Paul Krishnamurty previews the final groups of the opening stage, headed by Mark Allen and Ali Carter...
"One plan is to simply lay Allen at odds-on for each of his matches...Broadly I think the strategy makes sense, and feels relatively low risk, in these short matches that can so easily end in a draw."
The final two groups of the first round stage will be settled today, thus completing the last-16 line-up. Both are intriguing and a case could be made for any of the eight players on show.
Carty proves format makes the biggest upsets possible
Indeed that point was reinforced yesterday by the biggest upset of the tournament, as world number 83 Ashley Carty won the group headed by Neil Robertson. While plenty of groups were dominated by favourites, that result really proved anything is possible over such short matches.
Group 6 involves Ali Carter, Matthew Selt, Sam Craigie and Dominic Dale. Even were the format longer, I would be consider that quartet relatively hard to separate and the betting reflects that. The outsider is Dale but only at odds of 4/1.
Craigie a tentative pick in tricky group
I'm trying a small interest on Craigie. This talented underachiever might be one of those types whose natural fluency enables him to settle down quickly. However, to be clear, nothing would really be a surprise in this group.
The Group 11 betting is more one-sided, with Mark Allen 8/13 to win it and odds-on for all of his matches. While he has definitely improved and become more reliable with age, particularly in big events, 'Pistol' has never been the type to appeal at short odds. His B-game is vulnerable.
One plan is to simply lay Allen at odds-on for each of his matches. That strategy completely failed with Ronnie O'Sullivan but he is a special case. Broadly I think the strategy makes sense, and feels relatively low risk, in these short matches that can so easily end in a draw.
Bond capable of upsetting the odds
In the first match, Allen is 1.558/15 to beat Bond. If it gets scrappy, the veteran could be in his element. When they met in the UK Championship quarter-finals, a deciding frame was needed over best of 11.
Depending what happens there, what sort of form Allen demonstrates and how it affects his odds, I may well repeat the strategy in his two later matches against Michael White and Martin O'Donnell.
The latter is one of my original outright picks, at 275/1. The 5.49/2 to win the group is also fair and I also can't resist taking an Oddsboost - 35/1 on MOD winning all three of his matches. Those are big odds about a plausible outcome.
Back Sam Craigie to win Group 6 1u @ 4.77/2
Back Martin O'Donnell to win Group 11 1u @ 5.49/2
Lay Mark Allen to beat Nigel Bond 4u @ 1.558/15
Back Martin O'Donnell to win all three matches 0.25u @ 35/1