UK Snooker Championship Tips: Vafaei good value to march on

Snooker player Barry Hawkins
The draw is opening up nicely for 'nearly man' Barry Hawkins

With shocks galore at this championship, lower-ranked players sense a rare opportunity. Paul Krishnamurty runs the rule over six such players left in the draw in today's preview...

"I don't regard this match as one-sided as the odds suggest, and can envisage it getting very nervy with a very winnable quarter-final spot at stake."

Back Over 9.5 Frames in Brecel v Hamilton 3u @ 2.255/4

Thursday sees the second batch of last-16 opponents and what must surely be the least likely eight participants we've ever seen at this stage of a snooker major. Combined, they have just six ranking titles to their name and zero majors. The highest ranking among them is a mere 14th in the world. A rare opportunity, therefore, to land a career-defining win.

Daily Treble (Pays £8.55 for a £1 stake)

Barry Hawkins to win the -1.5 Frame Handicap (v Selt) @ 8/11
Hossein Vafaei to beat Jack Lisowski @ 6/5
Over 9.5 Frames in Brecel v Hamilton @ 5/4

First up in today's one unit treble is the top-ranked player and one of the game's ultimate nearly men. Barry Hawkins has lost World Championship and Masters final, and lost in the world semis on four occasions. His record in this major is very disappointing but he'll never get a better chance, drawn in the opposite half to Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Head-to-head points firmly to Hawkins

Hawkins takes on Judd Trump's conqueror Matt Selt, whom he's beaten on seven of their previous ten meetings, including the last two. That includes a 10-3 thrashing at the Crucible earlier this year. Whilst Selt did play really well to beat Trump, he enjoyed plenty of chances.

I like the fact Hawkins thrashed a very dangerous opponent in the last round, Cao Yupeng, and expect him to win with something to spare again. Try 8/11 to win the -1.5 Frame Handicap for the first leg of our daily treble.

My best bet of the day, also recommended as a single at slightly higher odds on the exchange, is Hossein Vafaei at 2.26/5 to beat Jack Lisowski. Having thrashed Mark Selby already, I'm sweet on the Iranian's chances of really breaking into the bigtime this week. It has been long overdue, as he is a special talent and afraid of nobody.

Lisowski's downbeat comments are a negative

Granted, there is a significant negative in terms of their previous head-to-head record - a guide I generally take very seriously. Jack leads 4-1, by a substantial 20-11 frame margin.

However whilst Lisowski is capable of anything and must also have high hopes of an overdue breakthrough, his downbeat comments after beating Graeme Dott are a cause for concern. He said a persistent cold had curtailed practice and that he was missing plenty of balls by a long way. Not what one wants to hear before backing a favourite.

Don't underestimate Hamilton

Head-to-heads read terribly for Luca Brecel -a 1.454/9 favourite to beat veteran Anthony Hamilton, whom he trails 4-1. Granted, those results are at least three years old and he is much younger. Their careers are on different trajectories. The Belgian has started the season well and it is legitimate to speculate whether this massive natural talent is ready to come age.

Beware overstating Brecel's whitewashing of Stephen Maguire in the last round, though. The Scot was both abysmal and luckless. On another day, most frames could have gone the other way. Hamilton's late night triumph over Ricky Walden wasn't pretty either. Quite the reverse. To a large extent, he was handed it.

I don't regard this match as one-sided as the odds suggest, and can envisage it getting very nervy with a very winnable quarter-final spot at stake. Try Over 9.5 Frames at 6/5.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

UK Championship Profit/Loss after R3:

+40.7 units

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