The Partypoker.com Premier League gets underway for a new season tonight with seven of the game’s top players involved in what is now one of the longest running events on the snooker calendar.
The League has been promoted by Barry Hearn’s Matchroom since 1987 and is broadcast in the UK by Sky Sports.
Uniquely, it has been using a 25 second per shot time limit for the last few years.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has won every time under this format and is a big favourite to do so again this year.
This is the perfect event for O’Sullivan. He has a very low boredom threshold and so likes just coming for one night, playing and then going home.
The shot clock doesn’t bother him because he is so naturally fast and the £1,000 per frame and per century, as well as the £50,000 top prize, understandably appeals.
Ding Junhui usually plays well in the Premier League as well. Last year, he set a new world record of 495 unanswered points when he blew away Stephen Hendry 6-0.
Hendry and his fellow legend Steve Davis represent the veteran contingent but, for the first time, there is no Jimmy White in the field this season.
Instead, there are places for John Higgins, Mark Selby and Joe Perry.
Higgins was runner-up to O’Sullivan last year and is, of course, well capable of winning any tournament he enters.
Selby was, in my view, quite rightly given a place after his performances last year.
He isn’t the quickest player but has shortened his cue action and I expect him to do very well and at the very least reach the semi-finals.
Perry won the Championship League to qualify and is I know relishing the experience of playing in the Premier League, something he thought he would never do.
Not everyone is a fan of this event. Some argue it is more like an exhibition than a proper tournament but I think it’s a good showcase for snooker and takes the game to parts of the UK that generally don’t get to see live action.
Take tonight’s venue: the Grimsby auditorium. Grimsby has long been a snooker hotbed, producing players such as Ray Edmonds, Mike Hallett, Dean Reynolds and Sean Storey.
I have no doubt at all it will be a packed house, as it tends to be at all the League nights.
The promoters develop links with all the local newspapers around the various venues and a cracking atmosphere is usually guaranteed.
This obviously helps O’Sullivan and co to produce their best snooker.