Betfair World Snooker Tips: Under-rated Allen can lead snooker's new order

Mark Allen's explosive recent form makes him a leading contender

The countdown to Saturday's Betfair World Snooker Championship is underway, for which betting.betfair will be providing comprehensive daily tips. Here, Paul Krishnamurty makes a strong argument that one of the game's rising stars remains under-rated by the market... 

"A prolific breakbuilder since his teenage years, Allen has improved markedly this term and the fact he's only landed one recent ranking event owes plenty to misfortune. When winning the World Open, nobody managed to stay within two frames of Allen and some of his Championship League form has been equally explosive."


When the snooker world gathers at the Crucible Theatre for it's premier event on Saturday, there will be one particularly notable absentee. For the first time in over a quarter of a century, the Betfair World Championship will take place without the most successful player in the sport's history. The now retired seven times champion Stephen Hendry will be sorely missed but at least snooker fans can count their blessings in one other respect. 

Shortly after winning his fourth world title 12 months ago, snooker's star attraction Ronnie O'Sullivan withdrew from all of this season's events. Thankfully the Rocket has changed his mind and will defend the title but, without any competitive snooker under his belt, his form and wellbeing is anyone's guess. Given that the other two most successful players of recent times, John Higgins and Mark Williams, both appear to be in decline, this year's renewal has a transformative feel about it, with a new generation ready to assume dominance.

Choosing a leader from this emerging generation, however, is far from straightforward. Indeed, the World Championship betting has never been so open, reflecting the ever-changing order at the top of the world rankings. Judd Trump and current incumbent Mark Selby have spent this season swapping top dog status while the consistently impressive Neil Robertson went very close to usurping them both with victory in the latest tournament, the China Open. The gap between that trio and the rest of the top-ten is miniscule.

Many people, of course, will still consider Ronnie as the man to beat. It is certainly fair to say nobody has produced a better performance since his dominant Crucible campaign last year. Coming out of retirement and recapturing your best is never easy but if there's one player capable of doing so, O'Sullivan is the man. Easily the most natural player of his generation, if not ever, Ronnie often gave the impression that the only thing holding him back was a lack of commitment. Surely he wouldn't be bothering with this comeback if he wasn't committed to it and, given his talent, he shouldn't need that much practice to find his range again.

If he doesn't, much public and media focus will shift to his assumed successor Trump, but smart punters should have learnt by now to be wary of the hype machine otherwise known as the 'Juddernaut'. In the two years since Trump lost a classic world final to Higgins, he hasn't notably improved. So far in 2013 he hasn't reached a single final and has been knocked out by non-seeded players in four of the last seven big events.

While Judd seems perennially over-rated and under-priced, the exact opposite sentiments can be applied to Mark 'The Pistol' Allen. The pair fought out a thrilling 2011 UK Championship final, won 10-8 by Trump, but their careers have moved in opposite directions since. A prolific breakbuilder since his teenage years, Allen has improved markedly this term and the fact he's only landed one recent ranking event owes plenty to misfortune. When winning the World Open, nobody managed to stay within two frames of Allen and some of his Championship League form has been equally explosive. Elsewhere, he has repeatedly lost classic high-class matches to the likes of Robertson and Ding Junhui. Such unlucky runs are an inevitable hazard of events with short match formats, but form can always be expected to stand up over the marathon matches at the World Championship. 

One of the keys to successful betting at The Crucible is identifying which players thrive over longer matches in the pressure cooker atmosphere. Allen ticks both boxes, reaching the quarter-finals three times from six previous attempts whilst still learning the game. Most memorably in 2009, he stunned O'Sullivan before falling prey to Higgins' superior tactical prowess in the semis. Currently available to back at 16.015/1, Allen is trading around double the odds of Trump, despite a superior all-round game and much better recent form. This could be a rare opportunity to beat the market by backing a vast improver, still under the radar of most pundits and punters. 

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