Last week, we looked at the men positioned just behind Michael van Gerwen in the race to win this year’s PDC World Championship (although, truth be told, it’s really next year’s World Championship, given that it takes place on the first day of 2020). The received wisdom is that if you’re looking for a “stop MvG” candidate, you should look at one of those three men: Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright or Rob Cross. This very week, former World Champ Phil Taylor stated his opinion that the final would be between van Gerwen and Price, and the bookmakers tend to agree with “the Power”. But could there be other contenders we’re all missing?
This week’s Darts Round Up – the last before the weekend, when the darts start to be thrown – takes a look at the dark horses in the field, the names that none of us have really looked at to become champion at the end of these few weeks. Some of these horses are very dark – so much so that they are outside the 50/1 marker – while others are closer to the business end of the odds but still sitting well behind Wright and Cross’s positions in the 14/1 region. It’s fair to say that a bet on anyone outside the top four stands a markedly smaller chance of winning than one on van Gerwen himself – but there are always cashout options and each-way bets to be made.
The remaining pack
At Betway, you can get a price of 20/1 on Michael Smith – which, given the year he has just had, might seem short. Then you realise that Smith was last year’s beaten finalist; he can clearly keep up a solid level of darts across three weeks and cannot be discounted here. That said, if you’re going to back someone in the 20-30 region, perhaps the smarter money at the same bookmaker should be on Dave Chisnall. The 39-year-old has been in six major finals over his career, and lost in each of them. But at the most recent of those, at the World Grand Prix, he took a couple of sets off the champ, MvG – who he wouldn’t be due to face until the final here.
Further out, at 40/1, lie two players who have gone through highs and lows throughout 2019 – Nathan Aspinall and Daryl Gurney. Aspinall won the UK Open this year, and beat Rob Cross (a former World Champ) to secure the title – hitting a 170 checkout to secure the win. If Aspinall can get his form on track, and make it through a third round where he would likely face Gary Anderson, he could be in the mix – but he’s in the same half of the draw as MvG. Gurney, for his part, has been there and thereabouts at major tournaments, seeing semi-final action in the Premier League – but he’s ended the year slowly. He may be worth backing at a low stake and cashing out on if he makes the business end.
The real outsiders
If you look past the 50/1 mark, then you can find a few “name” players who have within recent memory been in and among the top echelons of the darts world, and who could without causing any major shock find themselves in the later rounds of this competition. There are a couple among them who are worth getting on now, before they do make their way to that stage and their odds come plummeting down.
The first of these is Austria’s Mensur Suljovic, priced at 66/1 by Dafabet. He’s had a shaky experience of this competition over the years, but has the smarts to make his way past likely early opponents Chris Dobey and Gurney. In the quarter final, he’d be set to meet Price, barring an early exit for the Welshman. If he can beat him, who knows? Another option, priced longer at 80/1, is Krzysztof Ratajski. A former World Masters winner, he’ll be dreaming of emulating Michael van Gerwen, an ex-master himself, by lifting the big trophy here.
The sentimental flutters
It’s arguable that if you’re backing a player who’s priced beyond 100/1, you’d do better to just send them the money. The chances of anyone that far outside the running actually winning, well…
But then, by virtue of the Leicester City factor, we must consider the possibility of outsiders. This is, after all, the same year that saw Ireland make the World Cup final, knocking England out on the way, so it’s not like darts has been free of shocks. In that light, it’s permissible to have a small punt on Raymond van Barneveld, who will play his final game of professional darts here come what may. It’d be nice to see him walk off with the title – but at 100/1, it would also be a major shock.
You can also find 300/1 at Grosvenor Sports on Luke Humphries, or 500/1 on Damon Heta. Humphries, a World Youth champion, has the game to trouble anyone, but is at long odds because he’s still to show it over the duration of a tournament such as this. Heta, for his part, beat James Wade, Gary Anderson and Rob Cross to deliver a sensational win at the Brisbane Masters, before defeating Wade again in Melbourne. Heta is an underdog to even beat his first-round opponent Jose de Sousa – but if he did, it would be intriguing to see him once again try his luck against the world’s best.