Sunday 12th January, 13:00

Ding Junhui v Joe Perry

Betting Odds: Junhui 1.45, Perry 3.10

Head to Head: 16-6

This year’s tournament leads off on the afternoon of Sunday the 12th January with 2011 champion Ding Junhui playing Joe Perry.

Ding Junhui won his third UK Championship in December and re-established his credentials at the top of the sport.  He had been in a slump for over two seasons since losing to Mark Selby in the 2017 World Snooker Championship semi-final.  In 2016 he also suffered a close loss in the 2016 World Snooker Championship final to the same player and possibly fell out of love with the game.  Having followed his UK Championship win with many impressive wins at the Scottish Open and overseas qualifying he arrives at Alexandra Palace with a new impetus in his career and is amongst the leading contenders for the title.

Gentleman Joe Perry will be no easy match for the Chinese superstar after his last Masters appearance in 2017 resulted him losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.  Perry is one of the most performers on the circuit and regularly proves his ability to mix it with the very best.  To illustrate that he has beat reigning world champion and world number one twice in just over a year while also making the final at last season’s European Masters.

Like always at the Masters there are no easy matches with only the world’s top 16 invited.  This has potential to be a high-quality opening for the event and these two players have an interesting history at the event.  Ding Junhui won their first encounter at this great championship but surprisingly to many Perry has won their two most recent matches here.  At first glance of their head to head it would be understandable to think to expect Ding to justify favouritism but at Alexandra Palace, Perry raises his game.

In that knowledge we will concentrate on the break markets and despite the opening frames on a new cloth being awkward with the cushions sliding it does however, make the pockets play slightly easier the longer the match progresses.

If Bet365 put up no centuries in frame 1-4 close to the start it is worth a small bet at 1.80+.  Long term members will know it is a market we target here and the World Championship winning on the last six occasions.

Sunday 12th January

Mark Selby v Ali Carter

Betting Odds: Mark Selby 1.44, Ali Carter 3.30

Head to Head: 19-12

Mark Selby has a superb record at the Masters winning on three occasions, on debut in 2007, then 2009 and 2012.  It is a while since he featured prominently in the tournament and maybe this is the year, he wins a fourth title having rediscovered his best form in recent months winning the English and Scottish Open’s.

The Captain, Ali Carter was the grateful and unlikely recipient from the withdrawal of his arch adversary Ronnie O’Sullivan.  Always one of the toughest match-players on the snooker circuit Carter has been grinding wins all season without reaching the later stages of tournaments.  His last final was at the start of 2019 at the Coral Grand Prix.

There is a match to like in this match and that is to exploit Ali Carter who in recent months has been starting matches slowly only winning frame 1 on one occasion in his last seven matches.  Paddy Power have Mark Selby to win frame 1 and the match at 2.00 which looks a solid bet for those who can otherwise concentrate on Selby to win frame 1 at 1.60+.

Recommended Snooker Bets

Mark Selby – to win frame 1 and the match @ 2.00 (1/1) Paddy Power

Monday 13th January

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire

Betting Odds: Neil Robertson 1.33, Stephen Maguire 3.60

Head to Head: 10-16

Australian, Neil Robertson attempts to win his second Masters title this year having won the first one ever at Alexandra Palace in 2012.  He has managed two runner-up finishes since and last year lost in the semi-final to eventual champion, Judd Trump.  After a superb 2018-2019 season that saw Robertson rise back to sport’s highest echelons the current season in ranking tournaments has been a disaster.  Missing his flight to the season opening Riga Masters when he was defending champion seems to have set the precedent for what was to come.  In the Champion of Champions however he did find the previous season’s form beating Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump in scintillating fashion a couple of months ago to remind us his best is not far away.

Four times Stephen Maguire has made the semi-final at the Masters, the last of which was in 2014.  This season has been a significant improvement for the Scot having taken ownership of a shared practice facility with friends John Higgins and Anthony McGill.  He won the World Cup with Higgins then won the Six Reds World Championship followed by reaching the final of the UK Championship, amassing over £300,000 in the process.

An interesting matchup when you consider Maguire holds a surprising head to head advantage, primarily accumulated in their early careers’ when Maguire won their opening six encounters.  For those reasons we can expect a good showing from Maguire guaranteeing a high-quality match with plenty of breaks.