The Snooker Shoot-Out in Blackpool returns for its fourth consecutive year and those wanting a wager should come prepared to throw out the formbook and stick a few pins in.
Barry Hearn’s popular brainchild, held every season at the end of January, sees the top-64 players in the world do battle over one frame matches with shot clocks and several other rules purely designed to make each game as exciting as possible.
The fact that the favourite for the event, recent Masters finalist Mark Selby is 10/1 speaks volumes about the haphazard nature of the tournament with Nigel Bond’s victory in 2011 proof of its unpredictability – the world number 53 hadn’t won anything since 1997.
However, although the last two winners – Barry Hawkins and Martin Gould – are hardly household names neither are they anywhere near out of the blue than Bond so simply looking for the biggest prices is not the best approach.
Neither is investing in the highest ranked players, as although the likes of Selby, Stephen Maguire (14/1), John Higgins (14/1), Mark Allen (20/1) and Shaun Murphy (20/1) have obvious advantages in talent and experience in more traditional formats, that counts for little this weekend.
And so the advice is to back two players who arrive in form and have some happy memories of the event.
First is Robert Milkins (66/1) who went all the way to the final in 2011 and is in good heart having made his Masters debut this month.
Although his time at Ally Pally was cut short by eventual champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 in the first round that was no disgrace as the same fate was handed to every other of the Rocket’s opponents as he routed the field.
The other selection has to be the 2012 champion Barry Hawkins (20/1) who also reached the quarter-finals last year.
The likeable 34-year-old has broken through over the past few seasons, winning the Australian Goldfields Open in the same year as his Shoot-Out success and then posting the best result of his career when going all the way to the final of the World Championship only to be cut down by O’Sullivan.
Any format that sees professional snooker players running around the table at Big Break-esque pace is far from an exact science and it’s one of those events where the overused phrase ‘anyone can win it’ actually applies.
However, both Milkins and Hawkins are in form, have positive memories and probably arrive with a better chance than their prices reflect.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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