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World Darts Championship: Steve Davies' final betting tips

Three-time champion Michael van Gerwen takes on two-time runner-up Michael Smith in the final of the 2023 World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday evening.

The Racing Post’s darts expert, Steve Davies, has a handful of tips to hopefully turn into a profitable end to a fantastic three weeks of action.

What: Michael Smith v Michael van Gerwen
Where: Alexandra Palace, London
When: 20:00, Tuesday 3rd January 2023
How to watch: Sky Sports Main Event & Arena
Odds: Michael Smith 5/2, Michael van Gerwen 3/10

Van Gerwen's 6-0 semi-final demolition of Dimitri Van den Bergh after Smith had beaten gutsy Gabriel Clemens 6-2, set up a repeat of the 2019 final, with the Dutchman 3/10 to be lifting the trophy for a fourth time.

Smith, a 5/2 chance, eventually overpowered Clemens in his bid to make it third time lucky in the greatest tournament in world darts - but admits he's going to have to improve again if he is to derail the Dutch destroyer.

And if the £500,000 winner's cheque and honour of being crowned champion of the world weren't tempting enough for these two great showmen, a third prize on offer for the winner will be the status of new No.1 in the PDC's Order of Merit.

MVG says it loud and clear - no one can stop me!

He set out a well-fancied 5/2 shot, had gone odds-on by the quarter-finals and heads into the final a 3/10 chance with many darts fans simply refusing to believe that anyone can beat magical, monstrous, mighty Michael van Gerwen.

And it isn't just legions of arrers observers and commentators who think that, so does the man himself.

"No one is going to stop me," bragged Van Gerwen after putting the finishing touches to his 6-0 battering of Van den Bergh in Monday night's semis, one of the most dominant and one-sided acts of sporting bullying the Ally Pally stage has ever witnessed.

A 170 checkout, a checkout percentage of 58 and a three-dart average of 108.28, completing a full house of ton-plus averages in his five matches en route to tonight's showpiece.

He dropped just four legs against Van den Bergh; four of the six sets he won to nil. Twenty-four hours earlier he had dropped just three legs in a 5-0 drubbing of Chris Dobey.

He has lost only three sets in five matches and is playing darts on a different level to anyone else, and it's surely a question of "how far" rather than can he win.

The bet is probably the handicap with Van Gerwen giving 2.5 sets at 4/5.

Smith will have to win five sets in the race to seven for that not to oblige and when you consider than the odds-on favourite hasn’t coughed up a single set since the turn of the year, it's a fanciful notion.

Is Smith the man to give Van Gerwen a game?

On the understanding that Van Gerwen's levels don't drop, or don't drop much, the question darts punters are asking is; how can Smith do what Lewy Williams, Mensur Suljovic, Dirk van Duijvenvbode, Dobey and Van den Bergh so manifestly couldn't?

It's pretty simple, of course. The 5/2 shot from St Helens has to do better than he has so far.

Smith had looked scratchy in several of his matches, only producing consistency against Joe Cullen in the last 16 and Clemens in the semis, when he raced clear from 2-2 with a trademark barrage of big scores and big finishes.

He hit 19 180s, five ton-plus checkouts and averaged over 101, and he knows he has the ammunition on his own throw that someone like Van den Bergh lacks to be able to hold throw enough to win the odd set.

The odd set, of course, doesn't win you a world crown. It's seven that is required and for Smith to have any chance he has to put MVG under pressure early on - and that means not missing any (or many) clutch doubles.

He reached the quarter-finals averaging an admirable 40 per cent on his doubles. In the last two rounds he has averaged 44, so the line is going in the right direction.

Van Gerwen, as we know, averaged 58 per cent on his doubles against Van den Bergh which was off the scale good, but he was under almost no pressure at any stage of the match.

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Head-to-head gives Smiffy a sniff

Van Gerwen, like Phil Taylor before him, often had opponents beaten before they even chucked a dart in anger.

The likes of Dobey and Van den Bergh had such wretched head-to-head records against the Green Machine that they were almost a set down psychologically before the action got under way.

With Smith that's not the case. Sure, Van Gerwen dominates their head-to-head stats - since they met in the 2019 world final, which the Dutchman won 7-3, they have played 18 times and MVG holds an 11-7 edge.

Immediately those numbers illustrate that the advantage is not ridiculously one-sided. Indeed, if you prefer three-match form then the edge is Smith's, the Englishman having won their last three matches, two in the Premier League and then 8-4 in the final of the US Masters in June.

Smith's 180s edge hints at obvious bet

If the formbook stands up then Van Gerwen wins this and wins it fairly well. It's 5/1 he wins it 7-3, 5/1 he wins it 7-4, the former making most appeal.

On the handicap, as mentioned, Van Gerwen is 4/5 giving 2.5 sets and looks the bet.

Most 180s is Smith's domain. He's 1/2 to land those honours and looks a certainty. He has banged in 12 more than MVG thus far - admittedly having played a lot more legs - but the Dutchman is more than happy, a la Taylor, to move away from the treble-20 bed and head elsewhere even if two darts are already embedded in the lipstick.

Match maximums are in at 31.5. There were 41 last year, but that final between Smith and Peter Wright went to 12 sets, so the bet ought to be unders at 4/5.

The obvious bet in amongst all this is the Van Gerwen to win-Smith most 180s match double at 13/10.

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