World Snooker Championship Betting Preview: One player to back from each quarter

Four-time world snooker champion Mark Selby
Will Mark Selby be celebrating a fifth world title?

Here's Paul Krishnamurty's preview of the World Championship. Check out his four picks and follow his daily previews throughout the event, for which every shot will be shown live on Betfair TV...

  • O'Sullivan and Selby head the betting

  • Williams under-rated from nice draw

  • Murphy boasts best form going in


The pinnacle of the snooker season, and arguably the entire sporting calendar, is upon us. Ronnie O'Sullivan kicks off proceedings tomorrow morning against Pang Junxu, bidding for a record-breaking eighth title.

Crucible conditions are like no other

At risk of stating the blindingly obvious, this event really is like no other, and not merely in terms of prestige, status or even venue. The conditions - multi-session matches spread over days, in an event lasting 17 days - are nothing like the rest of the snooker calendar.

Of the last 11 renewals, eight were won by two men - O'Sullivan and Mark Selby. That in itself is unimaginable at any other event. Outsider winners have become pretty frequent on the main tour, but not here. We haven't seen a 100/1 winner since Shaun Murphy 18 years ago. More on him later.

The betting projects these two tournament specialists will meet again in the final. One may see their success as an example of the cream rising to the top in the flagship event but note the World Championship only rarely reflects the wider season. As we have seen so many times with Neil Robertson, earlier form doesn't always translate to Crucible form.

Ronnie winless since November

Hence, we shouldn't quibble with O'Sullivan's status as favourite despite his failure to win anything since the Champion of Champions last November. Ronnie is entitled, and liable to only focus on the titles that matter most.

The first quarter pitches O'Sullivan against Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, Luca Brecel and four capable qualifiers. Pang is no mug, and headed for the top, but I won't be backing the upset tomorrow. Hossein Vafaei poses a big threat to Ding. Ricky Walden and Jimmy Robertson are not without chances either.

At odds of 20/1, Williams makes plenty of each-way appeal. The three-time champion was runner-up at the previous major, beating O'Sullivan along the way, and clearly no forlorn hope at the highest level. Last year's magnificent comeback in the semis, from 12-5 down to Judd Trump before losing in a decider, remains fresh in the memory.

Expect another strong bid from Williams

Furthermore, he has totally dominated his likely first two opponents. The head-to-head versus Robertson is 9-0, and 4-0 versus Brecel. Walden is the exception, tied 7-7 with the Welshman.

In contrast, Williams has a poor record against O'Sullivan, especially at the Crucible. However that come-from-behind Masters win shows he can beat him in a major. Obviously Ronnie is expected, but I think he's likelier to encounter trouble prior to their putative quarter-final, and inferior value at the odds.

Back Mark Williams @

20/1

Murphy preferred in tough section

There is always a 'group of death' and the second quarter perfectly fits that tag. Masters champion Trump and man-of-the-moment Murphy are scheduled to meet in the quarters, but the ever-improving Jack Lisowski could throw a spanner in the works.

Two of my favourite qualifiers were drawn here too - Anthony McGill and Noppon Saengkham face Trump and Lisowski respectively. That draw has turned me towards Murphy, whom otherwise I would have been reluctant to take much shorter odds than usual about.

Frankly any one of the other quartet could emerge, but I don't see Murphy failing in his first two matches given his current form. Shaun reckons he's playing the best snooker of his career and that must bode well for a four-time Crucible finalist. If at worst, he plays Trump in the quarters, he won't fear him after winning their match at the same stage here two years ago.

Back Shaun Murphy @

11.0

Robertson's case weaker than usual

The two biggest Crucible underachievers are drawn in quarter three. Neil Robertson's failures here are inexplicable. Perhaps he's been burned out after strong seasons in the past, or perhaps he just doesn't like longer matches. Having backed the Aussie so many times without return here, it will hurt if he finally brings his A-game after a terrible season by his standards. Don't rule it out.

New-look Allen to come good at last

Mark Allen's past failures at the Crucible may be related to his former weight problems. He's been a different player since shedding five stone last summer and we should treat him as one. There is no good reason now why he can't contend and the draw has been kind.

I won't rule out his first round opponent because Fan Zhengyi has already shown he can perform miracles. His victory at the 2022 European Masters involved five straight upsets, including Ronnie in the final. That isn't his general standard, though.

In the second round, Allen will play either Stuart Bingham or David Gilbert. Bingham has been really struggling and comes in under a cloud, but he leads Gilbert 11-0 in the head-to-head.

Back Mark Allen @

18.5

Ali Carter is worth a mention in this quarter, as he has a superior record at the Crucible to either Robertson or Allen. I don't regard him as anywhere near certain to get past Jak Jones first up though - the Welshman is a great match player and just dispatched Barry Hawkins.

Selby a must-bet in favourite conditions

Onto the final section and my idea of the man to beat. It has to be Selby. Nobody is as suited to this format, as his remarkable tournament record demonstrates. Besides the four wins, remember he lost a deciding frame to O'Sullivan in the 2020 semi.

Moreover in the years he failed, there were often legitimate reasons. He wasn't anywhere near his best last season, whereas this time he has won two titles and looks primed for another bold bid. If making the second week, the Jester from Leicester will take the world of beating once mental stamina comes to the fore.

Picking Selby means abandoning another player whom I've backed loyally here over the years. I still regard Kyren Wilson as a future world champion and another who is perfectly suited to this format and venue. Note, however, the head-to-head if they meet in the quarter-final. Selby leads 7-0.

Back Mark Selby @

6.6

I am quite confident that will be one of the quarter-finals. The main threat here is John Higgins, who has looked in decline this year. True, we've said that before and he's come back. Gary Wilson could give Selby a hard match in round two, having previously reached the semis as a qualifier, in which he went close against Trump.

If forced to pick the final, I'll go for a repeat of 2021, when Selby triumphed 18-15 over Murphy.


*Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

Paul's snooker outright profit/loss:

2022/23: +56 units
2021/22: +48 units
2020/21: -22 units
2019/20: +6 units
2018/19: +155 units
2017/18: +106 units

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