Our darts expert Chris Hammer previews the ITV4-televised Jack's Casino World Series of Darts Finals, which takes place this weekend, and has two bets to consider.
Recommended Bets: World Series of Darts
- 0.5pts each-way Michael Smith to win the title at 33/1
- 1pt Gerwyn Price to win the title at 22/1
There are just three televised tournaments to play as we hurtle towards 'Dartmas' and next on the hit list is the fifth staging of the World Series of Darts Finals in Amsterdam.
Some may question whether it should be classed as a 'major' in its purest sense due to it being the culmination of the five non-ranking World Series of Darts events held worldwide throughout the year, with the top eight players from that order of merit - which includes Raymond van Barneveld - entering at the second-round stage.
Invites were also handed out for eight of the other 16 spots but brushing all that aside, to get your hands on this trophy obviously still requires you to beat some of the biggest names in the sport.
Michael van Gerwen won the first three stagings before Barney so memorably knocked him out in last year's quarter-finals as James Wade went on to collect his second TV title in the space of a week - but only after Michael Smith missed five match darts in an unbelievably dramatic final.
Twelve months on Bully Boy is still waiting for his first big TV title and he couldn't have come much closer having been runner-up in both of the World Championship and World Matchplay, while he's also without any tournament triumph in 2019 having finished second in the televised US Darts Masters and two other Players Championship events.
I know we all keep saying it but the floodgates will open for the 2018 Premier League runner-up once he finally gets over the line - he's just too good for that not to happen - although for him to do that this weekend will take some effort.
In a nightmare draw for all three parties, he faces fellow unseeded star Gerwyn Price in a repeat of their European Championship semi-final in the opening round on Friday before the winner takes on van Gerwen 24 hours later. That explains why Smith and Price can be backed at 33/1 and 22/1 respectively in the outright markets, and even if they're still standing after that, they'll probably have more usual suspects to deal with in the quarters, semis and final on one of those hectic Sundays.
Mental fatigue at least won't be a factor given the first two rounds are just best of 11 and clearly this short format gives either a better than usual chance of claiming what would be a rare win over MVG.
Price is still, incredibly, searching for his first over the world champion and in their 18 previous meetings the best he's managed is a single draw in the Premier League this season - and he should have won that, too.
The 2018 Grand Slam of Darts winner may still be kicking himself over what happened in the Champions League semi-finals two weeks ago when he had the advantage of throw in the deciding leg of a pulsating clash only to find just two trebles in his opening four visits before MVG completed a match-winning 14-darter that he backed up by lifting the belt against Peter Wright.
That meant van Gerwen, who has also won the Masters, Premier League, Melbourne Masters, New Zealand Masters and World Grand Prix among his 12 titles this season, completed the 'Green Sweep' of every possible major title available to him which is frightening when you think he's still just 30.
Nevertheless, Price will be chomping at the bit to get another crack at breaking his mental block against MVG, who reminded us of his occasional fragilities last week when crashing out to 400/1 outsider Ross Smith in the opening round of the European Championship.
Welshman Price, who has been pure box office this season both in terms of winning four tournaments and his entertainment value, enjoyed another superb weekend, beating Smith 11-7 in the last four only to run out of steam against Rob Cross with the title on the line, averaging just 84.51 in a rather fatigued performance during which he also let the crowd get the better of him.
Smith will be vying for revenge on Friday night before setting his sights on just a second victory over MVG since defeating him en route to his last title of any kind - the Shanghai Darts Masters.
One way or another, I fancy whoever comes from this tiniest of sections of the draw to end up in the final and the prices of the two 'underdogs' are just too big to ignore.
That's not to underestimate the likes of Wade, Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic, UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall and the ever dangerous Krzysztof Ratajski, who is a particularly eye-catching 40/1, because you really can make a case for anyone these days.
Even Damon Heta will have his fair share of backers following his quite sensational victory at the Brisbane Darts Masters in which he beat Wade, Gary Anderson, Simon Whitlock en route to the final, where he held his nerve against Cross in a dramatic deciding leg.
The bottom half of the draw is fraught with danger for the four seeded players, with Wright coming up against either Ricky Evans or Ian White, Gary Anderson facing Danny Noppert or Jeffrey de Zwaan while Cross could end up with a blockbusting clash with Dave Chisnall if the St Helens man can get past Simon Whitlock.
Jermaine Wattimena, who is improving as quickly as he throws, will needed to get past the German Masters runner-up Gabriel Clemens if he's to set up an all-Dutch affair with van Barneveld and what an occasion that would be.
This is obviously one of Barney's final TV 'major' appearances before his career-ending World Championship and what a sight it'll be to see him walking out to a sea of orange in Amsterdam, let alone winning it.
If pushed for an each-way shout from this bottom section I'd perhaps lean towards Chizzy at 22/1 but World Matchplay and European champion Cross will clearly be in confident mood as he targets a third TV title of the season.
World Series of Darts Finals: Draw & tournament bracket
Seeded players enter in round two
- (1) Michael van Gerwen v Smith/Price
- (8) James Wade v Jones/Clayton
- (5) Damon Heta v K Anderson/Suljovic
- (4) Daryl Gurney v Ratajski/Aspinall
- (2) Peter Wright v Evans/White
- (7) Gary Anderson v Noppert/De Zwaan
- (6) Raymond van Barneveld v Wattimena/Clemens
- (3) Rob Cross v Chisnall/Whitlock