Bingham bet the way to go
Snooker's UK Championship gets under way at the Barbican Centre in York this Saturday where Judd Trump is the 4/1 favourite to retain the title he won when beating Mark Allen in a thrilling final last year.
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Trump comes here on the back of a string of good results which have propelled him to world number one. He won the Internatinonal Championship in China earlier this month and followed that up with victory in the Bulgaria Open a fortnight ago.
But he was soundly beaten 7-2 by Stuart Bingham in the final of Premier League Snooker last weekend when he wasn't happy with the playing conditions, especially in the semi-final which he scraped through 5-4 against Neil Robertson in a poor-quality encounter.
Taking into account how much he felt the pressure last weekend - and that he's defending champion and now the top-ranked player in the world - we could see him struggle. In essence, it makes sense to leave him alone and look elsewhere for value.
Bingham has to be followed here. His triumph in the Premier League was fully deserved and he is now full of confidence. Also, he is well drawn, opening against Jack Lisowski. It used to happen often that layers discounted a win by an unfancied player and made him another big price next time out - this has again happened here.
He is now a contender in any tournament he plays in despite being a late developer. His Premier League results included whitewashes against Mark Selby and Neil Robertson and his 7-2 win in the final over Trump was further evidence that he now has bottle - something he seemed to lack before. This is why he is now so dangerous and the 22/1 on offer is outstanding value and should be snapped up.
I'll also have a touch of the 11/2 about him winning quarter one. His next likely opponent is Stephen Maguire who hasn't impressed recently despite the assertion of his fellow Scot and practice partner Alan McManus that he is at the top of his game.
Mark Williams is well drawn in the second quarter. The Welshman made the semi-finals in Shanghai before being beaten by finalist Trump but followed that up with a loss to Mark Davis in the opening round of the International Championship. He knows how to win though. The Welshman is a tough match player who plays all the right shots and has the experience and class to prevail. His application does seem to waver sometimes but there is a lot of money at stake here - the £125,000 to the winner will focus Williams and the 20/1 (general) is worth an each-way saver.
John Higgins also needs to be backed in the outright betting. In the opposite half of the draw to Bingham and Williams he is now again playing consistent, clinical snooker and he starts in this weakest third quarter. He's completely comfortable with his new cue and his current form, including being runner-up in Bulgaria, makes him a contender. We can discount his Premier League form as the format doesn't suit him. 15/2 looks a fair price.
In the match betting markets, Tom Ford is value at 11/4 to beat Neil Robertson in the bottom quarter. Ford has been working really hard in the last 18 months and he's duly risen to 25th in the world rankings. The fact that his Leicester compatriot Mark Selby has reached the top of the tree has helped Ford knuckle down and he is too big a price to win this match. In addition, he made a maximum break on his way to the quarter-finals in Bulgaria two weeks ago and his Australian opponent can blow very hot and cold.
Admittedly Robertson did make the final of the International Championship and the semi-finals in Bulgaria but he looked out of sorts last weekend in the Premier League.
In the same quarter Michael White has also impressed recently and is worth a small punt against Selby - even though the Leicester man has gone on record this week as saying he feels good coming into this tournament.
Selby's recent results have been poor and he was wiped out in Premier League Snooker, winning just five frames in four matches. In the last two ranking tournaments he lost in the opening round of the Shanghai Masters and the last 16 of the International Championship so looks vulnerable.
Although White lacks winning experience at the very top level, he is now up to 40 in the rankings at a time when the standard is higher than it has ever been. The 37/10 (Pinnacle) about the 21-year-old from Wales is worth a small investment.