King and Kim's Game in Minehead

  • By: Reece Killworth
  • Last Updated: November 29 2012, 12:11 GMT

King gets backing, while Wade is opposed

1pt e.w. Mervyn King to win the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals at 50/1 (totesport).

1pt e.w. Kim Huybrechts to win the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals at 33/1 (General).

1pt Brendan Dolan to beat James Wade at 7/4 (Boylesports, BetVictor).


There's just a fortnight to go until the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship gets under way, but we've still got some televised PDC action to focus on and perhaps give us some final pointers in the lead-up to Ally Pally.

All roads (for darts fans, any way) lead to Butlins Minehead this weekend, with the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals starting on Friday.

The 32 competitors heading to the south west are the top 32 finishers in the Pro Tour Order of Merit, which is based solely on winnings in the weekly floor tournaments that make up the bread and butter of the PDC Tour.

Players are seeded on their finishing position in that table, which leads us to the odd position of having Phil Taylor seeded sixth (Dave Chisnall is No 1) and someone relatively unheralded like Ian White eighth in the rankings.

Of course, with that quirkier than usual seeding system can come a quirkier than usual draw - and that's certainly the case this weekend.

Taylor is in the bottom half of the draw here and is joined there by the circuit's form player (Michael van Gerwen), the two-time defending world champion (Adrian Lewis), players four and five in the Order of Merit (Gary Anderson and Simon Whitlock) and the only two men other than 'The Power' to have won this event (Paul Nicholson and last year's winner Kevin Painter).

The winner, then, is clearly more likely to come from the bottom half than the top - with six of the top nine in the betting markets situated there.

Picking that person is the problem.

Van Gerwen will, of course, have plenty of support given his recent form - just a week after his near miss at the Grand Slam he beat Taylor 6-5 in a quite brilliant final in Barnsley to win a seventh ProTour event of the year.

The Dutchman is certainly in the form of his life right now and on that basis I can understand people getting tucked into the 5/1 laid here.

But, like 7/2 Taylor, he's got a tough old route through the early stages.

'Mighty Mike' faces Painter first and though he's hardly firing the defence of his only major title to date will surely see him raise his level.

Thereafter the likes of Andy Hamilton, Taylor and Lewis are in his quarter - and that's before we even consider his potential semi-final opponent (which as I've mentioned it could be one of Whitlock, Wes Newton, Anderson or Robert Thornton, another major winner in 2012 don't forget).

It's a path fraught with danger and while I can't say I'd be surprised if he won I'd like a bigger price given what lies in front of him.

So it's to the top half we go in pursuit of some value - and there's enough evidence to think big-priced 'outsiders' are the route to profits.

Two years ago Nicholson beat Mervyn King in the final, with Colin Osborne a semi-finalist. In the first of the 2011 events, King and Steve Farmer gave their backers a good run for their money by reaching the semi-finals.

And last time around Painter beat Mark Webster in the final, with the semi-final line-up completed by Scott Rand and Newton.

Given he's had two mentions there in two sentences, it'll perhaps come as no surprise that King is the first of my two big-priced fancies.

As well as the afore-mentioned final appearance in 2010 and semi-final in 2011 (part one), he reached the quarter-finals in 2011 (part two) and has taken some big scaps here - beating the likes of Wade, Whitlock and Taylor.

Granted, this hasn't been his finest year (he's seeded 20th) but since getting his troublesome elbow sorted, there's been a definite upturn in his results.

He's been five times a quarter-finalist and once a semi-finalist in floor events since the last week of May which shows he's rumbled into some form.

And that was proved beyond doubt when he picked his way through to the final of the Grand Prix before losing in agonising fashion to van Gerwen.

It was back on the horse at the Grand Slam with group victories over Wade, Arron Monk and Jan Dekker and while Painter got the better of him in the knockouts it at least showed he's bubbling along in decent enough form.

That should see him past Terry Jenkins, who he betters in the head-to-head and has won each of the last four against, including one in this event.

Things will likely go up a level then with Raymond van Barneveld his potential second-round opponent but though he doesn't have a great record against the Dutchman I think the stand-out 50/1 totesport offer is plenty big enough.

The 28/1 offered elsewhere looks much more accurate to me.

I'm also keen to get Kim Huybrechts on side.

Now to the more casual darts observer, 'The Hurricane' will still be better known for his girlfriend - a popular feature on the big screens at the Ally Pally during his run to the quarter-finals - than his achievements on the oche.

But the last 12 months have been a real breakthrough for the Belgian.

Ninth in the Tour Order of Merit, Huybrechts has added just shy of £55,000 to the career-high £25,000 he won at the worlds almost 12 months ago.

That's the result of him being a regular at the latter stages of floor events, while he also reached the semi-finals of both the European Championship (one of the PDC Premier events don't forget) and the Dutch Masters.

So this is a guy that has not only shown his form on the floor but has also done it on the bigger stages - and there are none bigger than Ally Pally.

There's nothing early in the tournament that should scare Huybrechts; indeed he beat Vincent van der Voort and White in the first two rounds (a run he can replicate here) of the European Championship.

Indeed I'd rate him second only to No 1 seed Chisnall in terms of his chances of progressing out of the quarter - and that's something the prices tally with.

Thereafter the likes of Van Barneveld or King could await (or, perhaps, Wade, Justin Pipe or Brendan Dolan) but with a bit of momentum, Huybrechts is a tough prospect and at 33/1 (20s elsewhere) he certainly appeals.

As well as the outrights, there's also a first-round match price I like the look of.

Wade has had much-publicised issues away from the oche and though it was great to see him back on the big stage at the Grand Slam earlier this month it was certainly understandable that he wasn't at his best.

Though he comfortably beat Dekker, he won a combined three legs against tougher prospects in King and Monk and that has to be a concern for anyone backing him, particularly given the first round is a race to six legs.

Dolan beat 'The Machine' en route to his final appearance in the Grand Prix last year and has won two of the last three between the duo.

I'll grant you it's a bit speculative given the undoubted talent Wade possesses, but to me Dolan looks too big at 7/4 and is worth a small investment.

  • Preview posted at 1200 GMT on 29/11/2012.