Top half of the draw
The action gets under way on Saturday when John Higgins meets Liang Wenbo and the reigning champion is not playing brilliantly ahead of this tournament, although we should know better than to underestimate the Wizard of Wishaw.
Higgins is a 9/1 chance (bet365 £200 free bets) and has won two of the past three renewals meaning that the 36-year-old has to be taken seriously when it comes to the World Championship.
The draw has been kind to the number one seed, although Stephen Maguire will feel the same way considering he comes into the tournament following a quarter final appearance at the UK Championships and then he finished runner-up in the German Masters.
Maguire is scheduled to meet Higgins in the quarter finals and odds of 14/1 (Bet Victor free bets) look attractive about a player that admittedly has a tricky opening first round match against 17-year-old Luca Brecel whose first appearance at the Crucible could be particularly daunting.
Meanwhile, the second quarter of the draw includes 2011 runner-up Judd Trump who is the outright favourite to claim victory this time around and it’s easy to remember the brilliant snooker he played twelve months which saw him beat Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui en route to the final.
Trump is a best price 5/1 (bet365) having been 12/1 straight after last year’s tournament and that is because the 22-year-old has had a solid year which includes a UK Championship victory in 2011. A semi-final appearance in the Masters once again demonstrated his worth and this player will be a popular bet.
The Bristolian could end up facing Shaun Murphy or Stephen Lee in the quarter final and Lee looks to be the best value out of any player on the outright market considering some of the snooker he has been playing recently.
The 37-year-old is playing with a new-found belief and reaching the semi-finals of the German Masters and China Open will do wonders for his confidence, with odds of 28/1 about the 12th seed claiming the spoils.
As for Murphy, the 2005 champion has reached a final and a semi-final in the ensuing six years although a whitewash against Mark Selby in the World Open was followed by a 5-2 defeat by a wildcard player in the China Open and that is hardly great preparation.
Bottom half of the draw
Many of the players in the bottom half of the Crucible draw will have been relieved to have avoided Judd Trump although it does look to be a tougher section when you consider that Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen and Mark Selby all have a decent chance of landing the title.
The former two players know what it takes to go all the way in a World Snooker Championship and the Rocket returns to Sheffield looking to win a fourth title, although it has been four years since his last success and it was over ten years ago since the 36-year-old claimed a first Crucible crown.
O’Sullivan is probably worth opposing at odds of 8/1 (Boylesports bookmaker), especially when you consider he meets Peter Ebdon in the first round and then the possibility of meeting Mark Williams in the second and Robertson in the third!
The Aussie was the champion here in 2010 and the Thunder from Down Under is determined to make amends for last year’s first round exit at the hands of Judd Trump which once again saw the famous Crucible Curse struck.
Robertson is a 9/1 chance to go all the way and looks to have two winnable games against Ken Doherty and then Gould or Gilbert, while the bottom quarter of the draw looks equally as competitive.
Mark Selby is the world number one although the Jester from Leicester has not got a great Crucible record. Aside from that final appearance in 2007, there has been just one semi-final to show for the last four years and 10/1 (Sportingbet bookmaker) might not be to everyone’s taste.
Perhaps Ding Junhui is the best value bet at odds of 12/1 (Betfred) considering that the Chinaman is starting to win tournaments on a regular basis. The 25-year-old is coming to the Crucible off the back of a Welsh Open and Championship League victory, with Mark Allen lying in potential wait in the second round.
The Pistol was verbally duelling with Barry Hearn earlier in the season, although the northern Irishman has since put his head down and has a World Open victory and UK Championship runner-up spot to his name.
Finally, the 2012 World Snooker Championship will see Stephen Hendry return to the Crucible for an amazing 27th occasion and the 43-year-old has played every year since 1986. Odds of 100/1 are available about him going all the way.