If you like your darts, or enjoy serial betting opportunities on a competition that slowly morphs and changes in front of your eyes, then there’s good news: Premier League Darts is back!
Getting underway in Dublin on Thursday February 1, the action will travel the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland – taking in Berlin and Rotterdam along the way – before culminating in the final at London’s O2 Arena in May.
For the uninitiated, ten of the best darters in the world have been selected for duty based on their standing in the Order of Merit or their performances last season, and this year’s line-up looks a rather eclectic bunch with stalwarts such as Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall and James Wade ‘dropped’ after suffering below-par 2017 campaigns.
Here’s a quick overview of the runners and riders, with their outright odds to win the Premier League:
Michael van Gerwen (10/11)
The Dutch master. MVG is the world number one, three-time Premier League winner, has appeared in each of the last five finals of this competition and warmed up for another strong campaign by winning The Masters last week.
Rob Cross (4/1)
The new kid on the block. This time last year Cross was barely making a living from darts, from a new-found dedication to the sport brought with it confidence and wins….lots of them. He was crowned world champion at the first attempt in January. This is his debut Premier League campaign.
Gary Anderson (6/1)
The two-time world champion also triumphed in the Premier League back in 2015. He’s currently struggling with a bad back, but never write off the Flying Scotsman.
Peter Wright (9/1)
Into his fifth Premier League campaign, Snakebite reached the final last year where he came up agonisingly short against Van Gerwen, missing match darts before going down 10-11. Needs to improve on recent form to be a contender in 2018.
Raymond van Barneveld (40/1)
This will be Barney’s thirteenth Premier League campaign – equalling Phil Taylor’s record, but the great Dutchman only has one title to his name back in 2014. Showed there is life in the old dog by reaching the final of The Masters last Sunday.
Daryl Gurney (40/1)
An outstanding 2017 campaign culminated in his first major title: The World Grand Prix, won on his native Irish soil. This is his debut Premier League, but his scoring power makes Gurney a genuine contender for a final four place.
Mensur Suljovic (50/1)
The loveable Austrian claimed the Champions League trophy in September to cap a fine season. Form tailed off since then but showed signs of life at The Masters, where he demolished Wright 10-2 on is way to the semi-finals. Premier League debutant in 2018.
Michael Smith (80/1)
Bully Boy doesn’t have great memories of the Premier League: he finished bottom of the league on his debut in 2016. Form has improved of late, and he had match darts to beat Cross in the World Championships. Should do better in his second stab at this event.
Gerwyn Price (125/1)
There has been a gradual improvement from Price in the past 12 months, and despite not winning any titles he is in the field on merit. The UK Open finalist will be looking to avoid the dreaded relegation as a first priority.
Simon Whitlock (200/1)
Of all the players in the field, Whitlock’s position is the most tenuous. He reached the final of the World Grand Prix through sheer force of will, but has not gone beyond the second round of each of his last four tournaments. This is The Wizard’s sixth Premier League appearance, but his first since 2014.
Outright Winner Predictions
For our money, Van Gerwen and Cross are by far and away the best two players on the planet right now, and that duo will take some stopping in an event that rewards consistency.
Cross was knocked out in the quarter finals of The Masters, and you do wonder how being introduced as the world champion will impact upon his game. This is his first Premier League campaign as well, and debutants don’t tend to have the best of records in this event.
Even so, Voltage will be there or thereabouts when the trophy is handed out, make no mistake, it’s just that MVG is the smarter bet at this moment in time. The Dutch destroyer appears to have gotten his hunger back – he will hate the fact that Cross has momentarily usurped him in the consciousness of darts fans – and he served his intent for 2018 by winning The Masters last week.
A perfect record of five final appearances in as many years at the Premier League confirms that MVG is the best, and most consistent player, on the planet, and at a shade under even money he represents excellent value once again.
At the other end of the table, it’s hard to see anyone other than Simon Whitlock finishing bottom – an eventuality priced at a generous 7/4. The Aussie simply isn’t playing darts to the standard of the rest of the field at present.
Week 1 Preview – Dublin, 1st February 2018
The first week of the Premier League is shaping up to be a cracker, with a repeat of the World Championship semi-final between MVG and Cross naturally taking centre stage.
The best of the betting value is elsewhere, however, with Mensur Suljovic curiously priced at odds-against (11/10) when taking on Whitlock. Before the Aussie gets a complex about our seeming campaign against him, this is a wager based purely on Suljovic’s form at The Masters, where he showed glimpses of his best form.
And how about Gurney, returning to the scene of his World Grand Prix triumph. The Irish fans will be behind him, and while Van Barneveld will provide stern opposition, for our money the 8/11 on Gurney to win or draw is the bet of the night.