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World Darts Championship: Five players to look out for

They are ready to raise the roof at Alexandra Palace as the great and the good of the darting world prepare to gather for the 2023 PDC World Darts Championship over Christmas and the New Year.

Michael van Gerwen is the 11/4 favourite to claim a fourth world title, Gerwyn Price is 6/1 to register his second while Michael Smith is 15/2 to make it third time lucky after twice losing in the final.

But who are some of the other stars toeing the oche at Ally Pally hoping to lay on a show in the biggest tournament in the PDC's calendar.

Can Rocky land the knockout blows?

What: World Darts Championship 
When: 15th December 2022– 3rd January 2023 
Where: Alexandra Palace, London 
How to watch: Sky Sports 
Odds: Michael van Gerwen 11/4, Gerwyn Price 6/1, Michael Smith 15/2, Peter Wright 9/1, Luke Humphries 14/1, Josh Rock 16/1, Jonny Clayton 16/1

To be a 16/1 chance at the PDC World Darts Championship means you're a genuine contender. To be a 16/1 chance having never even set foot on the Alexandra Palace stage means you're something truly special. 

Take a bow Josh Rock, unseeded and on debut, yet among the favourites to be holding aloft the Sid Waddell Trophy on 3rd January. 

Talk about a meteoric rise. Rocky, as he's known, is 21-years-old, from Northern Ireland and didn't even arrive on the tour until earlier this year. 

Everyone knew about the promise and it has surprised few that he has gone on to win five events on the Development Tour. 

But he has also won a Players Championship event on the main tour, averaged 104 beating Nathan Girvan to be crowned world youth champ and perhaps best of all won the approval of Michael van Gerwen after losing to the Dutchman (with a 104 average and a nine-dart leg no less) in round two of the Grand Slam.

B-lieve in Burnett as Richie turns back clock

There's a Frimley Green B-force heading for the Palace, with former BDO champs, Burnett, Beaton, Barney and Bunting all hoping to rediscover the magic touch that has made them world champions. 

Steven Bunting, the 2014 BDO world champ at the Lakeside in Frimley Green, and four-time winner of the now-defunct BDO's crown Raymond van Barneveld are seeded this year. 

Steve Beaton, champion in 1996, is about to embark on his 32nd successive finals, but it's the presence of Richie Burnett in a big field again that has raised a few eyebrows. 

It was back in 1995 when Burnett had his week in the sun at the Lakeside, beating a little-known debutant by the name of Peter Wright in round one and going on to take care of Barney in the final. 

Two more final defeats followed before he joined the PDC, regularly threatening to become a major winner but never quite crossing the line. He was a regular at Alexandra Palace until 2015 but after a lengthy spell away he's now back. Aged 55, the Prince of Wales beat some good players in qualifying, takes on Adam Gawlas in round one for the right to play Ryan Searle, and is 1000/1 for the title.

Beau leads the female force

Three women will be toeing the oche for the first time this year, with Beau Greaves at 300/1 rated the pick of the three. 

Neither Fallon Sherrock, aka the Queen of the Palace, nor Lisa Ashton, are strangers to this stage, but this will be new territory to Greaves, the 18-year-old from Doncaster. 

Many wise owls in the women's game reckon Greaves might just be the best female player yet, and she certainly looked class averaging 92 in the final to win her first WDF world title in April. 

Beau n Arrow, as the Yorkshire teen is known, has had far less exposure to the men's game than either Sherrock or Ashton and it will be fascinating to see how she holds herself together – with the crowd right behind her – in her opener against seasoned Irish star William O'Connor.   

Luke looking cool for another lengthy run

Unseeded two years ago, ranked 19 last year, now up to No.5, it's fair to say Luke Humphries is heading in the right direction in the sport of darts. 

Cool Hand has made five appearances at the Palace and reached the quarter-finals three times. Arguably unlucky not to squeeze into the Premier League field, rest assured he'll be there next spring after the year he has had. 

After making the last eight at Ally Pally 12 months ago Humphries has gone on to win two Pro Tour floor events, four times on the European Tour to top that Order of Merit, and in the last few weeks has reached the semis of the Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals. 

At 14/1 he'll be carrying plenty of expectations – and cash – into his second-round duel with either Florian Hempel or Keegan Brown.   

Smith sure to fancy chances after breaking his duck

When you've knocked on a major title door eight times and had it slammed in your face eight times, don't you just give up? 

That is the story of Michael Smith's darting career, a story of a ludicrously gifted, naturally talented arrowsmith with a throw from the gods, but someone who kept reaching major finals and kept losing them. 

The hardest one to take was surely at Alexandra Palace last January when he was 5-4 ahead of Peter Wright in the world final only for Snakebite to reel off three straight sets and break Bully Boy's heart once more. 

Two more major finals came and went – against Danny Noppert and Ross Smith, players ordinarily he'd be confident of wiping the floor with – before his luck turned. 

It was at the Grand Slam in November when the darting kingmakers finally smiled on Smiffy, guiding him to the final where a 16-5 triumph over Nathan Aspinall saw him lift a trophy on the big stage for the very first time. Shackles off, this 15/2 shot will become a tough man to stop over Christmas.

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