Betting Patterns Causing Concern for World Championship Pool

19 04 2010

[Interesting article I found that talks about betting patterns in pool matches.  It seems the gambling influence can impact all sports or at least the suspicion will linger…]

The World Championships start tomorrow in Sheffield after a year in which suspicious betting patterns and allegations of match-fixing have dogged the sport like never before.

Police are still investigating a match between world number two Stephen Maguire and fellow Scot Jamie Burnett at the UK Championships in December 2008.

Maguire won that match 9-3, but beforehand, World Snooker bosses were contacted by bookies reporting suspicious betting patterns and large amounts of money being put on that exact result.

Both players denied any wrongdoing and the probe is still ongoing.

To make matters more interesting still, Maguire’s first round opponent at the Crucible, Stephen Lee, is a man who has been arrested and released following a two-year investigation into match-fixing.

Such is the talk about the whole issue around the snooker circuit, that Maguire himself has asked the bookies to ban people laying money on his matches – fat chance, I’m afraid, Mr Maguire.

But Maguire’s idea does have some merit, even if the loss of earnings to the bookmakers means it will never happen. No bets = no suspicious patterns = no players living under a cloud for the rest of their careers. As Maguire said: “What annoys me is that the bookies will scream and shout about match fixing but still put my name on the market.”

It’s very unlikely anyone would be stupid enough to try and concoct a result at the World Championships, however. Especially with the prestige and glory that comes with lifting the crown at the end of two hard weeks of competition.

The competition this year is as wide open as it has ever been.

Top players such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, Maguire and Shaun Murphy are struggling for form, opening the door for those lesser-known names to come through and claim a victory.

O’Sullivan – as seems to have become his right in the past 10 years – will start as a 4/1 favourite for the title, ahead of defending champion John Higgins, a 9/2 shot and a man who very rarely suffers from blips and is the only one of the ‘big’ names enjoying a modicum of form.

Ding Junhui is a man, not long ago a boy, they have been tipping as a future world champion for years.

An undoubted talent, and the first of the Chinese wave to make a name for himself on the global stage, he can be found at 9/1 and this represents good value after he reached the final of the China Open, the last ranking event and won the UK final in December.

Maturity gained through more time on the circuit have made him a better, less reckless player and this could finally be the year Asia gets its first world champion.

Those three will be the players most talked about, but two-time winner Mark Williams, the man to beat Ding in China, is 12/1 and worth watching, as is former runner-up Ali Carter, who is out at 33/1.

My man, though, is Australian Neil Robertson. I’ve backed him before and I’ll back him again because one day he will let his talent get the better of his slightly flaky temperament.

He’s another man at 12/1 and always a crowd favourite and if he can get past gritty Irishman Fergal O’Brien in the first round his game can only benefit and he can go a long way.

One long shot to watch out for might be the second Chinese player in the draw, Liang Wenbo.

Renowned for his superb long potting, Liang has it tough in the first round against O’Sullivan, but as I’ve said, Ronnie isn’t in the best of form and is as beatable as he ever will be.

Liang, beaten by O’Sullivan on his Crucible debut two years ago in the quarter-finals, can be had at 66/1 for the tournament and he’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Six-times winner Steve Davis, at 400/1, on the other hand, is.

First published at 13:13, Friday, 16 April 2010
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