Christmas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people but for darts’ fans it means only one thing: three weeks of dedicated darts to dig into. Shut the winter weather firmly outside, grab the remote and some cold beers and settle down for one of the greatest tournaments in world sport.
That’s right, the biggest ever PDC World Darts Championship gets underway at the Alexandra Palace on December 13 with 96 players battling it out for the Sid Waddell Trophy this year and it’s very much game on for bettors. Let’s have a quick look at the chuckers that could throw you, and them, a fortune this new year. All prices courtesy of the online bookmakers Betway.
Michael van Gerwen (11/8)
Michael Van Gerwen and Gary Anderson are the best two players in world darts right now, but there will be no all-star final between the two this year as they will meet in the semi-finals should they win up to that point, which is expected. Even Mighty Mike believes only Anderson can stop him winning a third world title if he finds his best form. The world number one is unsurprisingly the top seed at the Ally Pally for the fifth consecutive year, although he isn’t odds-on this year, but rather the biggest price on offer in years at 11/8. On route to the final, he should be meet either Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis — who has won this event twice before — or fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld, who was crowned PDC world champion in 2007.
Van Gerwen regained his World Grand Prix crown in October, and despite enjoying a trophy-laden 2018, has seen his dominance in major events put to the test this year. In fact, this year’s tally of three TV titles is his lowest since 2014. MVG remains the favourite to win a third World Championship crown, but after a difficult few months where he has dropped below his usually impeccable standards, he knows he must improve his game by an extra few percentage points if he is to claim number three. We’ve seen some uncharacteristic performances from the Dutchman recently, missing doubles in bundles, which will need correcting. That said, for any other player, 18 individual titles in a single season would be a great achievement. Van Gerwen will very much still be the man to beat.
Gary Anderson (10/3)
Gary Anderson is ranked as the fourth seed but is the second favourite in the betting. Anderson is another who has enjoyed a good year, harvesting three televised titles for the first time in his career. With a kind draw, Anderson is scheduled to take on the returning Paul Nicholson if ‘The Asset’ follows through on an expected victory against Kevin Burness in round one on his return to the PDC World Championship after a three-year absence. Anderson should cruise through to the quarter-finals where he could potentially meet 33/1 shot Daryl Gurney before a possible heavyweight battle with MVG in the last four. Many would fancy him in a one-off match right now as Anderson has won three of the last four meetings between the pair.
The Flying Scotsman is gambling on a relaxed build-up to the Championship being the catalyst for a successful attempt to win the trophy for the third time and become only the second player after the legendary Phil Taylor to capture more than two world titles. His last win at the Alexandra Palace was back in 2016, while last year he suffered a quarter-final exit to Phil Taylor. Since 2012, he’s always reached the last 16 and has also reached three out of the last four finals.
The only reason he isn’t going into the championships as the Grand Slam champion right now is because he let Gerwyn Price get into his head in the final. Lesson learned for Anderson and this should not be a factor going forward. The Scot opted out of the European tour events this year and has spent a relaxing week back home in Scotland, efforts all made with the intention of making a dedicated run at this title and few would back against him.
Peter Wright (11/1)
Snakebite has suffered a rather rubbish 2018 but has somehow managed to maintain his place in the world’s top three. Few players make the crowd as happy as Peter Wright, who always brings energy to the oche and he would no doubt be a popular winner, although one with few backers right now. One year ago, he went out at the second round to eventual semi-finalist Jamie Lewis and has not looked himself since, taking only the odd Players Championship event earlier this year, which came before he famously switched his darts.
In the draw, Wright couldn’t have asked for a better pathway, one that he should sail through, although with Snakebite there is no such thing as a sure thing. In his quarter of the draw, Ian White, Joe Cullen, Kyle Anderson and Gerwyn Price all await, and Pince aside, there isn’t anyone there who should trouble the world number three too much. If he can get himself on a roll, then he could knock down a few names along the way. However, there is a mental fragility to his game that can leave his unquestionable talent unfulfilled, hence the long price.
Michael Smith (14/1)
Smith is a genuine contender at the Ally Pally this year and will rightly fancy his chances of making it past the quarter-final stage for the first time ever. One year ago, Bully Boy made it to the second round in London, where he lost out to Rob Cross in a thriller. This year, he has seemingly passed Cross in ability as his second place finish in the Darts Premier League will testify. Smith is on a collision course to meet Mensur Suljovic in the last 16, with the winner due to face Cross in the quarter-finals, which shouldn’t be of concern to Smith. He has pulled up his doubles average and looks increasingly at home among the bigger names — where he belongs. With a kind draw, 14s is a good each-way bet, especially given that only one from MVG and Anderson can make the final.
Rob Cross (20/1)
Voltage is aiming to defend his title in darts’ biggest event, something only eight others have ever achieved since the championship’s inception in 1994. 12 months ago, the former electrician went from winning £7 in pubs to winning the world championship inside of 18 months but admits that such a meteoric rise left him drained. Back then, the largely unknown outsider beat Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals before ruining Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor’s send off in the final where he clinched the title on his debut. His record here means he goes into this event as the second seed despite suffering a poor year on the circuit. He is, after all, the only player with an unbeaten record at the World Championships.
The 28-year-old’s form going into the tournament has not been good enough, looking like a player waiting to be beaten all season. The player has since revealed that an internet troll, displeased at his instant success, had threatened his family, which resulted in Voltage tacking on an extra five stone in weight. He also took the unwise decision to switch darts earlier in the calendar but has since returned to the brand that bought him his success. Cross now claims he is practising like a dream while the weight is largely shed, which will please his backers. Could we see the player from last year? Possibly, but with this being the World Championship, the path to success is filled with potential potholes, even for the second seed.
Mensur Suljovic (22/1)
The Gentle has enjoyed a decent 2018 and always remains a good shout as an outsider. This year, Mensur has registered semi-final appearances at the Champions League, World Grand Prix and Grand Slam. The highlight of the Austrian’s year was making the final of the World Matchplay, where he lost a close one to Gary Anderson in a 19-21 defeat. Here at the Ally Pally, however, he has never reached the quarter-finals. Should he do so this year, Michael ‘Bully Boy’ Smith should be lying in wait.
Mensur has shown a huge improvement in recent years and most of the year has been in sensational form, looking at home with the top players. Unfortunately, in a demonstration of bad timing, his form of late has dipped. On the plus side, Suljovic received a kind draw, with the bottom half looking wide open, save for the unpredictable Peter Wright. Notoriously hard to play against, Suljovic and his awkward throwing style can easily see off Snakebite on his day, giving The Gentle a fighting chance of reaching the final for the first time ever, making him another great each-way shout. You can pick up 9/1 on The Gentle posting a runner-up finish too.
The rest of the field
While the favourites enjoy most of the attention, special mention must be made of the retiring Raymond van Barneveld. Barney recently announced that this year’s event would be his last and, as one of the most popular players on the circuit, many would love to see the former world champ collect one last major before making his exit. Like Rob Cross, van Barneveld won the title on his first attempt in 2007. So what’s the price on winning his last? 66/1 with Betway since you ask. Be warned though: while Barney’s still a dangerous opponent, a fairytale finish is, sadly, unlikely.
Daryl Gurney says he has addressed his double troubles and is hitting form at the right time ahead of the World Championship. Superchin could meet Gary Anderson in the quarter-finals, in a repeat of this year’s World Grand Prix quarter-final, which Gurney won 3-0. The Northern Irishman has last month scooped his second PDC major when he triumphed at the Players Championship Finals and now believes anything is possible in the wake of his 11-9 victory over Michael van Gerwen. That win over the world’s top player in a major final is an indication that Gurney is primed to take the next step in his career. History dictates that the winner of that event has gone on to win the World Championship in four of the last six years, and Superchin has duly been priced at 33/1 with Betway.
Elsewhere, James Wade returned to winning ways last month after a barren four years where he collected consecutive titles at the European Championship and World Series of Darts Finals. This late-season form has landed him a best price of 40/1. Gerwyn ‘Iceman’ Price won his first ever major last month when he beat Gary Anderson in a controversial Grand Slam final and is ranked as 33/1 to continue his success in North London this New Year’s Day.