There are many sporting events synonymous with a certain point in the calendar. The Grand National occurs in spring, the World Cup and Olympics in the summer the football season kicks off in August and runs through to May, but when it comes to Christmas time, the PDC World Darts Championship is arguably the biggest sporting event at this time of year.
This year’s event takes place, once again, at the famous Alexandra Palace in London, with players competing for a prize fund of £1,250,000, with a £250,000 chunk of that going to the winner and £120,000 for the runner up.
Before we examine some popular betting options for this key Christmas sporting event, let us take a closer look at the history of the PDC World Championship.
A history of the PDC World Darts Championship
Back in the early 1990s, the game of darts was in turmoil. Plummeting viewing figures, sponsors deserting the game led to a number of high profile players to call for a change in how the sport was run, asking the BDO to allow them to organise their own independent tournaments to supplement their falling earnings from the BDO events.
The BDO, the games sole organisational body in those days, resisted that change and in 1992, things came to a head when 16 of the games top players left the BDO to form their own organisation. Originally called the WDC, these 16 players included all the world champions still actively playing in the BDO as well as a number of rising stars, such as Dennis Priestley, Rod Harrington, Alan Warriner and Phil Taylor.
This was a major gamble for the 16-breakaway players as they had no television deal in place and there was no guarantee that their group would be a success. Indeed, two of the original 16 players jumped-ship back to the BDO without ever throwing a dart as a WDC player.
Needing leadership, the PDC appointed Barry Hearn, who had increased snooker’s popularity throughout the 1980s, as the chairman and after a legal wrangle with the BDO, the WDC changed its name to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). A TV deal with Sky Sports, initially to show three events a year was signed, but with the extra coverage afforded by Sky, compared to the minimal showing on terrestrial TV with the BBC, the PDC events began to grow in popularity with viewers and with fans.
The first PDC World Championship was held at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet in 1994 and was won by Dennis Priestley. It would be played at the same venue until 2007, when demand for tickets was so high that the PDC needed to find a larger venue, selecting the Alexandra Palace in London, The competition has been played at that venue ever since.
That surge in popularity has seen Darts become one of the best-viewed sports on the Sky Sports network in the UK and there are several events televised live throughout the year.
Since Dennis Priestley won the first PDC World Darts title in 1994, the man he beat in that final, Phil Taylor, has gone on to dominate the PDC game. Taylor has won 14 PDC titles, plus two in the BDO, and from 1995 to 2006, only one other player, John Part, managed to lift the World Title other than Taylor. Taylor won in 2009 and 2010 but his last victory came in 2013. Since 2007 though, Taylor has won just three of the eight World Championships contested.
John Part, the only player to break Taylor’s dominance of the event from 1995 to 2006, also won the tournament in 2008, while Raymond van Barneveld won it in 2007.
Adrian Lewis won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012 and last year Michael van Gerwen won the title defeating Peter Wright 7-4 in the final. The 2015 event (the Championship spans the New Year, but is always named after the year the final is played in) will see a host of top stars returning to Alexandra Palace in what could be one of the most open World Championships in many years.
Let us now look at some of the top bets for this year’s event:
PDC World Championship First Round
There are some cracking matches in the first round of the competition. A real eye-catcher is the match between two former BDO champions, Jelle Klaasen (29th seed) taking on fellow Dutchman Christian Kist in what could be an outstanding first round game. The bookmakers can’t call this with both 10/11 shots for the victory.
Also facing off on the opening night is two-time PDC and one time BDO champion John Part takes on Keegan Brown, one of the emerging young talents of the game and the current 2014 PDC World Youth Champion. With Part out of form and with age counting against him, Brown is the 4/9 favourite here and he looks a solid bet.
Other exciting clashes in the first round, which will be played from Thursday 18th to Tuesday 23rd December, includes Steve Beaton taking on the talented Aussie Kyle Anderson, Paul Nicholson facing Benito van de Pas and Vincent van der Voort taking on Big John Henderson.
However, the best first round match looks likely to be Michael Smith, the player who defeated Phil Taylor last year, taking on Ronnie Huybrechts in a game that once again, the bookies have as a 50/50 call (both players are 10/11 to win). Smith certainly has the talent but is a little out of form, whereas Huybrechts experience and consistency could see him claim a big scalp and a place in round two.
PDC World Darts Championship Winner Outright
In the past, trying to back a winner in the outright market was somewhat futile, given that Phil Taylor would often start the tournament at considerable odds on. However, given Taylor’s lack of form in recent events plus the emergence of several players to challenge him, there’s some real value to be had here.
If you fancy Taylor to make it title number 17, then you can back the legend from Stoke-on-Trent at 15/8 with Bet365. In form Gary Anderson is a 13/2 shot to win his first world title, while Adrian Lewis is an 11/1 shot.
For new customers, there’s the added incentive to join as right now Bet365 is offering new sports bettors $100 in free Bet365 Sports bonus offers.
Of the outsiders, a solid each way option could be Stephen Bunting (20/1) or Dave Chisnall (40/1) as both have the game and skills to at least reach the final.
However, for my top tip, you have to look at Michael van Gerwen. The Dutchman is the current champion and has struggled for form of late but at 5/2, he looks a very good choice to double up from his success last year.