Michael Smith among favourites to win biggest prize in darts at Alexandra Palace

St Helens’ ace of the oche won his first major TV title in the world of darts a few weeks ago.

<p>Michael Smith wins the Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton.</p>

Michael Smith wins the Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton.

Boosted by winning his first major TV title in the world of darts a few weeks ago, St Helens’ ace of the oche Michael Smith will now be totally focusing on winning the biggest prize on the planet.

Smith, beaten in two world championship finals in recent years by Scot Peter Wright (7-5)  and Dutchman Michael van Gerwen (7-3), will be hoping it’s a case of third time lucky for the 32-year-old.

But at this stage Bully Boy doesn’t know who his first opponent will be in the £2.5 million competition which will attract 96 entrants to the Alexandra Palace, London, between mid-December and January 3.

Like his fellow seeds, he will be exempt from the opening round but then faces the winner of a showdown involving Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena, who is returning to something like his old form, or little known 22-year-old Irishman Nathan Rafferty.

It’s a similar story as far as St Helens-born Dave Chisnall and borough-based Stephen Bunting are concerned, both having a bye into round two.

Chizzy - a 40-1 outsider for the title - is waiting to see who he will play but it will be either Ipswich’s Andrew Gilding, or Welshman Robert Owen, while Bunting faces the winner of the first round tie between Dutchman Geer Nentjes, or American Leonard Gates.

Leading odds: Michael van Gerwen (1/3), Gerwen Price (6/1).Peter Wright (7/1), Michael Smith (14/1).