Forget December 25th, it's all about December 13th for me. It's the biggest day of the year, and it's the day when the PDC World Championship kicks off this year. It's been another fantastic year on the PDC circuit, with Peter Wright coming through the ranks and becoming the breakout player of the year. We started the year as we started 15 before, with Phil Taylor winning the World Championship, and he went on to win the World Cup, the UK Open, the World Matchplay, Championship League Darts, the World Grand Prix, the Masters and the Grand Slam of Darts. So, 2013 wasn't a bad year for The Power. Adrian Lewis won the European Championship along with the World Cup, and Michael van Gerwen took out the Premier League. Dave Chisnall made his first Major PDC final, ending up on the wrong end of a 6-0 scoreline in the final of the World Grand Prix. Finals for Robert Thornton and Andy Hamilton also capped good years for both men.
But now all the talking is over, the other tournaments become irrelevant and it's all about the World Championship. The title that Phil Taylor has won 16 times in the past, the title that Phil Taylor basically owns, and the title that Phil Taylor is odds-on to retain.
For the 2014 World Championship, I'll be running the Premium Darts Betting Picks service, so if you'd like to sign up, it'll cost you less than a bottle of vodka, and you can sign up below.
So, as in my other previews, I'll take a look at who I perceive to be the Good, the Bad and the Value.
There's no looking past Phil Taylor when it comes to the 2014 PDC World Championship. He's been the man to beat this year, once again, and no-one has taken him on when it comes to the established PDC Majors. But he's best priced 10/11, and while it's a much better return than keeping the money in the bank, he's not going to shorten too much over the first couple of rounds unless the big guns fall by the wayside early on. Keep your powder dry on The Power, unless you just want to get involved early doors.
Adrian Lewis has come into form at the right time. Making the final of The Masters when he was evidently ill was a fine performance. He then played some great darts at the Grand Slam, losing in one of the greatest matches of all-time to Phil Taylor in the semi-finals. If he plays that well, his draw looks like a gimme most of the way, with Michael van Gerwen being the only stumbling block. 13/2 is good value for Lewis, although I think he's more than capable of blowing up on the stage, and someone like Justin Pipe might just cause him some kind of difficulty.
Michael van Gerwen started off, as expected, with a bang this year, but as of late his form hasn't been as solid. He was, at one point, looking unstoppable on the floor and on the stage, averaging over 100 in most of his matches, but now it's seeming more of a rare occurrence. That being said, he was the 2013 runner-up, and his draw isn't too bad. He'll fancy his chances up until the semi-finals at the very least. However, 4/1 doesn't tempt me as much as the 13/2 on Lewis. Van Gerwen will need to refind the form he showed this time last year, but if he can, he's the man to beat in the bottom half of the draw.
Although 28/1 looks a big price for Raymond van Barneveld, the fact is the Dutchman has now slipped into that pool of players swimming around the top 16 in the PDC, the ones capable of a big performance, but unable to do it over the course of a big tournament. I think Barney's best is now behind him, and even though he's got a favourable draw for the first few rounds, he's got Michael van Gerwen if it goes to seeding in the quarter-finals, and Adrian Lewis in the semi-finals should he make it past the young Dutchman. Once upon a time, you'd really fancy Barney's chances, but now he's going to be outsider for both matches should they happen. Steer well clear.
I've seen one bookie is going 28/1 on Kim Huybrechts while the others are going 40s or 50s. 28/1 is a shocking price for the Dutchman, considering his inconsistent form, and the fact his draw is terrible. While that quarter of the draw looks wide open, Huybrechts doesn't look like the value when you consider he's around the same price as Andy Hamilton (in many places shorter than The Hammer), and Simon Whitlock. Huybrechts will come good at some point, but I don't think his time is now.
So, while the draw looks a two or three-horse race, I think there's two players that look like value to me. First of all, Mervyn King at around 150s jumps out at me. He's got a nice draw for the first couple of rounds, and should Adrian Lewis find himself on the end of a shock, the quarter-finals beckon, with James Wade the man he might be likely to face. That being said, King is also capable of pushing Lewis on his day, and if he could beat Jackpot along the way, that 150/1 is going to become a hell of a lot shorter. He's also a Major finalist, loves the big occasions, and I think there's a spot of value there.
Secondly, Quarter 4 is definitely, to me, the weakest looking quarter of the draw, with James Wade not playing great darts at the moment, which gives Justin Pipe a look in, in my opinion. Pipe has had some big wins on the stage in the last few tournaments, and his 3-0 win at the World Grand Prix against Adrian Lewis was impressive, and he capped it off with a run to the semi-finals. If he can carry that form into the World Championship, he's not going to be a 100/1 shot for long. I think his draw is favourable, and his style of play is definitely going to frustrate the players and fans.
And remember, I'll be running the Premier Picks service for the PDC World Championship, and I'll be casting my eye over every match and trying to sniff out every angle. If you'd like to sign up for them for the cheap as chips price of £10, you can sign up below.