While snooker betting has a long history, our medium has particularly flourished over the past decade. Back in the 2009/10 season there were only six world ranking tournaments, one elite invitational plus the short-format Championship League. The first two of those numbers were tripled to 18 and three respectively for the current season.
Coronavirus interfered with that schedule, putting paid to the China Open, but they hope to be back on the baize in late July. The Tour Championship has been tentatively rescheduled for July 21st, followed 10 days later by the World Championship.
The format of events differs quite considerably. In the majority of events, at least the early rounds are played over best-of-seven frames, condensed into one session without an interval. In contrast, matches for the World Championship range from best-of-19 frames to a best-of-35 final, played over two days.
While the rules of the sport never change - except the unique Shootout, where all matches are played over a single frame, using a shotclock - it can pay to know which players prefer each format.
For example Ronnie O'Sullivan has a famously remarkable record in best-of-sevens but has often struggled to retain peak concentration over the longer, World Championship matches. Three-time world champion Mark Selby's best form has come in that marathon event or in longer format events, where best-of-11 matches are the norm from the outset.
Even the Shootout - widely regarded as a lottery - has a meaningful form guide. This year's winner Michael Holt had plenty of previous in that unique format and was consequently flagged up by numerous expert tipsters.
Study the draw in depth and spread bets around different sections
As with other sports involving a pre-determined draw, such as tennis, studying this schedule is a fundamental part of good betting strategy.
I've written a successful column for betting.betfair dating back 13 years, based on a simple plan. Separate the draw into quarters, then make either one or two picks from each section. The theory is to back players who can't block one another's paths early in the competition. In a dream scenario, they would all progress to fill the four semi-finalist slots.
One example that worked out well was the 2019 German Masters, where win only selection Kyren Wilson landed the spoils at odds of 12.5, whilst runner-up Dave Gilbert also earned an each-way payout at 80/1.
How to choose outright bets
When starting my research for a tournament involving 128 players, I separate them into eight groups of sixteen and calculate the combined odds for each section - sixteenth, eighth, quarter. This reveals the strongest and weakest sections by odds. By treating each as effectively a separate race, we can see which players will enjoy an easier early path, and which will face tricky hurdles from the outset.
Here lies an important point about snooker. There are nowhere near 128 players with a realistic chance of winning an event. The true number is probably closer to 40. Yet these potential contenders are never evenly distributed across the draw. To judge a players' pedigree, check out their long-term record. How often they've reached quarter-finals and beyond. Whom they beat in doing so. Over what length of match.
Because tournaments are frequent, we always have a good recent guide to form. I study players' performances using www.cuetracker.net. Here we can find all their results, both recent and long-term, and their scoring trends per frame. We can therefore see which players are in the most fluent form, knocking in frequent high breaks - it is very hard to win a tournament nowadays without winning a large number of frames in one visit.
Identify less competitive sections of the draw
Using this knowledge, we can identify weak sections through which one or two players are confidently expected to advance. Back them early and hope that big names will be eliminated from other, more competitive sections. By the time they reach the latter stages, our selection's chance may have significantly improved without having to play many, or even any, top-class opponents.
Here's another example of where that strategy worked - the 2019 Welsh Open. Pre-tournament, I recommended backing Neil Robertson each-way, arguing that he was playing well - a 'winner-in-waiting' for whom it was 'hard to identify any early obstacles'. Yet because other big names, located in other sections of the draw, were rated superior, the Australian started at odds of 14/1.
Robertson duly went on to win the event without ever playing a superior opponent. He didn't even face another top-16 player until the final and was a clear favourite at that stage, against Stuart Bingham.
Given those inevitable characteristics in any draw, betting each-way or to win a particular quarter can prove highly rewarding. Especially when backing outsiders, who might well be able to avoid big names until the latter stages. That particular event wasn't untypical - there are always upsets from the first round onwards, so always keep a close eye on how the draw is unfolding.
Head-to-head records offer a useful guide
In addition to using short-term form to weigh up matches, it is always worth studying the long-term head-to-head record. Clearly everybody has opponents they prefer to play. Perhaps due to their style of play or a psychological reason.
Consider these examples. In recent seasons, there is little to choose between Stuart Bingham and David Gilbert. When they met in the Masters semi-final in January, Gilbert started favourite having showed better form in earlier rounds. However Bingham had won all previous 11 matches between the pair and dominated again, winning 6-2.
Likewise, Ronnie O'Sullivan has completely bossed certain opponents throughout his long career - notably including others from Essex who he's been playing since childhood. He leads Ali Carter 14-1, Bingham 16-3, Barry Hawkins 12-2. However Mark King - another Essex boy, with an inferior profile to all three - leads the Rocket 5-4.
Persevere with talented youngsters
One strategy that has paid ever since I came of age as a punter has been to identify, frequently back and persevere with brilliant youngsters, expected to reach the top. It can take time but they get there eventually and there will likely be attractive odds available when they break through. If memory serves, it started with Stephen Hendry winning the 1987 Grand Prix at 14/1.
I never caught the Ronnie train (there was never any secret) but did get John Higgins' first few final appearances around the 1994/95 era. Paul Hunter at 150/1 for the 1998 Welsh Open is an unforgettable highlight. Also Ding Junhui's second title at 33/1 in the UK Championship and Judd Trump's first at 66/1 for the 2011 China Open. More recently, Kyren Wilson at 149/1 in the 2015 Shanghai Masters.
Of course, this can involve quite a long wait. Trump's win came after a dozen or so losing bets. I've been following Yan Bingtao for three years now and missed his only win. The each-way returns are just about ensuring an overall profit but its unlikely he'll be available at huge, value odds for a long time.
Nevertheless I would still absolutely recommend persevering with Bingtao and, at much bigger odds, several of his emerging Chinese counterparts. The best prospects for my money are Yuan Sijun, Luo Honghao and Si Jiahui.
Of course by far the most frequent opportunity to bet on snooker lies with the individual matches. During a tournament there are often eight taking place simultaneously - Betfair Live Video always covers the match tables and scoring on outside tables is updated via worldsnooker.com.
Like most sports, the famous maxim to 'back high, lay low' can pay dividends in-running. Simplistically, set out to guarantee an overall trading profit by betting against the favourite in the hope that they will swing in the other direction. Timing is, as ever, critical. I believe the best time to do this is mid-frame and particularly, mid-break.
There tends to be an overestimate, or assumption, built into in-play frame or match betting that the player currently on a break will win the frame at that visit. Although obviously depending on the quality of the player and their form, one visit snooker is relatively rare. You won't go too far wrong backing players to break down, especially if analysing the table and identifying problem balls that will be needed to secure the frame.
An ideal scenario might involve a best of nine frame match, where one player is ahead. Lets say either 2-0 or 2-1. Either 3-0 or 3-1 would be a daunting position to chase from in such a short match, so if the leader is at the table, they are liable to trade at short odds-on. Yet were they to break down and lose that frame, making the scoreline either 2-1 or 2-2, the betting will move sharply against them.
It is quite realistic in such a scenario to double your money with a winning trade against the favourite - for example laying at [1.2], backing to secure profit at [1.5] - within the space of one frame. Plus in this example, the match will be far from over. Worst ways the favourite goes on to win the frame and your trade is still running, merely behind the odds.
Be sure to check out the other volumes in our Betting Masterclass series, listed below:
Volume 1 - Ed Hawkins on Test Match Cricket
Volume 2 - Ed Hawkins on Twenty20 Cricket
Volume 3 - Ed Hawkins on how to bet on ODI Cricket
Volume 4 - Mark O'Haire on the football stats that don't matter
Volume 5 - Mark O'Haire on benefits of data and beating the closing price
Volume 6 - Mark O'Haire's perfect football punt checklist
Volume 7 - Steve Rawlings on how to make golf tournament bets
Volume 8 - Tony Calvin on how he makes racing profitable
Volume 9 - Kevin Blake on the importance of the skill of race reading
Volume 10 - Mike Carlson on how to make your NFL bets count
Volume 11 - Dan Fitch shares his darts betting tips
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty