It’s fair to say that the Sky Shoot-Out, which returns to our screens tonight for a third successive year, divides opinion.
Some see it as some light relief in an otherwise hectic calendar that facilitates an abundance of the traditional format of the game.
Others point to its gimmicky premise, crowd noise encouragement and the overuse of the shot-clock as reasons to bemoan its existence.
While I do understand the latter’s perspective, I am firmly in the corner of the former’s attitude – it’s just a bit of fun that in no way intends to change people’s opinions on regular snooker.
For those who are new to the Shoot-Out or have forgotten the rules since its last staging in Blackpool last January, here’s a quick rundown of how it works.
(From World Snooker) All matches up to and including the Final will be one frame. All matches will be a maximum of 10 minutes in duration with a shot clock; the first 5 minutes at 15 seconds, and the remaining 5 minutes at 10 seconds. The other rules are:
• All fouls to result in opposing player having the ball in hand. Clock starts when player takes cueball.
• Players must hit a cushion or pot a ball on every shot.
• Players ‘lag’ for who breaks (winner decides)
• Blue ball shoot out in event that points are tied in frame (winner of lag decides who goes first). Cueball placed in D.
In the inaugural meet in 2011, fans were treated to a weekend of thrills as plenty of encounters went down to the last few seconds – with Neil Robertson’s winning black against Alan McManus being potted on the final buzzer itself.
However, the 64-man tournament failed to live up to those expectations last year and many felt that it was a boring affair where frequently one player surged into the lead early in a frame and was easily able to defend it.
The unpredictability had been stamped out but to try to counter that the organisers have reduced the shot-clock by five seconds in each of the two five-minute segments of a match.
It takes some players ten seconds to walk around the table for their next shot, let alone take it, so it will be interesting to see how the competitors get on.
As was highlighted in the opening two years, predictions go out the window as Nigel Bond and Barry Hawkins emerged victorious from a quality field.
The format obviously suits the more naturally fluent players so you would imagine that the likes of Mark Allen, Mark Williams and maybe Tom Ford could fare well.
However, at the end of the day it really is a lottery and to make a punt would be more for the laugh involved rather than to be an educated guess to earn any money.
The players themselves, most of them anyway, will be happy to have a weekend off from the grind of the arduous circuit and an opportunity to have a bit more interaction with both their opponents and the crowd alike.
And the prize money is not to be sniffed at. The champion on Sunday will take away £32,000 for 50 minutes work. Not too shabby!
The other advantage of the Shoot-Out is it gives fans of all kinds the chance to see a few more faces than they usually would get the chance to see.
And with a lot of matches on during a session, it is easy to dip in and out as you please.
The point of the Shoot-Out is to not take it too seriously. It’s meant to be a bit of fun, and should be taken as such.
Let’s just hope that it can deliver a few dramatic finales to rival the excitement of the first year.
Arguably the tie of the round features Ken Doherty, with the Irishman going up against form man and world no.1 Mark Selby in the first round.
The draw can be viewed by clicking here.