32 players remain in the hunt for the Coral Shoot Out as the controversial ranking event reaches its conclusion on Sunday.
The Shoot Out, with its shot clocks and other variations from the traditional rules of the game, has divided opinion since its inception in 2011, but none more so than this year when the single-frame formatted event was upgraded to ranking event status.
Almost everyone other than Barry Hearn seems to think that this has been a dreadful decision but the World Snooker supremo is the man calling the shots, and he has vehemently defended his stance throughout.
Despite this, the Shoot Out does remain popular with many fans and players alike as it offers something a little different to the norm otherwise contested on the calendar.
It also provides players further down the rankings list an opportunity to entertain a big crowd in front of a live TV audience, who perhaps wouldn’t already be familiar with a lot of the names which make up the 128-strong tour.
Indeed, in the six previous editions of the Shoot Out, no competitor from inside the world’s top 16 in the rankings has emerged with the trophy.
That trend looks set to continue this year again with only Shaun Murphy remaining in the hunt from the players in that bracket.
One of the major gripes about the tournament becoming a ranking event is that, despite its unpredictability, it may well prove to be the difference between someone breaking into the top 16 and qualifying automatically for the World Championship, or determining who manages to keep alive their Main Tour ambitions for the next campaign.
The likes of legend Jimmy White will be attempting to take full advantage of that as he reached the last 32 for only the second time with victories over Louis Heathcote and Chen Zhe.
The “Whirlwind” is currently set to finish outside the top 64 cut-off point for tour survival, but is holding onto the last of eight spots in a separate list of top money-earners from this season who have not otherwise earned survival and who will subsequently be invited back with a two-year card.
White takes on Scotland’s Ross Muir in the third round, a player whose fate is similarly resting on that order of merit list at the moment.
Ireland’s Ken Doherty, who faces James Cahill, is in a perilous position as well, provisionally outside the top 64 and in desperate need of an upturn in form.
With prize money doubling with each triumph, escalating all the way to £32,000 for the champion, the effect it could have on players’ rankings is huge.
As ever, though, there’s no real way of predicting any likely outcome in the Shoot Out, and it is more to do with who best maintains his nerve and arguably who enjoys the most luck.