World Matchplay Darts Competition Preview
As with all sports the World Championship is the plinth on the pantheon of darts but there are ten ‘majors’ in the sport and some have a lot more history and importance than others. One such example is the World Matchplay which takes place in July and is probably the second biggest of all darting competitions.
Staged at the historic Blackpool Winter Gardens, which has stood since 1878, the first edition of the World Matchplay took place in 1994 when it was won by American player, Larry Butler.
Since then no American has made the final and very few players have etched their name on the winner’s trophy. That’s because the legendary Phil Taylor won this competition a remarkable 16 times. Rod Harrington won it twice but he too is now retired.
The World Matchplay, which has a total prize purse of £700,000 (c$915,000) in 2019, is a 32 player tournament featuring 16 seeded players and 16 qualifiers. The first round matches feature one seed and one qualifier.
Those first round matches are ‘best of 19 leg’ games which is a ‘long format’ when it comes to darts. Remarkably the games get even more drawn out with the second round matches being ‘best of 21 legs’, and they continue to increase in their duration right up until the final which will be battled over in a ‘best of 35 leg’ tussle. Such long games only aid the cream in rising to the top and it is noticeable that there has never been an outrageously priced winner of this competition.
Michael van Gerwen has taken the sport of darts to a new level. Not only is he destroying rivals for fun and winning competitions with amazing regularity, his scoring and checkout figures are breath-taking. The reigning world champion, he landed this tournament in 2015 and 2016 but was a shock elimination in the first round in 2018.
However, by process of elimination and despite his mantle of ‘favourite’ he is unopposable as a betting proposition in 2019. Firstly Michael Smith, the man he beat in the most recent World Championship, has seen his form nosedive in 2019.
It is the same case for Peter Wright who was world ranked No. 2 for the past few seasons but is now slipping down the rankings. An additional problem with him is his ability freeze in finals. Despite making nine major tournament deciders – he has won just one.
Unquestionably Michael van Gerwen’s chief rival for the past few years has been Gary Anderson. But the two-time World Champion was ruled out of the 2019 Premier League tournament with a back injury and was dogged by back pain throughout most of 2018. It remains to be seen if he can bounce back.
Of course there are other serious players out there and all have a lot of back-class: James Wade, Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall and Simon Whitlock to name a few. But you sense their time has come and gone and a 90% Michael van Gerwen will account for them in long format games like those played at the World Matchplay.
World Matchplay Darts Betting Opportunities
The highest tournament checkout in 2016 was 160 but for each of the past two years there have been two 170 finishes and with the standard of the game continuing to improve, that should happen again. Odds of 4/6 would make this a value proposition.
You can back players to win their quarter or bracket of the draw. Giving some of the up-and-coming players consideration in these markets would prudent here. They include Mensur Suljovic and Rob Cross, who is hardly up-and-coming having won the 2018 World Championship, but he has not been playing for very long and we may not have seen the best of him.
Where US Betters can/should Bet on Darts and World Matchplay Darts
Draftkings sportsbook is a good place to start, also shop around at off-shore Bovada and BetOnline for World Matchplay outright betting markets. UK sportsbooks that accept US customers, such as William Hill and Bet365, are likely to have their markets up early but they are also likely to be very much in tune with ‘probability’.
Photo by Imke van Loon-Martens