Over the next couple of weeks I will be building up to the start of the new professional season. First up, a look at the main tour newcomers...
With only six ranking events scheduled this season it will be difficult for most of the new intake to survive.
The problem with starter points is that they aren't a fixed figure but completely arbitrary – the new players receive the same amount of points as the lowest ranked survivor from last year.
This season that is David Roe, who has 4,320 points to carry into the new campaign. Last season new players got 5,088 points.
[Edit: this is nonsense! They actually get points equivalent to the lowest ranked of the eight players on the one year list who kept their places, so it's 5,850, the same number as Atthasit Mahitthi.]
Personally, I feel it would be fairer to double the number of points earned by newcomers to give them more of a chance.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking: if you’re good enough, you will stay on.
There’s a glimmer of truth in this. Mark Allen is the best recent example of a player who came fresh to the tour and made the most of it.
But the fact remains that life in the professional game takes some getting used to, even for those who have gone on to be greats of the sport.
You need time to get used to your new status and the step up in standard required.
The worst thing a debutant can allow themselves to think is that it will be easy. Many of them come to the pro ranks having experienced success as juniors with the feeling – often subconscious – that some of the old sweats of the tour will be easy to roll over.
They will soon learn the truth. We may never see a whole group of main tour players on TV but, at Prestatyn, they know what they are doing. Young players coming through are often lambs to the slaughter.
The modern game is all about attack, but it’s hard to do this when you are constantly on the back cushion or up behind a baulk colour. I think this is why Daniel Wells stayed on last season: he said before the start of the campaign that he was going to be more cautious than many of his contemporaries.
Anyway, step forward the players about to experience professional snooker for the first time...
Thepchaiya Un Nooh
Of these, Thepchaiya Un Nooh is the most obvious newcomer to follow as reigning IBSF world amateur champion.
One current player told me that the “world amateur title isn’t what it was” but, even if this is true, and many would disagree, it doesn’t alter the fact that the Thai won it.
For years, Thailand has been looking for a successor to James Wattana and has never quite found one (indeed Wattana himself returns to the main tour this season). I’ve never seen Thepchaiya play but those who have are excited about his emergence. He won one of the PIOS events last season and can rekindle interest in snooker back home if he does well this term.
But what does ‘doing well’ mean? Well, for all of the above it has to be merely staying on the circuit. To do this they must finish either in the top 64 in the official rankings or in the top eight on the provisional list of those not already qualified.
To put this into context, 24 players will be relegated at the end of the season. How many of these will come from the new intake?
In Snooker Scene, we will be following the fortunes of Jordan Brown in a new monthly column.
He is, as you would expect, very excited but also realistic about his chances. There is no big talk about getting on TV or to the Crucible. He just wants to keep his place.
In common with many young players, Brown relies on support from his parents and also his employer who gives him time off work to play.
Players who have jobs of course have less time to practice but this is an economic reality not helped by the fact that they need to win two matches in ranking events to earn any prize money.
Brown is the Northern Ireland no.1. Brendan O’Donoghue is the Republic of Ireland’s top amateur.
In his favour is the thriving scene in Ireland, with regular tournaments affording competitive opportunities. The same applies to his compatriot David Hogan, winner of the European amateur title.
Sam Baird, winner of the English play-off, lives in the South West, which has only ever produced a handful of top players, but practises with Judd Trump and, like all the newcomers, will be playing more than ever before the Shanghai Masters qualifiers on August 3.
The two Chinese debutants – Mei Xiwen and Anda Zhang – will presumably be practising at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, a first rate venue that gives them the chance to play alongside several world class players, including Ding and Peter Ebdon.
But they will have to adjust to life in the UK and, with the exception of Liang Wenbo, none of Chinese players to emerge in recent years, have really threatened to emulate any of Ding’s feats.
Craig Steadman and Stephen Rowlings have more experience, having played on various circuits for a number of years. Perhaps this will be in their favour. Experience is key in any sport, although ultimately snooker comes down to who can pot the balls no matter how long they’ve been playing.
So how many will survive?
It’s impossible to say. I certainly hope some of them do but, inevitably, they won’t all make the cut.
But I wish them all well. They have practised for years for this chance.
Turning professional is a dream for many thousands of players. Even if it turns into a nightmare for some, to have made it this far is a fine achievement in itself.