There are still four months to go and plenty of snooker to be played before the Masters at Wembley Arena but thoughts will soon be turning to who should get the wildcard.
As most people know, the tournament is for the elite top 16, plus the winner of a qualifying event, plus a discretionary choice.
The wildcard should reflect two things: achievement by a player outside the top 16 and popularity.
So who are the early runners and riders?
The favourite in my view is Liang Wenbo as he ticks all the relevant boxes.
He became the first Chinese player to reach the World Championship quarter-finals and did so playing entertaining, attacking snooker.
Liang goes for everything. This is not necessarily advisable but it does make for compelling viewing.
He’s only 21 and his presence in the event would raise interest in the Masters in China.
I think World Snooker were right to hold over two of his qualifying matches in the Shanghai Masters to the venue as his popularity back home is rising all the time.
If not Liang then who?
Mark Williams won the title in 1998 and 2003 but has now dropped out of the top 16. He would certainly add to the tournament’s prestige, as would two other relegated players, twice runner-up Ken Doherty and Stephen Lee, who lost to Mark Selby in last year’s final.
Dave Harold reached the Northern Ireland Trophy final while Steve Davis would be the choice of nostalgics.
And then there’s Jimmy White, the darling of the Wembley crowd for 26 years until he was overlooked last season.
White has made a fine start to the new season but will have to keep it going to get a look-in next January.
The way snooker is at the moment, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone outside the top 16 – perhaps Jamie Cope or Judd Trump – did something dramatic, possibly even win a tournament, to stake their claim for the wildcard.
The announcement will be made in November after the Shanghai Masters, Royal London Watches Grand Prix and Bahrain Championship.
So there’s plenty that can happen to alter the above list of runners and riders.