Celebrating its 45th year, the Masters are back once again to brighten our January up a bit. The finest snooker players in the world converge to fight it out on the baize and determine the best of the best. To many snooker aficionados, the Masters is the number one event in the sport’s calendar, trumping even the World Championships.
It’s the perfect way to kick off the sporting year too. A week of nothing but the ultimate in potting action. Sure, there’s plenty of cash to be won for those taking part, but it’s about more than that. It’s about the prestige. This is an invitational event, only the top players are asked to take part, so from the very first break, it’s nothing but top drawer quality all the way.
Here’s our preview of the tournament. We’ll discuss the details, how it goes down and who we think might stroll off home with the trophy…
Where’s it happening?
As is tradition now, the Dafabet Masters will take place in North London’s Alexandra Palace. The hilltop N22 venue is a pain to walk to but a lovely place once you’re there. It will be the eighth year that Ally Pally has hosted the event and it’s perfectly equipped to do so. Tickets per session range from £25 to £50 and can be found here.
When’s it on?
Snooker’s premium players get down to business from Sunday 13th January. The tournament lasts a week, so the final will be wrapped up and we’ll have a winner by the evening of Sunday 20th.
Is it on TV?
You know it. As per usual, the BBC will be showing pretty comprehensive coverage of the Masters. You can catch the action – both live and highlights – on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TV, online and via the BBC Sport app. Expect the usual consummate professionalism from main anchor Hazel Irvine, as well as pleasingly relaxed VTs and ‘how to’ guides from the likes of Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and John Parrott.
Eurosport will also be showing the action on Eurosport 2 and online on Eurosport Player.
For full details of both The Beeb and Eurosport’s coverage, click here.
What’s the format?
The event only sees 16 players take part. So it’s nice and simple, this. We go straight into a ‘Last 16’ situation. The draw’s been made, so win a game and a player’s in the quarter final. Win that and it’s semi final time, then final. Easy. Well, easy to plot out. Not so easy to actually win. Each round is the ‘Best of 11 Frames’, until the final where it’s 19 (or race to 10). There’s no hanging about, it’s perfectly paced, another reason why it’s our favorite tournament in the snooker diary.
The top 16 players in the world are involved. There are (in no particular order): Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams, Jack Lisowski, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Barry Hawkins, Stuart Bingham, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump, Ryan Day, Luca Brecel, Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby.
Here’s how the draw went for the first round:
Mark Allen v Luca Brecel
Ding Junhui v Jack Lisowski
John Higgins v Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham
Mark Selby v Stephen Maguire
Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson
Barry Hawkins v Shaun Murphy
Mark Williams v Neil Robertson
Alright, so who’s the reigning champ?
The current holder is Mark Allen. The outspoken Northern Irishman beat Kyren Wilson 10-7 in the 2018 Masters final. He’s an 11/1 fifth favourite to retain the prize.
What’s the prize fund on offer?
The prize pot isn’t to be sneered at by any stretch, but it’s not the biggest earner of the year for these players. It really is more about the kudos and the honour. That said, there’s still a fair few quid in the 2019 Masters…
Last 16: £12,500
Highest break: £10,000
Unsurprisingly, Ronnie leads the betting at a best-priced 9/4 to win. Mark Selby is second favourite at 8/1, with Judd Trump similarly priced. Current world champion Mark Williams and reigning Masters holder Allen can be found at 11s.
Outside of the favourites, You can get… John Higgins, Wilson and Ding at 14/1, Aussie Neil Robertson at 16s, Hawkins at 20/1, Murphy at 25/1, debutante Lisowski and Stuart Bingham at 33s, Day at 40/1, Maguire at 66/1 and Luca Brecel at a cool 100/1.
As ever, it’s hard to look past Ronnie O’Sullivan to win at 9/4. The Rocket has won seven Masters titles before, picking up two of the last three. He’s won three of the five events he’s entered this season (losing in the semis of the other two) and won a sensational 26 out of the last 28 matches. He is, as ever, on red hot form. Who’s going to win? Chances are, it’ll be Ronnie. But at barely 2/1, there’s little value there unless you happen to be a Middle Eastern Sheikh or Russian oligarch. So we must look to the rest of the pack for each-way pickings…
To the rest of the field, then. Weirdly, quite a few of the players at this year’s Masters are in fairly shoddy form since their place here was assured. Luca Brecel, Stephen Maguire, Ryan Day, Stuart Bingham, Barry Hawkins, Mark Williams, Ding Junhui and John Higgins have all been pretty poor of late.
Two players in decent form ahead of January 13th are Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy. The pair met in the Scottish Open final recently (Allen won). With the reigning champ on Ronnie’s side of the draw, we’d have to swerve him for a tip and opt for the in-form Murphy. The 2005 world champ can’t meet Ronnie until the final. So an each-way bet on Shaun Murphy at 25/1 pays out nearly 13/1 if he reaches and loses the final (and obviously pays out the full 25s if he wins).
Alternatively, you can get 25/1 on a Murphy/O’Sullivan final, where it doesn’t matter who win for the bet to pay out.
It all looks set to be a cracking tournament, we’re sure you’ll agree. When you’ve seen the pros knocking in the balls with ease, you may well find the urge to see how big a break you’re capable of. If that’s the case, then you need to get yourself down to your nearest Rileys.
Hey, you never know – you might be the next Jimmy White!