Marky’s Malarkey: Breaking Down the Darts World Championship With Michael Leboff

Dec 07, 2018 10:10 PM EST
  • The PDC Darts World Championship begins next week and wraps up at the start of the new year.
  • Marky breaks down the field and gets some help from Michael Leboff to see where the value lies.

We’re approaching Christmas which, as everyone knows, is the height of the darts season. That’s why it’s called the most wonderful time of the year.

An event spanning multiple weeks, the PDC Darts World Championship sponsored by William Hill (European pro darts embraces gambling) kicks off next week in London, with the winner set to take home half a million pounds.

One of just a few sports that can be played in bars across the world, darts is a beautiful game that combines finesse, strategy, precision and, most importantly, raw athleticism.

While you may fancy yourself a decent player down at your local pub, you’ll soon see why you’d never be able to compete at the level that these physical specimens do.

Last year, Rob Cross took down the championship, cashing tickets at +1600. If you think he can repeat, you can bet on him at…+1600, again. He’s the No. 2 player in the world, but has struggled as of late.

Though 96 players will compete, the field is anything but wide open. Just two players have shorter than 10-1 odds and five can be had below 25-1.

The Odds

The Favorites

Michael van Gerwen: +150

MvG, as he’s known as among dart enthusiasts, is essentially the Tiger Woods of the dart world. The colorful Dutchman is world #1 and will be looking to take back what is rightfully his — the World Championship, which he last won two years ago.

Mighty Mike has had a solid season thus far, taking home three major tournaments, but hasn’t won in gasp three straight tournaments. Most recently, he lost to Daryl Gurney in the Players Championships Finals.

Though MvG has owned the sport over the past several years, he’s not been throwing his best darts as of late. If you’ve listened to chatter in the inner dart circles like I have, you’d have heard the word vulnerable tossed around in a cavalier fashion. He’s not playing with the same cutthroat aggressiveness we’ve all grown to love from him and as a result, has a shadow of doubt cast upon him.

Gary Anderson: +350

Get a load of this guy. Talk about an elite athlete. I bet he put up some monster numbers at the combine.

The Flying Scotsman has had plenty of success over the past decade and has three victories this year.

The way the bracket is set up, he would need to play MvG in the semis if they both make it that far. In their past four head-to-head matches, they both have two wins a pop.

The rocket scientists out there probably just realized that the information detailed in the previous paragraph means that a player with at least 10-1 odds is guaranteed to make the final. Do with that what you will.

Peter Wright: +1000

Get a load of this guy. Talk about an elite athlete. I bet…never mind.

After MVG and the Flying Scotsman, there’s a big drop off to Peter Wright at 10-1. Like Anderson, Snake Bite is darn near 50 and seemingly in the latter stages of his career.

It’s possible he still has a few decades left in him, though, as his profession involves throwing a 22 gram object less than eight feet away. Not exactly the most physically taxing activity if you know what I’m saying.

Though he’s the No. 3 player in the world, he only has one major victory to his name. He recently lost to the Flying Scotsman in the Champions League of Darts finals in September.

Wright has a solid draw in the bracket, but will have to deal with some of the up-and-coming mid-tier names that have been hot as of late, including Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljovic, if he wants to make it to the finals.

Expert Analysis With Michael Leboff and a Guy Known as Irish Paul

I’m no expert (despite my 1-0 career darts betting record) so I’ve contacted fellow Action Network comrade Michael Leboff, who regularly watches and bets on darts in the New York City office. He’s my darts guy.

However, he also has a darts guy. A fella, goes by the name of Irish Paul — a darts guy’s darts guy. Without further ado…


Michael: One of the brilliant things about betting is that it can open doors to new sports and, in turn, to new cultures. In terms of sporting cultures, the darts is second to none.

Not only is the sport actually riveting in a non-ironic way, but the atmosphere is spectacular. Tune into a darts match and you’ll see people wearing ridiculous costumes, getting absolutely tanked and singing one of several “darts songs.” Seeing the darts live is on my bucket list and it may be worth tossing on yours after you watch this video.

To me, sweating the darts feels like if betting on tennis had a baby with betting on boxing. The in-game-sweat feels like tennis — there are holds and breaks, it’s all about rhythm and the frustration of watching your player break down mentally is excruciating.

And like in boxing, darts players all have great backstories, nicknames and their own walk-out music that sends the crowd into a tizzy.


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I have my friend Irish Paul for getting me into the darts. As you may have surmised, Irish Paul is from Ireland. He’s also been good to me over the years with darts picks, so I spoke with him and did some research to try and get my hands on a winner.

I’ve got no time for betting a favorite as short as van Gerwen in a 96-person tournament. Not to mention, MvG hasn’t been himself this season and I heard Steve Palmer of The Racing Post mention his draw is pretty unkind and there are a few potential banana skins in his quarter.

One player I was thinking of backing in the MvG bracket was James Wade (40-1), but his draw is brutal and he’d have to likely get through both van Gerwen and second-favorite “The Flying Scotsman”. So I’m moving onto the bottom part of the bracket, which is just dripping with value.

I’ll start my card with Michael Smith (14-1). I’m kicking myself a little bit for not wiring someone in the UK money earlier (when Irish Paul told me to) because “Bully Boy” was as high as 28-1 in November but after a decent strut at the Grand Slam of Darts that number has been slashed in half. Smith is going to be a trendy pick, as this was his breakout season but it seems like this will be the last time the Merseysider’s price will be this long in a big tournament. So smoke if ’em while you got ’em.

Every time I bet the darts this season I end up on Mensur Suljovic (25-1) at one time or another in the tournament. “The Gentle” is steady as she goes and his draw ain’t half bad according to my research. The Austrian by way of Yugoslavia isn’t the type of player to beat himself and will give you a consistent effort each time out. He’s also been one of the best players this year. His ceiling may not be near the level of MvG’s, but I’ll take 25-1 on arguably the third best player this season.

I’m going to Pontyberem, Wales (the hometown of someone who was married to one of the James Bonds) for my last pick and throwing a dart on Johnny Clayton at 100-1. My friend once said of Clayton: “He should be cleaning glasses with me on Friday nights,” but I’m still adding him to my sheet.

Clayton hasn’t been in great form lately, but he’s the 16th-ranked player in the world, has a good draw and is nicknamed “The Ferret.” All of that begs me to toss some under-the-cushion money on him at a big payout.


Marky: Yeah, do what he said.

I will add one thing — If you grab one of the value plays in the bottom half of the bracket (Cross, Clayton, Price, Smith, Suljovic, Wright) and they end up making the semis or finals, you can do a bit of hedging if you so choose. Although, I’ve been told that hedging is for landscapers…

Follow Mark Gallant on Twitter
@marky_money

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