Masters winners can double up
It's easy to adopt a bit of an 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' standpoint in the lead-up the Lakeside (BDO) World Darts Championship, but that does the event a huge disservice.
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Of course, they'll be hard pressed to match the entertainment provided by the PDC's equivalent in the last fortnight or so - a fact not helped by the rather more kitsch feel to the Lakeside compared to Alexandra Palace.
But there are still some quality players heading for Frimley Green.
Just take a look back at the 'dual-code' Grand Slam of Darts in November.
Of the six BDO qualifiers in the 32-man field, three made it out of their groups and Tony O'Shea - who ultimately didn't - beat the then two-time reigning PDC world champion Adrian Lewis 5-4 in the first of his pool matches.
Scott Waites, the 2010 winner, made it through to the quarter-finals where he took 12 legs off a young Dutchman by the name of Michael van Gerwen (whatever happened to him?) having averaged in excess of 100 in the previous round against Robert Thornton.
These are no mugs.
Of course, incidents like Anthony Fleet's infamous 2010 match against Martin Adams do the Lakeside no favours but one of the main differences between the BDO players and their PDC counteparts is the lack of TV experience.
There are probably only three occasions when most of the casual darts viewers might see the leading BDO players on the box at the moment - in the aforementioned Grand Slam, the Winmau World Masters and the World Championship, which will be broadcast this year on both the BBC and ESPN.
But we did see one in front of the TV cameras at the UK Open - and that man, Stephen Bunting, gets my support heading to the Lakeside.
For those who missed 'The Bullet' in Bolton, he went toe to toe with James Wade in round two - and should have beaten the PDC's third-ranked player.
Bunting hit four 180s and averaged over 101, but missed four match darts to defeat the defending champion, who came from 3-2 down to win 4-3.
Far from dwelling on that missed opportunity, the 27-year-old has gone on to enjoy a quite spectacular six months on the dartboard.
Having taken his largest career title to date by winning the Winmau World Masters in October (beating O'Shea 7-4 in the final), he made it two BDO major successes in a row at the Zuiderduin Masters just last month.
Make no mistake, this is a man at the peak of his game right now and with prior experience - and good performances - on the Lakeside stage to boot.
This will be Bunting's sixth appearance in Frimley Green and he's already taken some pretty decent scalps along the way.
Vincent van der Voort and Ian White, both of whom have switched to the PDC, are no pushovers while on his last appearance here in 2011 he beat Waites in reaching the quarter-finals and had the tournament's highest average.
The top seeding isn't always a blessing in this competition, but having won from that position in the World Masters Bunting at least knows he can do it.
And the affable Scouser said recently that he heads to the Lakeside "more prepared than I have ever been before".
He's second-favourite behind Waites in the ante-post markets and though I do rate and like the Yorkshireman I think Bunting offers better value.
Don't forget Waites has gone into the Worlds with high hopes before but is yet to get past the quarter-final stage.
Anyone who beats Phil Taylor - as Waites did at the Grand Slam - deserves the utmost respect but a second-round exit (albeit to Ted Hankey) last year after three successive last-eight departures hardly fill me with confidence.
All in all, Bunting gets the nod at 11/2 to continue his winning run.
It may seem like I've put in minimal research - I assure you that's not the case - but I'm also tipping the women's Zuiderduin Masters winner to double up.
Anastasia Dobromyslova is the archetypal big-tournament player.
In the three Lakeside tournaments that surround her ill-fated foray into the PDC, she boasts an impressive record of only having lost once there.
Of the 16 sets of darts she has played there, she has won 13 and lost only three, two as she went out to Trina Gulliver in 2007 and one in the 2012 final.
Twice a winner, she has proven she has the course and distance form - and her win in the Zuiderduin shows she comes into the event in good nick too.
Number one seed Deta Hedman is the favourite but once again, I'm siding with the second in the market and, at 10/3, Anastasia is the one for me.