Everyone has their own idea of when the festive period truly gets underway, whether it’s the Christmas lights switch on in your local town or the other big switch on of the out of office email.
However, for fans of the darts it really does start feeling like the holidays when the PDC World Championship gets underway at the Alexandra Palace and that day is here at last. The competition gets underway on Thursday, December 15 and the first night of matches will be headlined by defending champion Peter Wright who takes on the winner of the opening tie between Mickey Mansell and Ben Robb.
Wright, always a crowd favourite at the Ally Pally, is looking to join an exclusive club of players to have won a world title three times but this year it very much looks like a two horse race for the Sid Waddell trophy. Here is our preview ahead of the 2023 tournament and the players we’re not only backing to have a serious shot at victory but the ones where we think could be good value for the punters:
Michael van Gerwen - Tournament odds = 5/2 (Fav)
Mighty Michael has returned to his very best form over the past 18 months or so and looks every bit the favourite to go on and claim his fourth World Championship title. In 2022 the Dutchman won the Players Championship finals, Premier League, World Matchplay and World Grand Prix titles bringing his total number of PDC major trophies to an incredible 45.
The Green Machine is near unstoppable when playing at the very pinnacle of his game but it’s always worth taking a look at the potential route to the final and van Gerwen is going to have to overcome some very tough challenges just to win his quarter of the draw and reach the semi-finals. He finds himself in the same section of the draw as former world champions Gary Anderson and Rob Cross as well as countryman Dirk van Dujivenbode among others.
The fact of the matter is that if MVG does play his very best game throughout the tournament then he will almost certainly go all the way. However, the format of the tournament particularly in the early stages, lends itself to upsets and there will be one man waiting to capitalise if the favourite does drop out...
Michael Smith - Tournament odds = 6/1 (Joint 2nd Fav)
Sporting cliches exist for a reason and the expression ‘getting a monkey off their back’ was never more apt than to describe Michael Smith in televised PDC majors. Bully Boy was a perennial runner-up and, despite his obvious ability, always seemed to fall short at the final hurdle including the 2019 and 2022 World Championships.
However, he finally overcame that stigma last month when he beat Nathan Aspinall in the final of the Grand Slam to pick up his first major title with the PDC. Smith was the star of the 2022 World Championships and had an incredible tournament so if he can replicate that form on the stage once again he will be expected to make it to the final for the second year running.
Crucially for Smith and van Gerwen, the draw has seen them kept in separate halves meaning they will not meet until the final but Smith will have one huge obstacle to overcome if he is to reach the showpiece event. That man is the current world number one ranked player and 2021 world champion Gerwyn Price.
The Iceman also starts the tournament at the same odds of 6/1, making them joint second favourites, and to discount him completely would be foolish. Price at his very best is one of the few who can go toe-to-toe with van Gerwen and it’s not as if his form has dropped significantly, although he has been slightly below par when it comes to his own impressive standards this year.
Where is the value? E/W bets on outsiders is our tip
The odds for Smith and Price are tempting while MVG’s is probably slightly below what you might like for a field of 96 competitors. Punters looking for a big bet on the favourites should stick to the top three and Smith at 6/1 is the bet we see as the best price considering his form and ability.
However, there is some really good value in the five competitors priced just below the top three in the market. They start with defending champions Peter Wright at 9/1 and are followed by Luke Humphries (14/1), Josh Rock (14/1), Jonny Clayton (16/1) and Dimitri van den Bergh (25/1).
Wright was slightly more fancied last year but was still priced below the likes of van Gerwen and Price so it’s never worth counting him out. As for Humphries and Rock, they make up the usual contingent of up and coming youngsters whose form going into the event sees them fancied by many.
To be honest, the prices for Humphries and Rock probably reflect the money going on them from those ‘in the know’ and the former is a three time quarter-finalist at the Ally Pally, so those sort of odds really could be worth an each way punt. As for Rock, there’s no denying he has the potential to be the next big thing and a future world champion but this is the 21-year old’s first appearance on this stage so it would be something really special to see him make a run to the final.
The real value is in Clayton and van den Bergh, two top quality players who have won major titles and have performed brilliantly at this event before. In particular, the Welshman looks like an excellent each way bet at 16/1 as he will be the favourite for his first three matches before a potential quarter-final tie against van den Bergh or Peter Wright.
Of course, the winner of that quarter will come up against the winner of van Gerwen’s quarter in the semi-finals, so that might be as far as their tournament goes but either is capable of beating the Dutchman on their day - definitely consider it. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be another incredible year at the Ally Pally.