UK Open Darts 2018 Preview: Three Long-Odds Fancies Expected to Enjoy the Magic of the Cup

Butlins Resort in Minehead England
Credit: Ian Sherlock, via Wikimedia Commons

After the Premier League Darts scheduled to take place in Exeter tonight was halted due to the snow, our attention, for one week only, turns to the UK Open, which starts tomorrow afternoon at the sporting mecca that is Butlins Minehead.

There’s a good reason for that: the tournament is absolute chaos, with 128 players battling it out across eight boards in an attempt to win the £70,000 top prize.

The reason why punters should be excited is because of the open draw format: rather than the ‘brackets’ system used as most darts, tennis and snooker events where we can see who will likely play who in each round, at the UK Open the balls are drawn out of the hat in the tradition of an FA Cup….and here’s the key bit: with no seedings! So, Michael van Gerwen could meet Rob Cross at the earliest available opportunity, for example.

Intriguingly, the cream of the crop tends to rise to the top in this tournament. MVG won in 2015 and 2016, and when he had to pull out of last year’s event with a back injury it was the then world number two, Peter Wright, who lifted his first major trophy at the expense of Gerwyn Price.

But that’s not to suggest that shock results can’t happen thanks to this format, with the likes of Roland Scholten and Robert Thornton huge outsiders when lifting the trophy, and Mark Walsh, Barrie Bates and Gary Mawson darting journeymen who somehow found their way into the final at various points in the noughties.

Our betting angle this week is to select three players who we think are just beginning their rise in the world of darts. They are available at long odds and so each way wagers will pay out even if they lose in the final. In recent years we have seen Kyle Anderson reach the last eight in 2016 and Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price make the semis and final respectively in 2017, which suggests that talented players who, at the time, were yet to make their breakthrough are a sound investment here.

With that in mind, here’s three to follow this week:

Michael Smith (25/1)

Michael Smith
Credit: Sven Mandel / CC-BY-SA-4.0 Wiki Commons

Bully Boy has already made his breakthrough in the world of darts, having won six Pro Tour titles, and reached both the quarter final of a World Championship and the semis of the Grand Slam.

But you sense the 27-year-old is finally coming of age as a tungsten tosser, and that has been clearly in evidence in the Premier League, where he tops the leaderboard with four wins from four. As we know in individual sports, winning breeds confidence and confidence breeds success; it’s as simple as sports psychology gets.

Having established himself as a big stage player in front of thousands of fans every Thursday night, we know that Smith can mix it on the small stages ‘on the floor’. He won one of the UK Open qualifiers behind closed doors and reached the final of another, and with the open draw format he could find himself playing behind the scenes at Minehead until the latter stages.

All Smith needs to do to confirm his maturity as a top-ten player in the world is win a decent ranking title; this is as good a place as any to start.

Corey Cadby (28/1)

The brash Aussie is really starting to make a name for himself in the world of darts despite having only claimed his tour card in January.

Cadby has already produced stellar performances in the World Series and at the World Championships in 2016, where he lost in the first round despite averaging well over a hundred.

Claiming his card on the first day of Q School, Cadby has since won a UK Open qualifier and reached the final of a Players Championship event, and you can rest assured everyone will want to dodge his name when the draw is made.

Jonny Clayton (200/1)

A huge price and understandably so, but this is the kind of tournament where players can sneak through unnoticed: who better than a man nicknamed ‘the Ferret’ to do exactly that!

In all seriousness, Clayton can really play. He has a Players’ Championship qualifier title to his name and followed up by reaching the Players’ Championship final itself; beating Rob Cross in the semis before going down to MVG in the final.

A proven floor player who has big stage experience, Clayton found a bit form when winning through a recent Euro Tour qualifier and can certainly take some scalps at Minehead; at 200/1, have a tiny wager on him going all the way.