Jaymes Monte looks at the best bets for the Players Championship Finals at Minehead this weekend...
"I can see Chisnall reaching the semi-finals without breaking sweat."
Although a Major tournament in its own right, most of the top players will openly admit to seeing the Players Championship Finals as a big stepping stone on their way towards the World Championships at Alexandra Palace next month.
That said, the prizes on offer this weekend should not be underestimated. Not only is there a major title up for grabs, but last year's winner Kevin Painter gained a wild-card into the 2012 Premier League largely on the back of his success here.
Heading into the event we are presented with unprecedented odds of 4.3100/30 on Phil Taylor lifting the trophy on Sunday night. The Power has failed to deliver in each of the last three majors, lost out to Dave Chisnall and Michael van Gerwen in ProTour event finals at the weekend and hasn't won a title in front of the TV cameras since July. Taylor has suffered slumps in form before, but these are uncharted waters.
Of course the man doing most damage to Taylor's reputation as darts' kingpin is Van Gerwen, who continued his rich vein of form by winning his seventh ProTour title of the season at the weekend, and making it back-to-back wins over the world number one in the process. The young Dutchman is a 5.69/2 chance this weekend and should thrive in a tournament that requires the victor to win five matches in three days.
Yet the draw makes it difficult to advise a bet on MVG, or a number of the top players for that matter.
Such is the nature of the seeding for the Players Championship Finals - based on results in Players Championship events only, rather than world rankings - that a number of fancied and form players are grouped in the same half of the draw.
Form players Van Gerwen, Simon Whitlock, Wes Newton and Robert Thornton are all drawn in the bottom half alongside Taylor, Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis, Andy Hamilton and defending champion Kevin Painter. Leaving the top (opposite) half of the draw wide open.
Chisnall goes into this weekend as the number one seed and appears to have reaped the benefits of his success on the floor this calendar year. He opens with a fairly comfortable match against Wayne Jones before facing either Colin Lloyd or Peter Wright in the second round, and I can see him reaching the semi-finals without breaking sweat. There he'll meet one of several threatening players, but he does have by far the simplest route to the last four and looks a very good bet at odds of 11.010/1 this weekend.
Also in the top half of the draw, I like the look of James Wade who appears to be overpriced at 23.022/1. Yes, The Machine has had his problems in recent months, but he was in good spirits at the Grand Slam earlier this month and at the odds he has got to be worth taking a chance that he will rediscover some level of form.
Finally, a word of caution to anyone considering backing world champion Adrian Lewis at odds of 21.020/1. Although he has been drastically out of form lately, I had contemplated backing Jackpot with the hope that the difficulty of the draw - Taylor is a potential second-round opponent followed by Van Gerwen in the quarters - might serve to focus his attentions. However, with the birth of his first child imminent Lewis has openly - and understandably - admitted that his attentions aren't fully focused on the oche.
Hopefully Lewis Junior makes an arrival shortly and Adrian can then focus fully on a third consecutive world title.