junhui 11/1, John Higgins 14/1, Shaun Murphy 18/1, Stuart Bingham 28/1, 33/1 Bar.
We all know that Ronnie O’Sullivan could turn-on the magic at a moment’s notice and, with his 5 wins in 23 years, you could argue that 9/2 on offer is more than fair. However, the balance of power in world snooker has swung in Mark Selby’s favour of late and the 2012 Champion will surely add another UK Championship Title to his CV soon after winning the World Championships twice in the last 3 years.
2011 Champion Judd Trump also has the required talent, whilst Neil Robertson couldn’t defend the title in 2014 and may again struggle to defend this year, especially as no player has defended the title here since Stephen Hendry in 1996.
Meanwhile, Ding Junhui has looked jaded recently, whilst Shaun Murphy has yet to hit top-form, and Stuart Bingham tends to find at least one too good. That leaves us with the in-form John Higgins, who looked back to his best in winning two recent big-pot invitationals, and going out in the last-16 in Northern Ireland will have given him an extra few days to freshen-up. Selby should also be fresh after missing last week’s tournament – and I’ll take Selby and Higgins against the field.
Mark Selby @ 6/1 Black Type
John Higgins @ 11/1 Black Type
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