Alexandra Palace becomes the centre of the professional darts universe each Christmas and New Year with the oche sport’s World Championship descending on London.
The tournament is in its 13th year at “Ally Pally” with the popularity of darts surging over that period. This PDC World Darts Championship promises to be a real watershed as fans say goodbye to a cult hero of the oche.
Provided he qualifies, and he is on course to do just that, this will be the last tournament Dutch darting legend Raymond van Barneveld plays before retirement. The sport is more competitive than ever and long-time rival Phil “The Power” Taylor just missed out on a fairytale end to his own career when losing in the 2018 final to qualifier Rob Cross.
Van Barneveld has won the PDC World Darts Championship before, beating Taylor in 2007 – the year before the tournament moved to its current venue. Nicknamed ‘Barney’ by a legion of adoring followers, the 52-year-old is a big outsider in the market on who will win the title this year.
Fellow Dutch player Michael van Gerwen heads the darts betting on the World Championship at 5/4 with bet365. Mighty Mike has won three of the last six editions of the tournament including last season and remains top of the PDC Order of Merit.
They are the world rankings for professional darts players based on prize money accumulated over a certain period. As world number one, Van Gerwen is the one the others all have to beat following victories in the Premier League and Masters Darts this year.
Cross, who stunned 16-time world champ Taylor when taking the title in 2018, is second in the rankings and took the World Matchplay title earlier this season. He was also runner-up to Van Gerwen in this year’s Premier League Darts, so that Ally Pally win was no fluke.
Another World Championship contender is ‘The Flying Scotsman’. No, not the famous steam train but Gary Anderson who back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.
Going into the World Grand Prix, he is fourth in the PDC Order of Merit behind Daryl Gurney. Anderson is yet to win one of the bigger darts tournaments this season, but did land the World Matchplay and Champions League last year.
Both he and Cross are reckoned the most likely challengers to Van Gerwen at the World Championship, according to the betting. Anderson is 8/1 with ‘Voltage’ a point shorter at 7/1.
Last season’s Ally Pally runner-up Michael Smith is still looking for a first success in one of the PDC’s premier events. He is 14/1 to go one better in this year’s World Championship.
Those same odds are available on ‘Snakebite’ Peter Wright. The Scot reached the final in 2014 losing to Van Gerwen and has also gone close to land other major darts tournaments throughout his lengthy career in the PDC.
World number three Daryl Gurney of Northern Ireland has never made it beyond the World Championships quarter-finals, meanwhile, and odds of 33/1 to win the tournament reflect that.