The Sky Shoot-Out gets under way tomorrow as Nigel Bond begins the unlikely quest of defending the title he claimed last year in Blackpool.
Unlikely being the key word because this tournament is like a lottery and, despite being branded as an event aimed at gamblers, I wouldn’t touch this one with a barge pole.
The main reason, of course, is the format. The top 64 players in the world – well, most of them anyway – compete in an FA Cup styled knock-out competition over the best of one frame in each round.
In contrast to Power Snooker, each frame is played with the general rules of the traditional game and lasts only ten minutes long, at which point the player with the most points advances further.
The only minor other variances are that a shot clock is enforced with 20 seconds permitted for the first five minutes of a frame and only 15 seconds allowed per shot thereafter while all fouls result in ball-in-hand anywhere on the table.
Finally, in the event of a tied frame, an unorthodox re-spotted blue will determine the winner.
The tournament returns to the Circus Arena in Blackpool, the same venue for the overwhelming success of the event’s debut staging around this time twelve months ago.
The format is a stylish mix of both the long-established roots of the sport and a flavour of modern snooker to help draw in a fresh audience.
Not every tournament should be like this but it certainly is an entertaining addition to the calendar and the fact that it is a ready-made bundle for broadcaster Sky Sports is a bonus.
Last year, there were some incredible finishes towards the end of frames that had viewers, and commentators it must be said, on the edge of their seats.
In particular, Rory McLeod’s fluked black in the last shot of his frame against Tony Drago had legendary mic-man Clive Everton shouting “incredible” in what has now garnered folklore status while Neil Robertson’s last gasp break of 37 in just over a minute to edge Alan McManus as the timer ticked down to zero was enthralling.
So something a little bit different to add spice to the already action-packed array of tournaments that have made up the 2011/12 campaign and it probably comes at just the right time as well – bang in the middle so that players and fans can have some fun before the inevitable season-ending graft that awaits.
As already said, the Shoot-Out is made up of 64 players – the only two that are missing from the simultaneous ranking list are crowd favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan and Leicester’s Joe Jogia.
It’s hard to really predict any single person or even a group of players that could contest the latter rounds because, in essence, any sort of form goes out the window in such a short format.
In fact, that adds to the drama as the likelihood increases for an underdog to come through and be champion like Bond last year.
There are a few notable first round clashes, though. None more so than the encounter between John Higgins and Judd Trump while two legends of the game in Steve Davis and Mark Williams go head-to-head, as well as there being a repeat of the inaugural final between Bond and Robert Milkins.