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A tried and trusted formula for making money on snooker involves studying the draw and trying to predict how it will pan out over the tournament. Picking out one player from each quarter leaves open the possibility of a dream semi-final line-up, although more realistically, just getting one or two of the semi-finalists should create an opportunity to 'green up' before the tournament ends.

Quarter One: 2u Stephen Maguire @ 18.5
No player has defended this title since Stephen Hendry in his pomp during the early 1990s and after a terrible season by his standards, there is little to suggest John Higgins is about to buck the trend. The draw hasn't done him any favours either, presenting one of the most dangerous first-round opponents in Liang Wenbo, yet the Wizard of Wishaw remains clear favourite in this top quarter, offering several value alternatives.

A good case could be made on value grounds for 140.0 chance Stuart Bingham, who is seeded to meet Higgins in round two, but slight preference is for Stephen Maguire, in the hope that the Glaswegian will finally achieve his infamous potential on snooker's biggest stage. While Maguire has produced some great snooker in this event, his most memorable Crucible moments involve throwing away big leads to Ronnie O'Sullivan and, most painfully, to Higgins in the 2007 semi.

Narrow defeats in two ranking finals this year failed to dispel his 'nearly man' status and a similar fate may await in the latter stages, but with easily the best recent form amongst this section, is fancied to reach them and therefore trade much shorter. It may be significant that Maguire defeated his nemesis Higgins in their two recent ranking event encounters, 6-4 at the UK Championship and 5-0 in the German Masters.

Quarter Two: 6u Judd Trump @ 6.6
Last year's runner-up thoroughly deserves the pre-tournament favourite's tag, especially having been placed in by far the weakest section of the draw. He's already shown a love for this big stage and by landing the sport's second-most prestigious title at the UK Championship, Judd set the benchmark as snooker's new man to beat. The only realistic threats in this quarter are Shaun Murphy and Stephen Lee, who are drawn to play one another before meeting Trump in the quarter-finals, assuming they negotiate tough first round assignments.

Quarter Three: 4u Neil Robertson @ 10.5
It was no surprise to see Neil Robertson flop when returning to the Crucible as champion and given his all-round improvement since winning here in 2010, the Melbourne Machine represents excellent value to regain the title. The reigning Masters champion has since become arguably snooker's most complete player - marrying superb break-building talent with a smart, patient tactical game - as all-comers found to their cost at Wembley. Robertson and Judd Trump have already played out classic semi-finals this season in the two biggest events, signalling the beginning of a great rivalry. With the Crucible draw pitching them in opposite halves, they could well contest the final.

There is one huge obstacle to Robertson in this quarter - three-times champ Ronnie O'Sullivan - and should the seedings work out theirs could be a classic quarter-final. Ronnie, however, must first deal with Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams, whereas Robbo has a more straightforward route with Ken Doherty and probably Martin Gould.

Quarter Four: 3u Ding Junhui @ 13.5
The bottom quarter looks the toughest to solve, including four of the best players never to win this title. Twice runner-up Matthew Stevens is by far the least likely of them, but can hardly be written off given eight quarter-final appearances at the Crucible.

World number one Mark Selby has been heavily backed every year since losing the 2007 final, but the 'Jester from Leicester' has developed a nasty habit of ruining his chance by throwing in one bad performance. Should Selby and Stevens meet in the last-16 as expected, it could be closer than the odds suggest.

Nor will it be easy to separate Mark Allen and Ding Junhui should they meet in round two but as both of these recent ranking event winners are available in double figures, they represent better value than Selby. Very marginal preference is for Ding, who is reportedly flying in practice and must be considered unfortunate to have lost a classic semi to Trump last year. He ended Selby's challenge 12 months ago and confirmed superiority in the Welsh Open final. Ding is a much smarter character than the erratic potting machine that first emerged on the scene and could be ready to fulfil the expectations heaped on him as a teenager.
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