UK Open Darts: Betting tips and predictions ahead of the big TV major in Minehead

The UK Open will feature 159 players bidding for glory in Minehead
The UK Open will feature 159 players bidding for glory in Minehead

The first big ranking major of the PDC darts season takes place this weekend with the Ladbrokes UK Open and our expert Chris Hammer previews the action with his best bets.

Recommended Bets: UK Open Darts

1pt Rob Cross to win the UK Open at 18/1

0.5pt e.w. Gerwyn Price at 20/1 (1/2 1,2)

0.5pt e.w. Dave Chisnall at 40/1 (1/2 1,2)

0.5pt e.w. Jonny Clayton at 100/1 (1/2 1,2)

0.5pt e.w. Nathan Aspinall at 125/1 (1/2 1,2)

This time last year, Gary Anderson survived the carnage of FA Cup style shocks that swept through the UK Open as ferociously as Storm Emma to lift this prestigious trophy for the first time in his incredible career.

The only shame was there being no fans present to witness it due to the Beast from the East forcing the event behind closed doors, but thankfully 12 months on the Butlin's Minehead Resort will be basking in the drama as we continue to enjoy the equally freakish hottest late winter since records began.

This is obviously an important factor to bare in mind because last year's circumstances made the tournament quite a leveller, with Michael van Gerwen crashing out at his first hurdle to Jeffrey de Zwaan, who in turn lost to Paul Hogan, and only three of the then world's top 10 reaching the last 16.

John Part made a fairytale run to the quarter-final, where he was beaten by Robert Owen, while David Pallett was also a surprise semi-finalist. You can back the latter two at 1000/1 this year!

While ability to perform in the quieter surroundings is still crucial during the early rounds, the big guns will obviously spend most of - if not all - their time on either the Main Stage or the smaller Stage Two at Red's Bar where their experience of playing in front of bigger crowds will give them a notable edge over the lesser names.

This year there's a whopping 159 players in the field, with all 128 PDC Tour Card Holders (minus Corey Cadby) receiving automatic entry unlike previous years when only the 96 would qualify, and you won't see the top 32 until Friday night's fourth round.

At this point the draw becomes random to give it that usual FA Cup flavour - although some say that taste will be a tad blander this year now there's only 16 'non league' Rileys Amateur Qualifiers instead of 32, with the other 16 coming from the PDC's Challenge Tour.

The luck of the draw element - not to mention how competitive the standard of darts has become no matter how low you go down the rankings - means this event is perhaps as hard to call as it gets, and they'll no doubt be some big priced outsiders scrambling their way into the latter stages and causing surprises along the way.

As ever you could make a strong case for a lot of players in such a big draw but if you're going for underdogs, I'd suggest looking at their form in the six Players Championship events so far as that'll be crucial indication for how they'll fare in the early rounds, and also if they've shown quality on live TV stages in recent times.

My five picks tick both boxes but there's obviously plenty more who do - not least odds-on favourite Michael van Gerwen, who I've left out for value reasons.

Gerwyn Price - 20/1

It might be quite an obvious selection but the controversial Welshman is playing the best darts of his career at the moment so while he's in such a rich vein of form, it's hard to leave him out.

Since becoming a major champion in the unforgettable 2018 Grand Slam of Darts final against Gary Anderson, it initially all went pear-shaped for the former rugby player as he crashed out at the first hurdle of his next three events, including the World Championship, thanks in no small part to the incessant booing from the crowds.

He was a subdued figure at the season-opening Masters which came shortly after receiving a £21,500 and a three-month suspended sentence for his antics in Wolverhampton, but he's suddenly rediscovered his mojo and his passion on the oche, making a good start to the Premier League and winning back-to-back Players Championship events last weekend.

Price sealed his second with a 170 checkout and also averaged 100+ in 10 of his 14 match wins, including a mark of 109 in Saturday's final.

Price, who also reached a semi-final the weekend before, has a very impressive record in the UK Open having been runner-up to Peter Wright in 2017 and also going as far as the quarter-finals 12 months ago.

This is perhaps a good time to mention I tipped him at 80/1 last year only for him to lose to my only other each-way tip - eventual runner-up Corey Cadby (28/1) - so it shows how far he's come in just a year to be rated 20/1.

While he's still some way short of becoming a fan favourite, I think it's fair to say he's turning some of the jeers to cheers and that can only help him when it comes to crunch matches on the big stage.

Rob Cross - 18/1

Rob Cross has made an encouraging start to the season and it's easy to see he's not playing with the same kind of weight on his shoulders that affected him in 2018.

Voltage has admitted his year as world champion was an eye-opener and perhaps his relative 'struggles' were only highlighted because we were guilty of expecting more formidable displays rather than fully appreciating this was just his second full season on the PDC circuit.

Now he seems wiser, happier and more relaxed, which is all contributing to his performances on the oche getting much closer to the standards he sets himself.

Cross has reached one semi-final from the six Players Championship events, losing to Dimitri van den Bergh in a thrilling clash with an average of 105, but even in the other tournaments he's been averaging over three figures on numerous occasions.

In the Premier League he had a shocker against Michael van Gerwen but apart from that he's produced impressive showings - not least in thrashing Daryl Gurney 7-1 in Exeter this past Thursday night.

Dave Chisnall - 40/1

There wouldn't be a dry eye in the house if Dave Chisnall could finally win a big TV title and there's no shortage of reasons to suggest it could finally happen this weekend.

Chizzy's reached four major PDC finals during the best periods of his career so far from 2013 to 2016 but was unfortunate to run into Phil Taylor or Michael van Gerwen in all of them while the Dutchman also beat him in the televised 2016 Perth Masters and 2017 Shanghai Masters.

The battle scars built up and the perpetual talk of being one of the greatest players never to win a major can act like a millstone round his neck but recently he spoke of how his mental strength has made significant improvement.

After holding his nerve to defeat Glen Durrant 8-7 in the Players Championship Two final and end his 18-month wait for a 13th PDC crown, the St Helens man said: "Last year I wasn't in the best place mentally because I was having some problems at home. But since July I've been practicing a lot more and it shows because my doubles aren't letting me down anymore.

"I practice in my shed at home and my wife Michaela is always on at me to make sure I'm in there practicing. She often texts me during the day asking if I'm in the shed practicing but this just shows that if you put the work in then the rewards will come."

And that tournament wasn't a one off as he beat both Rob Cross and James Wade en route to the semi-finals on Saturday only to lose out to eventual winner Price.

This floor form followed on from his impressive displays which helped him reach the World Championship quarter-finals and the semi-finals of the season-opening Masters.

He doesn't have good records against either Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen - who beat him in both - but at least the random draw format of this competition means he won't necessarily have to meet either in Minehead if he's to reach the final.

Jonny Clayton - 100/1

Anyone else think this is a pretty insulting price for a player of Jonny Clayton's quality? And for a player who is most certainly on an upward curve in his career?

Now ranked 16th in the world on the Order of Merit and a winner of his first European Tour title last year, Clayton has shown decent form on the floor this season and was the man who ended Michael van Gerwen's 22-match winning streak at Players Championship Two with an average of 106, before losing to Chizzy in the semi-finals.

He was knocked out by MVG in the quarter-finals a day earlier and last Saturday he was beaten by Gerwyn Price - so in these six Players Championship events, three of his defeats came to the eventual winner!

When it comes to performances on the big stage, the World Championship sadly didn't go to plan but he reached the last eight of both the Grand Slam of Darts and the Players Championship Finals, where he succumbed to MVG (who he'd stunned in the group stages) and Gary Anderson respectively.

Nathan Aspinall - 125/1

My final selection is the only one who comes into the event before the fourth round on Friday night.

In rounds one to three, all matches will be best of 11 legs which is obviously quite a leveller and backing anyone in the early stages does have its risks.

Glen Durrant has made a superb start to life in the PDC having already clinched a maiden Players Championship title a week after being runner-up to Dave Chisnall but his ranking of 74 means he'll have to negotiate the second and third rounds before the best-of-19 longer format kicks in.

He's a best of 33/1 while another impressive PDC newcomer Jamie Hughes will attract some interest at a whopping 300/1 - although he'll be starting in round one.

Anyway, I opted for Nathan Aspinall at 125/1 ahead of another player I was strongly mulling over in Chris Dobey even they are both making eye-catching strides in the game after a confidence boosting World Championship.

The Asp could have meekly bowed out in the second round of the Ally Pally when he trailed Gerwyn Price 2-0 but showed big stage character to not only win that match so memorably but go on and reach the semi-finals with a string of superb displays.

His last four showdown with Michael Smith was a cracker and although he came up short, he could take plenty of heart from a life-changing few weeks.

Since then Aspinall, who'll get the chance to gain a measure of revenge against Bully Boy in the Premier League having earned one of the 'Contender' spots, has shown he's incredibly determined to back up his rapid rankings climb and maybe it was just a shot of confidence he needed to make him believe he can reach the next level.

The Stockport thrower thrashed MVG 6-1 before losing 6-5 to Gerwyn Price in the quarter-finals of Players Championship Four while on Sunday he defeated the likes of Joe Cullen, Steve Lennon, Dobey and Jermaine Wattimena en route to the semi-finals where again he'd be thwarted by the Iceman.

If he can get through his early-round fixture then we'll hopefully be able to see him showing off his quality in the longer format, and if he gets the chance on the main stage then we already know he won't be fazed.

Click here for the full UK Open draw, tournament schedule and format

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