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Darts Masters: Preview and Best Bets

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Big time darts is back. On the wake of what was a memorable World Championship at Alexandra Palace, the next big tournament is the Masters which takes place from Friday to Sunday in Milton Keynes this weekend.

The sport of darts transcended to another level earlier this month with Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen producing the best leg of arrows ever seen. With the Masters being televised by ITV, it’s another opportunity for the casual fan to sit down and watch the world’s best players go at it.

When I say darts transcended to another level, there’s zero exaggeration. Unlikely sporting worlds collided as world champion Michael Smith was invited onto several podcasts. He appeared on MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani and he was interviewed by World Cup and 5x Champions League winner Toni Kroos.

Since that dramatic concluding night on the Ally Pally stage, there’s been two events on the pro tour. There was the Bahrain Darts Masters which was won by Michael Smith, and more recently, the Nordic Darts Masters took place in Denmark and was won by Peter Wright. Unfortunately for Welshman Gerwyn Price, he was the runner up in both finals.

The Masters sees the best of the PDC return to England, the top 24 players in the rankings will take part in fact. The top 8 qualify for the second round automatically, worth keeping that in mind when placing your bets. Joe Cullen is the defending champion and Danny Noppert, Damon Heta, Ross Smith and Callan Rydz are all making their debuts in this event.

I’ll go through my favourite picks for this weekend’s tournament, beginning with a best bet, and finishing up with a long shot that may be worth some loose change.

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Michael Smith – 4/1

Michael Smith is flying at the minute, and the world is at his feet having been released from his ‘nearly man’ shackles. In November last year, Smith won the Grand Slam of Darts which was his first ever TV title and paved the way for him going on to win the World Championship whilst also becoming the number 1 darts player in the world.

Before this success, Michael Smith was incredibly frustrating. He had all the talent you could wish for as well as one of the best natural throws in the game. Despite that, he’d lose final after final and became known as the Tottenham Hotspur of darts.

It was harsh to label him a bottlejob and some comments could be described as bullying. Whenever he’d lose in one of those finals, it was because his opponent played out of their skin, not because he wasn’t up to it. Suggestions that he’d never win a major event were ridiculous quite frankly.

Smith has gone from the nearly man to the player that nobody wants to face. With the TV title monkey off his back and the ability to play with freedom, he has a great chance of winning each event that he plays in this year.

Jonny Clayton – 12/1

12/1 for a player as talented as Jonny Clayton is attractive to me. He won the tournament as recently as 2021 with a 11-8 victory over Mervyn King, so he’s been here and done it all before.

Clayton is ranked 7th in the world within the PDC’s official Order of Merit, so he’ll be in the second round automatically and will face the winner of James Wade versus Callan Rydz. He has a good record against both, winning 11 of his last 16 against Wade, and 3 of his 4 meetings with Rydz.

If Clayton makes his way into the quarter-finals, he’s likely to face Peter Wright unless the winner of Ryan Searle/Dave Chisnall can cause a surprise. The Ferret has won 4 of his last 6 against Snakebite and certainly has the capability to beat him.

Stephen Bunting – 100/1 (EW)

Last but not least, one of the most likeable men in darts, Stephen Bunting. He just about qualifies for this tournament as the player ranked 24th in the world currently.

The man from St Helens is priced at 100/1 for a reason, but I’d say he’s worth a quid or two, likely as an each way bet. He kicks off the event with a tough match against Nathan Aspinall, and then a winnable second round tie against Danny Noppert lays in wait.

Bunting shouldn’t have anything to fear after an impressive effort at the World Championship. He won three of his four matches at the Alexandra Palace despite being the favourite in just one of them. Most notably, he beat 180 machine Dave Chisnall and then Luke Humphries who’s ranked 5th in the world and was well-fancied. He was beaten by the eventual winner Michael Smith in the quarters, but outperformed him in several metrics. He threw more 180’s and 140’s, hit the highest checkout, and had a superior average.

For Bunting to have any chance in a tournament, he needs to play at his absolute best throughout. It’s a longshot for sure, but he’s a player who’s more than capable.

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