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Players Championship


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Back to the good stuff, starting tonight, as the Players Championship gets underway. John Higgins won this last year, beating Ronnie 10-3 in the final. Speaking of Ronnie, when was the last time we saw Ronnie at 8/1 to win a tournament? This event is stacked with big name and the bottom half sees Ronnie Vs Trump with the winner playing Robertson and Kyren Wilson and that makes me want to look in the other half.

Xintong is the name of everybodys lips at the moment with his epic rise in statue with his recent form but I can't be having him at 8/1 to win an event. It's just barmy. I like the chances of Mark Allen, who would have to beat Walden, Mark Williams and "probably" the winner of Xintong Vs Bingtao to make the final. Williams doesn't have a fantastic record here, Waldens form has cooled recently and like I say, Xintong can't be 8/1 because as good as he is, he is still tempremental.

In the bottom half I always like to have atleast one to try and make a "dream final" from a betting perspective. I'm going to have a punt on Luca Brecel. In my mind, Trump beats Ronnie and Kyren Wilson beats Neil Robertson (Robbo had covid a week ago) and then Trump beats Kyren like he always does. I think Higgins beats Vafaei and Brecel beats Jimmy and I can't be on Higgins at 2nd favourite when he had so many problems recently in getting over the line. Brecel has beaten Higgins in the most recent match and Trump hasn't been the same animal for a while now.

3pts M. Allen to win Players Championship 8/1 willhill
1pt e/w L. Brecel to win Players Championship 18/1 betvictor

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Williams takes on Gary Wilson tonight whilst Kyren Wilson takes on Neil Robertson. As I said in the preview, Neil Robertson caught covid after the Masters win and it ended up giving him quite bad Tinnitus apparently. It's not something you'd enjoy whilst trying to practice and would drive you nuts to be honest. I know he was "isolating" in his "man-cave" as of last week but who knows if he has a table in there? you would expect so with his millions. However, I can't be touching that match with Kyren. If anything, I think there is some value with Kyren Wilson.

I do like Williams to beat Gary Wilson on the -1.5 handicap though.  I can see a Mark Williams Vs Mark Allen showdown in the Quarter Finals. Hopefully with Allen coming through it. I do think he beats Wilson though at the very least. He has beaten Gary in all four of their head-2-heads and has covered the -1.5 handicap on them all.

6pts M. Williams (-1.5 handicap) to beat G. Wilson 4/6 betfair

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Some suspect shots from Mark Williams lastnight but Wilson let him off early on and that helped get the bet through. I was worried as Williams decided to go down the cushion with a red when he had an easy red over the pocket and missed. Very odd shot but luckily Wilson gave the frame away and from 2-2 Wilson got worse thankfully. The other match was a real close match which Robbo won, with the most ridiculous green to brown shot to win 6-4. 2 centuries he hit in that match and pretty much shows that Covid has made no difference to his game atall. He's now the 4/1 favourite for the event.

I'll take a look at the evening session after lunch but for now I'll preview the two afternoon matches.

Todays action :
Gilbert Vs Bingtao (1pm)
Xintong Vs Hawkins (1pm)

Allen Vs Walden (7pm)
O'Sullivan Vs Trump (7pm)

Yan Bingtao has been playing some excellent snooker recently and the only real blip in that form is the absolute thrashing that Xintong gave him in the final of The European Masters. That match aside though, he has won 7 of his last 8 matches and has beaten the likes of Mark Allen & Mark Selby. He also beat Dave Gilbert amongst those 7 matches 5-3 at the European Masters and I think he beats him again, today. He has beaten Gilbert 3 times over the last 2 years and leads the h2h 3-1. I think he covers the handicap (-1.5) again, like he has done in the past 3 head to heads.

In the other match, you would have to favour Xintong against Hawkins. Hawkins looked terrible in his loss to Sijun at the Turkish Masters, with just one 73 break. He also lost to Georgiou at the German Masters late October and hasn't looked the same since that final defeat at The Masters to Neil Robertson. I'll take Xintong in a double with Bingtao though instead of taking him on any kind of handicap as both players can be very tempremental.

3pts Y. Bingtao (-1.5 frames) to beat D. Gilbert evens betfair
2pts Bingtao and Xintong both to win 7/4 betfair



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In the evening session Mark Allen takes on Ricky Walden. With all the issues that Allen currently has with the ex Mrs, he has had a decent season. Won the Championship League at the back end of 2021 and then won the Northern Ireland open, beating Higgins in the final and Trump in the QFs. He also beat Walden in that semi-final. Since then he has made the Semi-finals of the German Masters. He has a good h2h record against Walden, winning the last 3 and all last year. Walden has got over his recent back issues and is playing really well himself after making the Semis of the Northern, then the last 32 of the UK Championships and then most recently the Semi-finals of the German Masters. I think Allen comes through this but I can see a good few frames. Perhaps a 6-3/6-4 Allen.

In the other match, I think Ronnie is a good price to beat Judd. Judd has had some strange results this season such as losing to the likes of Slessor, Mark King, Selt, Ford and Gilbert. He lost alot of deciding legs and it seems like when the going gets tough, he is bottling it alot of the time, this season. Perhaps we expect too much from him. Ronnie O'Sullivan made the L16 of the Northern Ireland open then the semi-final of the English Open and then Quarter Finals of the UK Championships. He then made the Semis of the Scottish and went on to win the Grand Prix, beating Neil Robertson in the final so whilst we haven't seen him winning all the events like we may have seen in the past, he still wins a great majority of his matches and HAS won an event.  H2H shows that Trump has a big recent advantage and has won the last 3 in a row and 5 of the last 6, however the last few matches was from late 2020 and I think Trumps form isn't as strong and I think Ronnie is playing slightly better.

5pts R. O'Sullivan to beat J. Trump 6/5 bet365
2pts Ronnie to beat Trump and Higgins to beat Vafaei (tomorrow) 9/4 betfair

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Quite the performance from Ronnie and that pre-tournament 8/1 now looks huge. Allen was just shocking. Got in positions to win the frames and then consistently threw it away. Matches today then :

Higgins Vs Vafaei (1pm)
Brecel Vs J.Robertson (1pm)
Walden Vs Williams (7pm)

End of the first round matches in the afternoon and then the first of the Quarter Finals gets played tonight. Higgins plays Vafaei at 1pm and Higgins comes into this match with a 2-0 h2h record against Vafaei. However, the last match was a close deciding frame win for Higgins and Vafaei can be very dangerous as shown by his thrashing of Ronnie not too long ago. Higgins has just won the Championship League and is the defending champion here so you'd expect he would be up for this. Vafaei is here thanks to his Shootout win and he also made the L16 of the UK Championships and World Grand Prix before winning that event. He also definitely comes into this match with form.

In the other match Luca Brecel takes on Jimmy Robertson in a match that seems to always be a close one with deciding frames needed in the last 3. It was actually Robertson who won the last one at the Grand Prix but Brecel had won the previous 4 and I think he wins today. However, the only value that may be worth going for is the overs on the frames.

Finally, the first Quarter Final is played this evening. Mark Williams will have to raise his game if he is to beat Walden because quite frankly Williams was poor. Not one 50+ break in his 6-3 win against Wilson. Walden didn't have to play well against Allen to beat him but even he only managed one 50+ break. I can see the match being another close one. Williams should play better here but Walden has a chance.

I'll leave Higgins alone as I have him in a double with Ronnie from yesterday and so I'll just take the overs on Brecel/Robertson and much the same with Walden and Williams.

4pts Over 9.5 frames (Brecel Vs J.Robertson) 5/4 betfair
1pt treble - Higgins (-2.5 frames) / Over 9.5 frames Brecel Vs Robertson / Over 9.5 frames Walden Vs Williams 9/1 betfair

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