Michael Smith (Picture: Taylor Lanning/PDC)
Michael Smith (Picture: Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Players Championship Finals 2022: Free darts betting tips and preview for the ITV4-televised major in Minehead

The Players Championship Finals is the last major tournament before December's PDC World Darts Championship so check out Chris Hammer's preview and tips.

Darts betting tips: Players Championship Finals

1pt Michael Smith to win the Players Championship Finals at 9/1 (General)

1pt e.w. Dave Chisnall to win the Players Championship Finals at 22/1 (Sky Bet, Unibet)

1pt Chris Dobey to win the second quarter at 6/1 (Sky Bet)

0.5pt Gian van Veen to win the first quarter at 150/1 (Sky Bet)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Almost everyone - including myself - has agreed over the past few years that when Michael Smith wins his first major title, the floodgates will open.

So having tipped him to finally break his duck at the Grand Slam of Darts, I can hardly leave him off my next staking plan this weekend!

Not only is Bully Boy now out to make up for lost time, so too are his regular backers, who had previously seen him come up agonisingly short in eight major finals - including three in 2022 - before he deservedly got his belated reward in style on Sunday.

In all seriousness though, Smith is a confidence player with a recent history of winning tournaments in runs, albeit not on the televised stages.

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Towards the end of 2020 he ended a two-year wait for a win of any kind by landing back-to-back Players Championship titles and, far more importantly, he's achieved that same feat twice this season.

Back in May he added two more Pro Tour titles to his haul in successive days and a few weeks later he won the Dutch Darts Masters on the European Tour before landing the lucrative New York Darts Masters at Madison Square Garden the following weekend.

A third Players Championship title would follow a fortnight later and although the winners' cheques would then dry up for a few months, Smith found his form again to reach the European Championship final, where he was unfortunate to find Ross Smith in such career-changing mood.

The popular St Helens man has become a lot more mentally strong and philosophical to deal with such setbacks these days - after all, he's experienced them enough (!) - and it was no real surprise to anyone who'd kept the faith that he finally got his reward at the Grand Slam of Darts.

After years of patiently knocking on the door and dealing with all the negativity every time it stayed closed, this time he simply kicked it off its hinges with a thumping 16-5 victory over Nathan Aspinall that didn't allow nerves or pressure to come into the equation when he approached the finishing line.

Sure, his life was made easier by Aspinall's tired performance but that shouldn't take anything away from Smith, especially considering the quality he faced against Joe Cullen and Raymond van Barneveld in the previous rounds.

In fact, I think he'll look back on the victory over Cullen in years to come as the real turning point in his career. He trailed 15-13 but despite huge pressure, he lifted his game to a level that didn't even allow the Rockstar a match dart as he won the last three legs to progress.

At the moment Smith will feel he can beat anyone in any circumstances, and when he's in this confident mood, nobody will want to play him.

As Wayne Mardle said so brilliantly on Sunday: "It opened the floodgates for Gerwyn Price, winning the exact same trophy - the Eric Bristow trophy. I hope so, I really hope so because there's no doubting his ability and now there's no doubting his mental toughness.

"When you lose in final after final you just turn the TV on and there you are receiving the runners-up trophy, then you go on social media and you're reading about yourself in the negative all the time and I know he does, it's just part of life now social media.

"Now, it's going to be all positive and I would love for him to kick on because his talent level is right up there."

I couldn't agree more and I firmly believe we've got to stay on the Smith train while his price is still appealing.

Right, as for the rest of the field, let me go through the draw quarter-by-quarter...

Quarter one

  • (1) Damon Heta v (64) Ricardo Pietreczko
  • (32) Callan Rydz v (33) Madars Razma
  • (16) Andrew Gilding v (49) Ricky Evans
  • (17) Adrian Lewis v (48) Keane Barry
  • (8) Gerwyn Price v (57) Ryan Joyce
  • (25) Brendan Dolan v (40) Jermaine Wattimena
  • Gian van Veen v (56) Ross Smith *
  • (24) Jonny Clayton v (41) John O'Shea

Odds to win the quarter: Price 13/8, Heta 4/1, Clayton 9/2, Smith 15/2, Gilding 14/1, Lewis 16/1, Rydz 20/1, Barry 22/1, Dolan 25/1, Wattimena 40/1, Razma 40/1, Evans 40/1, Pietreczko 100/1, Joyce 100/1, O'Shea 125/1, van Veen 150/1

Damon Heta is top seed having earned more money than anyone else across the 30 Players Championship events this season, winning two of them and consistently going on deep runs in many others.

His overall average of 98.79 is second only to Michael van Gerwen's 98.80 but considering he played in 20 more of these tournaments than the Dutchman means you can make a strong case for him being considered the greater statistical performer.

However, the Aussie has struggled to transfer this electric form to the majors this season and has suffered early exits in all of them except the UK Open at this same venue, where he reached the quarter-finals, and the World Cup, which he won alongside Simon Whitlock for Australia.

That said, he has a fairly soft draw until he reaches the quarter-final and many will expect him to face either Gerwyn Price or Jonny Clayton.

Unless, of course, there's some kind of massive shock.

I admit one of my quarter bet does look rather ridiculous but just bear with me for a few paragraphs.

GIAN VAN VEEN will be unfamiliar to most darts fans having never played in a televised major before and is currently without a Tour Card, while he's only featured in a handful of Players Championship and European Tour events this season.

The 20-year-old has spent most of they year learning his craft on the Challenge and Development Tours, reaching four finals overall and winning two titles, including a final victory over Josh Rock as recently as August.

On those two tours in October, he was averaging in the mid to high 90s in 14 of his 26 matches, including five in excess of 100, but look what happened when he earned the chance to mix it with the Pro Tour ranks in the last six Players Championship events of the season over the past six weeks or so.

Not only did he consistently average well above the 90 mark and win 18 of his 24 matches - including the scalps of Dave Chisnall, Joe Cullen, Dimitri Van den Bergh, Alan Soutar, Brendan Dolan, Martjn Kleermaker and Kim Huybrechts - but he incredibly reached his maiden final, where he lost 8-4 to an inspired Gerwyn Price.

The Dutchman averaged 100+ on four occasions that day, including 109 versus Richie Burnett, and never dropped below 94 in the other three matches, so it was no surprise to hear Price wax lyrical about him. He said: "Gian is a fantastic player and I’m sure he will get to many more finals, but thankfully I won this one today."

That result lifted him to 65th on the Players Championship Order of Merit despite playing in just eight of the 30 tournaments this season and he'll be eager to make the most of his chance on the major stage - which has come after Peter Wright pulled out to look after his wife Jo.

Obviously it's still a tall order to actually go all the way in this quarter but it's certainly not the realms of possibility that he wins two best-of-11 encounters. For him to get further than the third round would probably require Price to slip on one of his early banana skins and if he does reach the quarters, then you'd be in a great position.

For the record, I do believe Price is most likely to come through this section despite the disappointment of losing his Grand Slam of Darts crown last week.

He averaged over 100 in all of his five matches but the fact he still gave his opponents plenty of opportunities - not least to Raymond van Barneveld, who defeated him twice on his fairytale run to the semi-finals - will give other players in this quarter plenty of hope.

There's enough there to take a chance on van Veen who might just be the week's surprise package.

Quarter two

  • (4) Dirk van Duijvenbode v (61) Mickey Mansell
  • (29) Daryl Gurney v (36) Keegan Brown
  • (13) Ryan Searle v (52) Mervyn King
  • (20) Stephen Bunting v (45) Jamie Hughes
  • (5) Rob Cross v (60) Kevin Doets
  • (28) Gabriel Clemens v (37) Gary Anderson
  • (12) Martin Schindler v (53) Vincent van der Voort
  • (21) Chris Dobey v (44) Geert Nentjes

Odds to win the quarter: van Duijvenbode 7/2, Cross 7/2, Dobey 6/1, Searle 13/2, Anderson 8/1, Bunting 12/1, Gurney 16/1, Schindler 16/1, Hughes 22/1, King 25/1, Clemens 33/1, Brown 33/1, Mansell 33/1, van der Voort 33/1, Nentjes 100/1, Doets 150/1

Dirk van Duijvenbode heads the betting alongside Rob Cross in this very open looking quarter and will be eager to bounce back after the way he capitulated against Joe Cullen in the Grand Slam of Darts. That was a big opportunity missed for Aubergenius, who has won a couple of Players Championship titles in a superb season, and shows what can happen when the 180s suddenly desert him.

Whereas Michael Smith was able to dig deep in similar scenarios and make up for it with clinical doubling, van Duijvenbode's head dropped and he couldn't convert his doubles either.

Daryl Gurney, Ryan Searle and Stephen Bunting pose big threats to him in his section while Cross will probably have to deal with the likes of Gary Anderson, CHRIS DOBEY or Martin Schindler if he's to get that far.

It'll be interesting to see which Anderson turns up after he decided against competing in the final Grand Slam of Darts qualifying event - will he have hit the practice board hard in a bid to find his best form ahead of the World Championship? One man who certainly has been doing that is Dobey.

The Northumberland ace was last seen in televised action reaching the European Championship semi-finals thanks to stunning victories over Michael van Gerwen, Jose de Sousa and Dave Chisnall before a narrow 11-9 defeat to eventual champion Ross Smith.

Having also reached the World Grand Prix quarter-finals, it's clear Dobey has saved his best performances for the business end of the year following a sluggish opening six months from a results perspective.

The 100+ averages were hard to come by for him during that period but since October he's managed it in eight of his 18 matches and only dipped below 95 in four others.

Dobey reached the semi-finals in Minehead back in 2019 and has confidence, ability and form to do it again.

Quarter Three

  • (2) Luke Humphries v (63) Nathan Rafferty
  • (31) Jim Williams v (34) Mike De Decker
  • (15) Krzysztof Ratajski v (50) William O'Connor
  • (18) Jose De Sousa v (47) Danny Jansen
  • (7) Dave Chisnall v (58) Niels Zonneveld
  • (26) Scott Williams v (39) Alan Soutar
  • (10) Joe Cullen v (55) Rowby-John Rodriguez
  • (23) Kim Huybrechts v (42) Raymond van Barneveld

Odds to win the quarter: Humphries 11/4, Chisnall 4/1, Cullen 5/1, de Sousa 7/1, Ratajski 10/1, van Barneveld 12/1, Soutar 16/1, Williams 16/1, Rodriquez 20/1, Huybrechts 25/1, O'Connor 28/1, Jansen 40/1, De Decker 50/1, Zonneveld 50/1, Williams 50/1, Rafferty 66/1

I had big hopes for DAVE CHISNALL - as well as Michael Smith - at the Grand Slam of Darts so you must wonder why I'm still persisting with him after he bowed out in the group stages.

Chizzy had a costly off day against Raymond van Barneveld, who nobody expected to go on the run that he did, and despite getting his act together with a 101 average against Ted Evetts, he was always going to face a do-or-die clash with Gerwyn Price in his final group match.

In a way, that didn't seem so bad because it gave Chisnall a chance of knocking out the defending champion over a short format match rather than later in the tournament - and sure enough he played brilliantly, averaged 101 and earned himself two match darts! Unfortunately, he missed them both and lost the deciding leg.

If he'd gone through, I would have been extremely confident of him maintaining his great recent form until the final but should that one defeat change my thinking for this next tournament?

Certainly not.

Chisnall has won his two titles this season and both of them in the past couple of months; first winning the Belgian Darts Championship before picking up a Players Championship title in which he beat both Price and Josh Rock in his final two games.

He's won 26 of his last 36 matches, averaged over 100 in 17 of them, and only dipped below 95 on nine occasions.

I may have overlooked Barney, Alan Soutar and Joe Cullen ahead of the Grand Slam of Darts but I think he can deal with any of them in his section and a quarter-final with Luke Humphries would seem like the most likely eventuality.

As highly as we all rate Cool Hand, he 'only' averaged in the mid-90s during his three hard-fought knockout games so despite reaching the semi-finals, Chizzy will hardly be running scared about such a prospect.

Also, don't dismiss the importance of the motivation he'll feel after watching his fellow St Helens thrower Smith finally ending his own long wait for a major title.

Chisnall, who has lost nine televised finals including this year's Masters, is probably now the undisputed 'best player not to win a major' but he won't want that tag for too much longer and this is another great opportunity to put the record straight.

Quarter four

  • (3) Nathan Aspinall v (62) Martijn Kleermaker
  • (30) Matt Campbell v (35) Steve Beaton
  • (14) Danny Noppert v (51) Simon Whitlock
  • (19) James Wade v (46) Mensur Suljovic
  • (6) Michael Smith v (59) Ritchie Edhouse
  • (27) Dimitri Van den Bergh v (38) Martin Lukeman
  • (11) Josh Rock v (54) Cameron Menzies
  • (22) Michael van Gerwen v (43) Ryan Meikle

Odds to win the quarter: MVG 13/8, Smith 3/1, Aspinall 5/1, Rock 6/1, Van den Bergh 8/1, Noppert 10/1, Wade 12/1, Whitlock 28/1, Suljovic 33/1, Campbell 66/1, Kleermaker 80/1, Beaton 100/1, Edhouse 125/1, Cameron Menzies 150/1, Lukeman 150/1, Meikle 150/1

As I've already made my case for Michael Smith at the top of the preview, I don't really need to write much more here other than to flag up who would be other viable options to come through this quarter.

Josh Rock will be well backed for obvious reasons and even though the nine-dart hero lost that cracking Grand Slam showdown with Michael van Gerwen, who he could meet in the second round, his performance showed he belongs on the big stage.

He didn't lose because of nerves or a lack of experience, it was purely down to how well the first/second best player of all time maintained such a high level of performance for all 18 legs.

Rock is probably too short at 6/1 given the difficulty of this quarter plus we don't know how well he'd be able to maintain his standards across such a hectic weekend of games on the big stage.

I'd probably lean towards Nathan Aspinall at 5/1 or Danny Noppert at 10/1 given the top half of this section may not require explosive averages to come through and if either reach the quarter-finals then you know they have the knack of being able to find those levels when they really need to.

Posted at 1545 GMT on 24/11/22

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