The quick-paced ranking event returns for another edition on the calendar.
Mark Selby, Yan Bingtao, and Jack Lisowski are among those who have entered the Snooker Shoot Out draw in 2021.
The tournament is set to commence on Thursday, with the action once again taking place at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
This will be a very unusual Shoot Out, one devoid of the boisterous atmosphere from the fans that is usually associated with the event.
Still, there will be 128 hungry competitors performing for the top prize in the single-frame bonanza, while hoping for a little bit of luck along the way.
Prize, History, and Format
There is a £50,000 cheque on offer for the champion on Sunday, which is not a terrible payday for just seven frames of work.
The Snooker Shoot Out is, of course, always a controversial inclusion as a ranking event given its deviation from the traditional rules of the game.
Each match lasts only one ten-minute frame, with a 15-second shot clock in operation for the first five minutes and a 10-second shot clock required for the remaining time.
Players lag to determine who breaks off, every shot must result in a ball hitting a cushion or being potted, and there is ball-in-hand for any foul committed.
A permanent fixture on the Main Tour schedule since 2011, no current top-16 player has ever emerged as the winner.
The likes of Barry Hawkins, Anthony McGill, Michael White, and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh have triumphed in the past, but each of them was ranked outside the world’s elite bracket at the time.
Originally an invitational, the Shoot Out was upgraded to ranking event status in 2017 – a decision that did not go down particularly well with the majority of traditionalist supporters.
Michael Holt is the reigning champion following his success against Zhou Yuelong in 2020, and the “Hitman” also reached the final twelve months earlier to make him somewhat of a specialist in the format.
The Shoot Out is additionally the fourth event out of six in this season’s European Series.
The player with the most-earned money after the six tournaments receives a bonus worth £150,000.
What impact the lack of a crowd will have on proceedings this year remains to be seen.
The Shoot Out is the only event that encourages rowdy behaviour from its purposely boozed up attendees, but those distractions won’t be in existence on this occasion given the current restrictions.
Some people will find that their absence will detract from the excitement of what is always a unique set-up, while others will perhaps savour the opportunity to watch the competition without the sometimes tortuous howls and whistles of the inebriated onlookers.
2021 Snooker Shoot Out Draw
Unlike practically every other tournament, there is a random draw made for each round of the Snooker Shoot Out.
The likes of world number one Judd Trump, world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, and UK champion Neil Robertson are notable absentees this year.
Defending champion Holt returns, however, and the 42 year-old faces Jamie Jones in the tournament’s opening fixture on Thursday afternoon.
Lisowski will look to bounce back from the disappointment of losing in the final of the German Masters when he takes on Peter Devlin, while Masters champion Yan entertains Barry Pinches.
Scotland’s John Higgins, meanwhile, will be hoping to make his return against Scott Donaldson after missing last week’s event through illness.
Some of the most intriguing first-round ties include Ali Carter’s battle with Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy against Luca Brecel, Gary Wilson versus Barry Hawkins, and Mark Allen’s duel with Jimmy Robertson.
Women’s world champion Reanne Evans is also back in the Snooker Shoot draw and will look for her first victory in the tournament against Chinese youngster Si Jiahui.
It’s nigh-on impossible to predict a winner, but for what it’s worth, Selby and Wilson are the front-runners at around 16/1 with Holt somewhere around the 50/1 mark.
The next tournament will be the 2021 Snooker Shoot-Out on Thursday, 4 February.
It will be incredibly weird in front of a blank crowd.
— Cluster of Reds (@clusterofreds1) January 31, 2021
Selected Matches From the Last 128 Draw
John Higgins vs Scott Donaldson
Yan Bingtao vs Barry Pinches
Rebecca Kenna vs Simon Lichtenberg
Jack Lisowski vs Peter Devlin
Si Jiahui vs Reanne Evans
Kyren Wilson vs Robbie McGuigan
Ryan Day vs Matthew Selt
Luca Brecel vs Shaun Murphy
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh vs Brandon Sargeant
Ricky Walden vs Xiao Guodong
Yuan Sijun vs Tom Ford
Gary Wilson vs Barry Hawkins
Jamie Jones vs Michael Holt
Mark Allen vs Jimmy Robertson
Michael White vs Mark King
Xu Si vs Jimmy White
Rory McLeod vs Stuart Bingham
Click here to view the full draw (Scheduled times in CET)
Where to Watch the Snooker Shoot Out
Live coverage will be available in Ireland, the UK, and across Europe via Eurosport.
Other options are available for viewers around the world, which you can view by clicking here.
As has become the norm this season, the tournament in Milton Keynes will be staged behind closed doors.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA