Sports Betting: Williams and Ebdon can provide the value

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The Independent Online
Stephen Hendry will start yet another defence of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield next weekend as the firm favourite (evens with the Tote is as long a price as you will find anywhere), and opposing the Scot at the Crucible is generally as swift a route to poverty as any.

This year, however, luck has undoubtedly deserted Hendry in the draw, which pits him against Andy Hicks in the first-to-10 opening round, with Mark Williams, who embarrassed him as no player has for more than a decade in the British Open final earlier this month, surely waiting if he sees off the useful Hicks. As if that were not enough, Ronnie O'Sullivan is seeded to meet Hendry in the quarters, long before the anticipated meeting with John Higgins, the No.2 seed, in the final.

Hendry is the finest player in snooker history, so it would be little surprise to see him overcome all these obstacles, but at even money (in effect, unbackable odds-on for each match) there is no value to be had in supporting him. It should be far better to look for one player to beat him in his half of the draw, and another to emerge from the bottom half as a possible opponent in the final, and Mark Williams (a very generous 20-1 with Ladbrokes) and Peter Ebdon, last year's beaten finalist, at 8-1 (Hills, Ladbrokes) the most credible choices.

Williams is already one of the best players in the world on the provisional rankings, and after his overwhelming defeat of Hendry in the British Open he must also be the most confident. Ebdon, meanwhile, has talent and grit - and a generous draw which makes him a more appealing bet than Higgins to take the remaining place in the final on 4 May.

EMBASSY WORLD PROFESSIONAL SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield, starts Saturday): Best prices: evens Hendry (Tote), 7-1 Higgins (Coral), 8-1 Ebdon (Ladbrokes, William Hill), O'Sullivan (C, T), 20-1 Williams (L), 25-1 Parrott (T), McManus (H, L, T), 28-1 Doherty (C, L), 33-1 Bond (C, H, L, T), S Davis (T), 50-1 White (C), 66-1 Drago (C), 80-1 bar.