The clock is ticking in the snooker world this week as 128 players head to the Morningside Arena in Leicester for the Snooker Shootout, the event which brings snooker at you in a fast and furious way with four entertaining days of action.
Hossein Vafaei certainly enjoyed himself at this tournament a year ago when he ran off and won his first, and to date only, career ranking event title. He is back to attempt to be the first man to win this event twice let alone defend the crown.
2022 – Hossein Vafaei
2021 – Ryan Day
2020 – Michael Holt
2019 – Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
2018 – Michael Georgiou
2017 – Anthony McGill
2016 – Robin Hull
2015 – Michael White
2014 – Dominic Dale
2013 – Martin Gould
It is snooker but not quite as we know it this week. Each match is 10 minutes long with the first five minutes having a 15 second shot close which reduces to 10 seconds for the final five minutes. With every shot a ball must be potted or hit a cushion or else a foul will be called. All fouls in this tournament result in the other player having cue ball in hand. Players lag to see who breaks and whoever is ahead after the 10 minutes wins the match. If the scores are tied after 10 minutes a blue ball shootout decides the winner. There is a random draw for each round.
The one thing which is pretty easy to follow and assess this week is the format. Every match is one frame, or 10 minutes, whichever ends first. The 128 players in the field have been drawn out already with the winner taking £500 to their ranking. Each match a player wins their prize money doubles until the final where the champion will land £50,000 on Sunday evening. That is £50k for no more than 70 minutes work!
There are a number of different profiles who have won this tournament. You have the slower, under the radar players like Nigel Bond to the man who is the quickest player on the tour in Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. It is important to understand that the timings got quicker in 2016 so that probably takes out the men who don’t see the shot immediately, or puts them at a significant disadvantage at the very least.
Ultimately, however you approach betting on the outright market in this tournament you need a lot of luck. Luck with the draw and luck in each frame however there are a few factors I like to use to whittle down the first. I like players who cue smoothly and swiftly. This isn’t an event for the slower players. I also like players who can get in from distance and put 30 or 40 on the board from there. The other thing which is a must is we need a player who will take it as seriously as possible. There’s nothing worse than sticking our hard earned down on someone who’s had a few amber nectars too many and we’re done from the break off.
I’ll go with three main bets this week. The first thing to point out is that it is worth going with the three bookmakers who are offering four places as this tournament is hard enough to bet on without needing a player to go a round further than necessary. My first main bet is the favourite Mark Williams. No top 16 player has ever won this tournament but they are knocking on the door with the last two beaten finalists being from that elite range, one of which was Williams a year ago. That was a year after he made the semi-final and while there is no such thing as a Shootout specialist, Williams’ character and form makes him a good thing this week. Williams gets this tournament and is so good at getting in from distance and he’s scoring as well as anyone. He could take a lot of beating here.
Every year when this tournament comes around I have to be on Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. It surprised nobody when he won this tournament in 2019 and I would be surprised if he doesn’t have a deep run here too. Un-Nooh has shown he is back to form in 2022-23 when he reached the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open and he is another one who can get in from distance and score well. He probably doesn’t have the ring craft that Williams has but if he nails a few from long range or faces opponents who will let him in then he naturally scores quickly which is hard the battle here. I’ll pay to see if he is the first time double champion here.
Xiao Guodong is a twice finalist in this tournament but hasn’t got over the line in it yet but he is another who is in good touch this season. He made the World Grand Prix last week where he reached the quarter final and he sits at T20 in 50 breaks this season. I always think that is a decent statistic this week because it shows that he can score when he gets in. He isn’t the slowest player around so the shot clock shouldn’t hamper him too much, especially with him being a pretty cool customer. At 40/1 there is enough in his price to give him a go here.
The other man I have to take whenever this tournament comes around is Robert Milkins. Milkins is naturally quick and won’t even know the shot clock is there which is so much of the battle. He is a tournament winner now so that pressure to win a tournament which might have held him back in this event in the past given how naturally suited to it he is shouldn’t be there this time. Milkins is a former finalist here but I would be amazed if he goes the whole of his career without getting his hands on this trophy because he is a good long potter, scores well and quickly but knows when to check out and play defence. He’s in the form to go very close here.
Lyu Haotian has been going pretty well this year and he was a semi-finalist in this event three years ago and made the last 16 a year later so he has form in the format. I do think that that is key here because this tournament has been around long enough for us to see who is comfortable within the structure of it all. Haotian suffered a surprise defeat last season to Dean Young in the first round but in the main he is going well. He has scored well all year and feels overpriced at 70/1.
I’ll also pay to see how Steven Hallworth gets on. He has made the quarter final in 2017 and the fourth round twice since then so he is another one who has good form in this tournament. There will be a lot of talk about luck and things this week and there is an element of that being right but at the same time staying calm and potting balls and running up leads is a key thing and those who can do that and then play clever safety are the ones which come through the draw here. Hallworth goes as well here as anyone and given that he’s been around the tour for a while and keeping his cue arm going in the amateur ranks he might go well again.
Back M.Williams to win Snooker Shootout (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 with William Hill (1/4 1-4)
Back L.Haotian to win Snooker Shootout (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with William Hill (1/4 1-4)
Back them here:
Back T.Un-Nooh to win Snooker Shootout (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)
Back X.Guodong to win Snooker Shootout (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)
Back R.Milkins to win Snooker Shootout (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 51.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)
Back S.Hallworth to win Snooker Shootout (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 201.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)