The new season of Premier League Darts gets underway on Thursday when 16 weeks of action kicks off in Leeds with the top 10 players in the PDC lined up for the nationwide tour which for the first time includes a trip to Rotterdam along the way.
Once again 10 lucky dartists will battle it out over nine weeks of intense competition every Thursday night with the top eight after the nine weeks progressing to the second half of the season and with the aim of winning the title at the o2 Arena in London in May.
Each match in the group phase of the tournament is the best of 12 legs so it is relatively short course darts and with everyone playing each other in the initial stage of the tournament every night is certain to be full of quality.
The 10 men who received their invitation letters in the post are Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis, Phil Taylor, Peter Wright, James Wade, Robert Thornton, Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith and Raymond Barneveld.
As you would expect with a tournament of this nature there are an awful lot of pre-season markets priced up. Some of them don’t interest me given that we will be having our money tied up for three months but some certainly do and the first place to start is on the event winner.
This is a market which will run all tournament so we can dip in and out of it throughout the event to get a couple of players onside and create a decent book to head to the o2 with but I’m happy to get involved in it before the off too.
Michael van Gerwen is the obvious favourite for this tournament but this is slightly different to every other event in the year. It would be arguably darts’ biggest shock ever if MVG doesn’t make the semi-final but as we saw last year that is no guarantee he wins the tournament.
He made the final 12 months ago but found Gary Anderson too good for him and over a relatively short 21 leg distance straight after an even shorter best of 19 leg semi-final he isn’t a complete certainty at the o2 given the quality of opponent he’ll be facing.
That said he’s 5/4 now and as near a certainty to be a semi-finalist as there is and he’ll be odds on when he gets to the o2 so you can argue there’s value on the green machine for those who look to lay off down the line.
Gary Anderson won the World Championship in 2015 and four months later won the Premier League and he is already halfway to that double again this year. On his day Anderson is as good as anyone in the game if not better and we’ve seen the evidence of that over the last 18 months or so.
Anderson is top quality and I couldn’t put anyone off him at 4/1 but I’d rather know he doesn’t face MVG in the semi-final before doing my dough even if it means that I have to take a shorter price.
Based on the weekend in Milton Keynes anyone writing Phil Taylor off should clearly think again. That said he might not be at his best throughout this tournament as he alluded to after his defeat in the World Championship so his 7/1 quote is probably fair.
If he can win enough matches to get to the o2 he’ll be a big threat once he’s there but we saw under extreme pressure at The Masters that he isn’t the man he once was when the heat cranks up and given that he never even made the o2 last year I’ll pass him by here.
I’ve pretty much given MVG and Anderson two of the semi-final spots but that still leaves two spots available and in my eyes they will go to two of Taylor, Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall or Raymond Barneveld.
I keep thinking Lewis should do better in this tournament than he has in previous years and he rarely does. Whatever it is this event just doesn’t sit kindly with him so I’ll pass him by. I’m a big Peter Wright fan but he seems to be one of those players who always plays well against the big names but they raise their game and beat him. A perennial unlucky nearly man if you like.
Chisnall cruised into the semi-finals of this last year and if he’s able to sustain his finishing for 15 weeks it would be a brave man to think he won’t this year but even now that is a big if in such esteemed company.
One man whose game I have no issues with is Raymond Barneveld and unlike some players this tournament is perfectly suited for him. He only has to turn up for one match a week and then disappear into his own obscurity again which is how he likes it as opposed to the weekend tournaments which are quickfire and lengthy and stamina zapping.
Barneveld’s big tournament pedigree has never been in question. He was a semi-finalist in this tournament last year as well as in the Grand Slam of Darts and he also made the semi-final in the World Championship so we know he can perform on the big stages against the big names.
He’s a huge 28/1 to regain the title he won in 2014 and if he can make the semi-final that will look a huge price. Barneveld’s scoring has been much more solid in the last couple of months and we saw at Ally Pally just how good his finishing is. That’s a combination that can take him close to another Premier League title.
That’s the top half dealt with but there is a market for the bottom of the table too as well as one for the relegation after the nine weeks and it is the latter I’m taking a bet in.
Two will be relegated on Judgement Night in Cardiff. Robert Thornton is odds on to be one to go but the other spot odds wise appears to be between Barneveld, Wade, Smith and Chisnall.
I’ve already made the case for Barneveld and Chisnall has too much scoring power to be relegated so I think the other spot, if indeed Thornton does go, is between James Wade and Michael Smith and it is the latter that I fear for the most here.
Make no mistake Michael Smith is a class act and one who very much belongs in this company but the only man in the field he has a winning record against is Adrian Lewis. He is 50/50 against Robert Thornton but then he has a losing record against the other seven men and that isn’t good.
We’ve seen in the last few tournaments that for all his scoring power when he comes up against the elite he misses a double or two too many and in a race to seven that’s going to kill you over nine weeks. Wade might not have the scoring power of some but he’s solid under pressure and takes his chances and that can be the reason why Smith may fail to make it beyond Judgement Day.
The other market I’m interested in is the Most 180s market. Taylor and Wade aside we’ve got the heaviest scorers in the game on show here so 180s are a given but I’m not sure anyone will outscore Dave Chisnall in this tournament.
MVG and Anderson are heavy scorers in their own right but they will probably rack up a number of one sided wins which might detract from the time they have to hit 180s whereas Chisnall tends to win his matches a little closer which is perfect.
We only have to look at The Masters last weekend to see the damage Chisnall does to the 60 these days but that isn’t a rare occasion currently. He is often one of the heavier scorers in the competition.
Of course we’re finished if he doesn’t make it past Judgement Night but I really think he will so the 11/2 on Chisnall to hit the most 180s in the tournament looks a solid punt to me this season.
Back R.Barneveld to win Premier League Darts (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Betway (1/3 1-2)
Back M.Smith to be eliminated for a 3/10 stake at 4.00 with William Hill
Back D.Chisnall Most Tournament 180s for a 2/10 stake at 6.50 with Bet365