In terms of betting, the favourite going into Friday is snooker's new darling Judd Trump at 5.3 (9/2) with Betfair. It is an interesting price up for Trump, who crashed out in the first round at the last ranking event (UK Championships) to world number 50 Mark Joyce, although he did win the International Championship back in November. Since Ronnie O'Sullivan's recent sabbatical, Trump appears to have taken the mantle of snooker's exciting bad boy, or 'full time playboy' as his Twitter bio used to read. A key feature of the O'Sullivan reign was unpredictability on the table, yet he was frequently a lowed priced favourite for each tournament, mainly because of his name. This was the case even as he began to slip down the rankings in recent seasons, and I can't help but feel this is already beginning to happen to Trump. He is, of course, the world number 2, but at these prices I do not think I would like to back him, especially with his unpredictability as a relative rookie to the game.
The second favourite some way behind him is world number 1 and UK Championship 2012 winner Mark Selby at 7.8 (7/1). This seems a somewhat reserved price for the world leader and this is presumably down to his lackluster win at the UK Championship. He managed to dig deep and claw back wins rather than sweep away all in his path with slick snooker, but this should still not be underestimated as a good ranking title. Having been out with a neck injury before this it is certainly an admirable achievement to recover and reclaim his number 1 spot, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a big improvement in his play at The Masters. The 7.8 therefore looks like quite a decent price.
Due to the talent which has come through in recent years, snooker has become a bit like Formula 1 in that it is difficult for one player to dominate all the events. So far this season there has been 5 world ranking events, and 5 different winners (Ricky Walden, Barry Hawkins, John Higgins, Judd Trump and Mark Selby). Additionally, no one has won the 'triple crown' (The UK Championship, the Masters, and the World Championship) since 2002/3. Despite the fact that The Masters is not a ranking event, it is still seen as extremely prestigious in the Snooker circuit, and I am sure the £175,000 winners prize helps too. This is shown by the recent winners of the tournament, as Ding Junhui is the only to have won it since 2004 other than O'Sullivan/Selby/Robertson/Higgins.
This leaves the tournament rather open with any of the 'big players' looking to take the title, and the betting markets mark up Robertson and Higgins (both 8.4 or 15/2) as completing the top 4 favourites. There appears little to choose between these 4, and dutching them would give you odds of 1.8 (4/5), with the option of trading your position on Betfair throughout the tournament. If you fancied adding in world number 4 and UK Championship runner up Shaun Murphy at 12 for a less ambitious punt, you would get odds of 1.5 (1/2). Due to the way the draw has fallen, Robertson, Higgins, Selby and Trump could theoretically be the 4 semi-finalists in the tournament, so dutching could be an interesting option to take. Naturally I expect there to be a shock along the way, but the point is none of these 4 will be knocking each other out in the early rounds.
Essentially this competition, like most of snooker's tournaments, is up for grabs. If you are someone who enjoys a more risky and money chasing bet, then I would suggest last year's runner-up Shaun Murphy to win at 12 (11/1). As number 4 in the world and also runner-up in the UK Championships, playing some superb snooker along the way, I think he is fairly overpriced this time out. Otherwise though, sit back and enjoy the spectacle.