We're off to the Winter Gardens in Blackpool for the commencement of the World Matchplay, starting Saturday, and here Wayne Mardle takes an early look at the outright market for one of his favourite tournaments of the year...
"I'm still sold on Simon Whitlock (125/1) returning to form. He's been decent for the last two years without really breaking back through. He's such a competent player, a player who can beat anyone no matter how well they play."
It's World Matchplay time!
I love this event. The venue and the history of it all makes it one of the most exciting tournaments of the year.
So... who WINS?
The first three in the betting are clear, Michael van Gerwen (6/5), Gary Anderson (5/1), and Phil Taylor (6/1).
Gary and Michael are so dominant in world darts right now so they are the rightful players to head the market, but it's also impossible to rule out the most successful player ever, Taylor. He loves the Winter Gardens, he's triumphed there an astonishing 15 times, incredible.
I'm liking the way Phil is throwing, firm and confidently.
I'm an Adrian Lewis (12/1) fan too, there's something about the big cuddly bear of a man I like.
Adrian is always a possible champion, but, in his quarter of the draw he has Peter Wright (18/1) who is looking to win his first ever biggy? And those two are in the same half of the draw as Van Gerwen.
So, not the easiest of passages to the title in my opinion.
The aforementioned Wright is more than capable but seems to run out of belief and composure in the very last knockings of long tight matches, not a trait conducive to winning a World Matchplay.
There are plenty of possibles, Jelle Klassen (40/1), Dave Chisnall (18/1), and Raymond van Barneveld (33/1) to name a few. All have a live chance of doing major damage and even becoming champion.
I'm going to have two small bets and a main bet this year. MVG is my pick for outright success, no great shakes there. I believe it'll take a brilliant performance to beat him and while he's the right side of odds-on I'll keep backing him.
In my opinion if Michael is stopped it will be by Anderson. Gary seems to have Michael's number right now. But where's the fun in selecting the first two in the betting?
And the Each-Way alternatives are...
I'm still sold on Simon Whitlock (125/1) returning to form. He's been decent for the last two years without really breaking back through. He's such a competent player, a player who can beat anyone no matter how well they play.
I'll be having a cheeky fiver each-way on him at 125s. That price is just too big.
He plays Michael Smith in the opening round, but when you look at the draw most of the matches look tough, so it's just a matter of siphoning out what price is wrong and that's where Simon comes in.
Darryl Gurney, Kyle Anderson and Mark Webster are a shorter price than Whitlock. No disrespect is meant to those players but if any of those played the Aussie, I'd back Simon. Would you?
Another each way selection is James Wade.
James' record in Blackpool is incredible, he has made the final on six occasions, winning once. He likes the venue and he's playing well, he's upped his game in recent months and if he can produce the goods at the right time there's no reason why he can't lift the trophy for the second time.
A MVG v Wade or Whitlock final would be nice wouldn't it?
Back Michael Van Gerwen to Win @ 6/5
Back James Wade E/W @ 20/1
Back Simon Whitlock E/W @ 125/1
*E/W Terms - 1/2 odds, 2 places