Masters Darts 2019: Free betting tips, predictions & odds as the new PDC season begins in Milton Keynes

Who will win the Masters this weekend?
Who will win the Masters this weekend?

The new PDC darts season gets under way this weekend with the Masters and our expert Chris Hammer previews the action with his best bets.

Recommended Bets: Darts Masters

1pt Peter Wright to reach the final at 9/2

0.5pt e.w. Joe Cullen to win the Masters at 80/1 (1/3 1,2)

Scroll down for draw analysis and other pointers

Another hectic season of PDC darts is about to begin after the January break as 16 of the world's biggest names - minus Gary Anderson - descend on Milton Keynes for what is now the traditional curtain raiser.

It's also 'tradition' that Michael van Gerwen gets his campaign off to a flyer with yet another televised title having won this event, which was first held in 2013, for the past four years. He'll no doubt be supremely confident of increasing that streak to five this weekend.

Having ominously avoided all the shocks, drama and potential pitfalls of set play with ease at the Alexandra Palace to become world champion for the third time on New Year's Day, MVG finds himself back in what usually is his most formidable comfort zone of 'longish' format leg play, with the first round being best of 19.

That said, of the four major titles he did win last season, only two of them were leg play (Premier League & Masters) and he only reached one final of the seven big televised tournaments he didn't win.

On one hand you could simply say his rivals are gradually closing the gap or, as Michael Smith put it in an interview with Sporting Life this week, he took his eye off the bull so to speak.

Either way, I don't think his dominance at a World Championship characterised by upsets has fully restored the fear factor that certainly dropped a couple of levels in 2018 and that's probably an issue he'll be motivated to correct, starting this weekend.

He's always been able to come out all guns blazing after the January rest, posting averages above 100 in 11 of his last 12 Masters matches, with the only exception being the 2016 final against Dave Chisnall, while other players tend to lack consistency due to a lack of recent competition.

Anderson was also the only player in his top half of the draw who reached the quarter-finals at the Ally Pally but now the Flying Scotsman has pulled out, his route to the final looks a whole lot easier.

Overall, only six of the players featuring in Milton Keynes went as far as the last 16 at the worlds - MVG, Rob Cross, Smith, James Wade, Chisnall and Adrian Lewis - and nine of other 10 were knocked out before then by opponents outside the top 32 at the time.

This speaks volumes about the rising standards of the game outside of the upper echelons but as far as this weekend goes, there are a number of players with points to prove.

Top half of the draw

  • (1) Michael van Gerwen v (16) Jonny Clayton
  • (8) Mensur Suljovic v (9) Simon Whitlock
  • (5) Daryl Gurney v (12) Dave Chisnall
  • Stephen Bunting* v (13) Darren Webster

* Bunting replaced the injured Gary Anderson

You might have already guessed that I'm going to end up looking at the bottom half of the draw for a spot of value although I must admit the 200/1 on Jonny Clayton is rather insulting despite the fact he opens up against MVG on Friday night.

The Welshman did defeat MVG in a Grand Slam of Darts group match last year as well as running him close in the quarter-finals so if he can overcome that biggest challenge, who's to say he's not capable of winning another three games?

Daryl Gurney (33/1) also knows what it takes to beat MVG having done so in that epic climax to the Players Championship Finals while he's also smarting from a poor World Championship and will have been practicing hard with a Premier League campaign on the horizon.

However I'm really not sure who'll get the better of his first-round meeting with Chisnall (50/1), who rediscovered some form and confidence at Ally Pally before running into Anderson in the quarter-finals.

Both players may well be guilty of eyeing the semi-finals already, with Stephen Bunting - rather than Anderson - or Darren Webster a potential last eight opponent and their backers might be doing the same.

Bottom half of the draw

  • (2) Rob Cross v (15) Joe Cullen
  • (7) Gerwyn Price v (10) James Wade
  • (6) Michael Smith v (11) Ian White
  • (3) Peter Wright v (14) Adrian Lewis

One player with a lot more to prove that most is Peter Wright, whose largely difficult 2018 unceremoniously ended when crashing out at his first hurdle to 6/1 outsider Toni Alcinas at the Worlds. And to make matters slightly more embarrassing, he was dressed up as Santa.

However, while Snakebite 'only' won three titles in 2018 compared to the 11 he managed 12 months earlier, he did reach the finals of both the World Grand Prix and Champions League Darts so it wasn't all doom and gloom.

Indeed, his performance to beat MVG in the semi-final of the latter was nothing short of heroic even if it did mentally sap his energy for his battle with Gary Anderson.

In the aftermath of losing to Alcinas, Wright admitted that he probably had been changing his darts too much and vowed to practice for the new season with the set he felt most comfortable with.

"If I stick with one set of darts they're all in trouble," he said. "I've still got the confidence and I'm looking forward to the next game already."

It's always tough to try and gauge how players will respond to the way the previous year ended following a month without serious competition, but I think in the case of Wright we could potentially see a positive start and some promising signs for 2019.

Wright has a far from easy start against Adrian Lewis, who continued his undeniable rise back towards the top of the sport during the World Championship until he was soundly beaten by MVG in the last 16, but in an elite field like this, there are never any gimmes.

The 48-year-old is 14/1 to win the trophy but I'm instead going to take the 9/2 available with Sky Bet about him reaching the final.

In the quarter-finals Wright could meet Ally Pally runner-up Smith, but while I'm one of those people who believe Bully Boy can now be considered the unofficial third best player in the world right now - despite being ranked sixth on the Order of Merit - I don't think he represents great value this weekend at 8/1.

The St Helens thrower, who enters the event as a joint second favourite with Cross, was brilliant last month and even though he didn't come up against any star names until the final, he still produced special performances and 100+ averages to see off surprise packages Luke Humphries and Nathan Aspinall.

But he admitted in our interview that he'd hardly thrown a dart all January due to his wedding and honeymoon to the Dominican Republic and he's also viewing this event as practice for the start of the Premier League next week.

Sure, his relaxed approach could make him even more dangerous but I wouldn't be surprised if he's caught cold.

Regular readers of my previews will know I've got a bit of a soft spot for Joe Cullen and may even groan when I put him up at each-way - but he is 80/1 and well worth a small bet.

That's a massive price for anyone in the bottom half of the draw and is an unfair overreaction to what was a horrible performance at the World Championship.

He missed 16 of his 17 darts at doubles in a 3-0 drubbing to Brendan Dolan but I think when it gets that bad, you can almost put a line through it and just and dismiss it as a blip. Plus I think it's evident that his awful record on that stage got in his head again.

The Bradford man is up against Cross in the first round on Saturday night but he'll have fond memories of their previous meeting when coming from 6-1 down to defeat him 10-8 at the European Championship and I truly believe he's got the game to contend with the very best.

Despite his Ally Pally nightmare, 2018 was his best yet as he climbed to a career high of 15 in the Order of Merit, which sees him qualify for the Masters for the first time, although it could have been so much better had he nailed his match darts against Anderson in that incredible World Matchplay quarter-final and also against Simon Whitlock in the European Championship semi-final.

Nevertheless he's definitely heading in the right direction and hopefully he proves it again this weekend.

Cross did show signs of his 'old self' last month but it all disappeared again when 2-0 up against Humphries, so he's another player with a big point to prove and he won't want 2019 to be anything like the previous 12 months, which was at least an experience builder for him.

The winner of this meeting will face the intriguing battle of the pantomime villains - Gerwyn Price v James Wade - and the bookies would go 5/6 if pricing up who would get the most boos!

Price has been wisely keeping quiet on social media since being slapped with a hefty £21,500 fine and suspended sentence for his behaviour in last November's Grand Slam of Darts, where he beat crowd favourite Gary Anderson in controversial circumstances to say the least.

He hasn't had much joy since having fallen victim of two terrific comebacks by Krzysztof Ratajski at the Players Championship Finals and Aspinall at the World Championship, where the boos surely played a part in his demise.

But on the plus side he may have been usurped by Wade as public enemy number one due to the Machine's disgraceful behaviour against Seigo Asada.

That incident is currently how many will remember Wade's 2018 rather than the back-to-back television titles he managed at the European Championship and World Series of Darts Finals.

It's going to be fascinating to see how the crowd deals with both players on Saturday night - and also how they respond to it.

Remember, Price will be suspended for three months for another offence before July 11 so it's also going to be telling whether he can perform to his best with a toned down demeanour.

Posted at 1200 GMT on 31/01/19.


Masters draw & tournament bracket

Seedings in brackets

  • (1) Michael van Gerwen v (16) Jonny Clayton
  • (8) Mensur Suljovic v (9) Simon Whitlock
  • (5) Daryl Gurney v (12) Dave Chisnall
  • Stephen Bunting * v (13) Darren Webster
  • (2) Rob Cross v (15) Joe Cullen
  • (7) Gerwyn Price v (10) James Wade
  • (6) Michael Smith v (11) Ian White
  • (3) Peter Wright v (14) Adrian Lewis

* Stephen Bunting replaced Gary Anderson, who withdrew with a back injury


Masters: Sky Bet odds

  • Michael van Gerwen - 4/8
  • Michael Smith, Rob Cross - 8/1
  • Peter Wright - 14/1
  • Mensur Suljovic - 18/1
  • Daryl Gurney, Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall - 20/1
  • Gerwyn Price, James Wade - 28/1
  • Ian White, Joe Cullen, Stephen Bunting - 50/1
  • Darren Webster, Simon Whitlock - 66/1
  • Jonny Clayton - 200/1

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