2014 Players Championship

The Players Championship returns to Butlins in Minehead for its seventh installment in 2014 with the worlds top 32 darts players according to the Order of Merit in attendance. A £300,000 prize fund with £65,000 going to the winner makes the 2015 Players Championship a lucrative tournament for darts players, so expect plenty of twists and turns along the way in an action packed weekend.The tournament which commences on Friday 28th November is played in a knockout format culminating in the final on Sunday 30th November. There are no second chances in the Players Championship and there have been a few big names exiting the tournament early over the years, allowing outsiders to make it to the latter stages.Phil Taylor won the innaugural competition which was sponsored by Coral in 2009 and has gone on to record a further two victories. The Power hadn't lost a Players Championship final until Michael van Gerwen prevented him from winning a fourth title last year and it's the big two in darts who dominate the betting again in 2015.Mighty MikeMichael van Gerwen has taken darts by storm and is quickly becoming one of the most feared opponents on the circuit. He is the defending champion, having won his third PDC major title by defeating Phil Taylor 11–7 in the 2013 final of this event and rates as the man to beat.Mighty Mike appears to be totally unflappable at times with an almost robotic approach. The Dutchman is one of only a few darts players to get the better of Phil Taylor and has already won two PDC premier events in 2014 after winning the World Grand Prix and the World Darts Championships.The ContendersEven van Gerwen can have an off day though and the Players Championship has been an open contest in the past with 9 individual finalists and 4 seperate winners since its inception 6 years ago.You'd expect Phil Taylor to be there or thereabouts again in 2015 having appeared in 4 of 6 finals to date and there may be an opportunity to back The Power at a decent price with MVG the favourite with most online bookies.Surprisingly Adrian Lewis has never appeared in the Players Championship final, a fact which may put some punters off. But the Jackpot is having a fairly decent 2014 in the shadow of the big two and could be a dark horse for the competition. James Wade is another player yet to make the last two, but has been enjoying his darts recently and has the pedigree to succeed having previously won seven PDC Premier events.Former winners Kevin Painter and Paul Nicholson have proven experience in this tournament, but would both seem a risky betting proposition on their recent performances. Gary Anderson was a beaten finalist in 2011 and the Flying Scotsman shouldn't be underestimated, while fellow runners-up Robert Thornton, Mervyn King and Kim Huybrechts will probably need to up their game to reach the same stage again.One darts player we have not mentioned so far is Raymond van Barneveld, and it could be folly to overlook the Dutch talent. Barney suffered a shock early exit in 2012 at the hands of Steve Beaton and was knocked out by Phil Taylor at the quarter final stage last year. However, he showed the old sparkle is still there when winning the Premier League darts earlier this year and could be a real force if bringing his A-game to the 2014 Players Championship.