The 2018 Grand Slam of Darts gets underway on Saturday in Wolverhampton with some of the best players on the planet battling it out for the £110,000 first prize. Our new darts columnist, Tom Beresford, previews the action...
"Smith is 25/1 to win the event which is very much worth backing considering the talent that he has, and the format will suit him well."
The Grand Slam of Darts is the only tournament in the calendar where the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) and the BDO (British Darts Organisation) combine as they battle it out in the £450,000 event.
The 32-man field is made up of 24 PDC players and eight BDO players, of which eight Groups were then drawn with each Group containing three players from the PDC and one from the BDO.
A round robin stage (best of nine legs) will take place during the first four days of competition with the top two players from each Group qualifying to the straight knock-out stage, which starts on Wednesday 14 November. The first knock-out stage will be the best of 19 legs, but from the quarter-final onwards all matches will be played over the best of 31 legs.
Big names head the market
Michael van Gerwen will be looking to return to winning ways as the defending champion from 12 months ago. The World no.1 recently won the World Grand Prix in Dublin, but Van Gerwen hasn't had it all his own way in 2018 in the televised majors. But, when the Dutchman is desperate for success, he's very dangerous. MVG is the tournament favourite as you'd expect, and you can get him at 11/10 to successfully defend his crown.
Gary Anderson is a player who's really focused on winning the Grand Slam, and the Scot has mentioned several times over the past couple of years that he really is hungry to win the title. Anderson won the World Matchplay for the first time back in July, and the Grand Slam could be next for the two-time World champion. He's available to back at 9/2 to prevail next Sunday evening.
James Wade is most definitely the man of the moment as 'The Machine' won back-to-back televised titles following his successes at the European Championship in Dortmund and the World Series of Darts finals last weekend in Vienna. You can get Wade at 20/1 to win the title which looks tempting for such an in-form player. He's sure to give his followers a good run for their money.
Underdogs to watch out for
Gravesend's Josh Payne (200/1) is certainly a player to look out for as he makes his debut in the event. Payne has two PDC ranking titles to his name, and he'll feel that he can make it out of group E which includes the no.2 seed Peter Wright, Max Hopp and Jim Williams. You can get Payne at 13/8 to make it out of the group, and 13/2 to top group E.
The reigning World Youth Champion Dimitri van den Bergh (50/1) makes his second appearance at the Grand Slam, and the young Belgian is coming in to form at just the right time. Van den Bergh is available at 5/2 to top group H.
Michael Smith is long overdue his first big televised title, and with a run to the final of the World Series of Darts last weekend, Smith will definitely fancy his chances in Wolverhampton. The St Helens ace is in a tough group (B) which includes five time World champion Raymond van Barneveld, Krzyzstof Ratajski, who recently won back-to-back PDC ranking titles despite not holding a PDC tour card, and the BDO World Masters winner Adam Smith-Neale.
Smith is 25/1 to win the event which is very much worth backing considering the talent that he has, and the format will suit him well.
BDO champ handed Group of Death
The draw for the Grand Slam group phase has thrown up some potentially early exits for some of the top seeds. The 'group of death' most definitely has to be Group F which includes Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price, Glen Durrant and Andrew Gilding.
Whitlock and Price of course competed in the 2018 Premier League campaign, as for Durrant, the Teesside-based star was highly impressive in last year's Grand Slam as he went all the way to the last eight before being narrowly defeated by Peter Wright in a high-quality affair, which included a superb nine-dart attempt by the back-to-back BDO World Championship winner.
Durrant is available to back at 33/1 to emulate Scott Waites' feat from 2010 as Waites remains the only BDO player to win the event.
The best of the Group stage bets
Smith has been in excellent form as of late, and he'll be looking to put last weekend's disappointment behind him. Van Barneveld had a great run to the semi-finals last weekend in Vienna as he defeated Michael van Gerwen en route, but the format will suit Smith better.
Payne is set to make his debut at the Grand Slam of Darts, but the Gravesend based star already has two PDC ranking titles to his name, and the quick-fire format may just suit him, this won't be an easy match though as he comes up against the talented German Max Hopp, but 29/20 is too big for a Payne victory.
Bunting has produced some fantastic darts over the past 12 months, and this encounter could be very tasty indeed. Schindler himself has been in some superb form as he booked his place in the PDC World Youth Final recently, but I expect Bunting to edge this one.
This match could be the tie of the group stages. Both players have been in superb form of late. Price reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship and the last four in the World Series of Darts finals, and the Welshman defeated Whitlock 10-7 en route. As for Whitlock, he came runner-up to Wade in the European Championship, and I can definitely see this one going the distance.