Christmas is the season to be jolly. There’s Santa, and reindeer, and turkey lunches, and of course, the World Championship of Darts! Jolly times indeed! For many families, the holiday season has for years been enjoyed by sitting around the silly box and watching the likes of “The Power”, “Barney”, “Snakebite” and “Mighty Mike” go at it hammer and tongs at the oche. And when the 2018-19 PDC World Championship of Darts kicks off this Thursday at the Ally Pally in London, it will feel like Christmas has come early.
So does the mighty one, world number one Michael van Gerwen have a lock on his third World Championship? Well, MVG didn’t win it last year, with Rob Cross coming from obscurity to win his first major title, and it’s arguably an even bigger challenge to win it this year in one of the most even fields of recent years.
MVG did win plenty of PDC titles during the year, 18 of them in fact, including the Premier League, Masters and Grand Prix, but such are the dizzy heights of expectation for MVG, the year was actually considered below-par for him!
The truth is the gap between MVG and the field has closed in 2018 as the tour saw 21 different winners across 57 individual events during the year.
The obvious contenders include two-time World Champ Gary Anderson, number two ranked Peter Wright, a resurgent James Wade, an in-form Daryl Gurney and the unorthodox Mensur Suljovic. All of these players, along with MVG and Cross, could make a case for a run at the championship which will be decided on New Year’s Day. But ultimately, there can only be one winner...
From a betting perspective MVG is tournament favourite, and even though the odds offered of $2.40 at BetEasy look tempting for someone who starts nearly every tournament as an odds-on favourite, it’s too hard to jump into MVG given the closeness of this year’s event. If Gary Anderson can carry his recent form, then he seems just as likely to go all the way and you’re getting a better price of $4.50 at Sportsbet. The only problem is that these two titans are in the same section of the draw with Anderson’s current ranking of four, so that means they are set to collide in the semis.
That is, if MVG can even get there, as his section contains the likes of James Wade, Adrian Lewis, Raymond van Barneveld, Jelle Klaasen and Aussie number one Simon Whitlock. It's a rocky road but one that MVG can certainly get through.
If you're looking for a bigger price then Daryl Gurney looks great value at $34 at BetEasy. “SuperChin” won the most recent major tournament, defeating MVG in the final of the PDC Players Championship. He has scoring power and finishing finesse, the only problem is that he’s in the same section of the draw as Gary Anderson.
The other half of the draw is far more open if you’re looking for some value.
Rob Cross (pictured right) certainly hasn’t had a great year since winning the championship last year, and although he’ll be very keen to go well, he could be a player to take on as indicated by his odds of $21 at BetEasy, despite being the number two seed. Mensur Suljovic ($23 at Unibet) and Michael Smith ($15 at BetEasy) are both in his section of the draw, and both have improved immensely in the last twelve months. They are no longer daunted by the big stage or big name opponents, so I expect one of those two to make a big impression on this tournament. For a real roughy, Dimitri van den Berg ($67 at BetEasy) is also in this same section of the draw and will provide some stiff early opposition for Cross. Van den Bergh won back-to-back Youth World titles, had televised nine-darter at the Grand Slam of Darts and made an impressive run in the World Championship last year.
The most open section of the draw appears to be the fourth quarter which contains Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright, and a bunch of mid-tier pros who look very beatable for these two. Wright looks a great option to win this quarter, but does he have the game to go all the way? You’ll get odds of $11 at BetEasy if you think so. Wright is certainly a major contender but the only title he won for the year was the Melbourne Darts Masters. I’d love to see a bit more killer instinct from Wright and hopefully he rises to the occasion here with a big run.
The other betting market I like the look of is the Total Tournament 170 Checkouts market. I think the line is too low. These matches are usually very long, and there’s great opportunity for guys like MVG, Anderson, Gurney, Whitlock and others who are renowned big finishers to land the “Big Fish”. There were a total of six 170 checkouts thrown last year, so I’m happy to hit the over 4.5 line for the tournament.
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