NEW SEASON: AT THE CAPTAIN'S TABLE
And poker-faced Ali is not. Winning or losing, in the moment, matters, as it should because far from being ‘just a game’ it’s actually a profession.
Carter has always been a feisty campaigner. I remember how impressed I was with him when he broke through at the 1999 Grand Prix, beating Stephen Hendry and reaching the semi-finals.
He was a young lad of about 20 then and he had a real burning passion for the game, perhaps born out of his Essex background where snooker has always been highly competitive and full of bullish characters.
Largely as a result of that tournament, Carter was made a member of the inaugural Young Players of Distinction programme (or Young Players of Extinction as cruel journalists christened it when it was scrapped two years later).
Also on that scheme were the likes of Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire and Ryan Day.
By 2005 Murphy was world champion, Maguire UK champion but Carter yet to appear in a ranking final.
He didn’t consider his contemporaries to be any better than him and maybe their success spurred him on. Players aren’t necessarily jealous when a rival wins a tournament but many of them look at another player and think, ‘I can do that.’
Of course, Carter had something to contend with that the others didn’t: illness.
He suffered from Crohn’s disease, a cause of concern and detrimental to his career, and required hospital treatment. At the end of last year, just after he won the Shanghai Masters, problems resurfaced.
But Carter has always been an energetic sort and has just got on with it. Not content to sit around waiting for tournaments to magically spring up, he wisely invested in a snooker club and even completed training to be an airline pilot when the game wasn’t going anywhere.
Then in 2008, the Championship League came along. Happily for Carter it was played a few miles from where he lives. He played in every group and was so match fit by the time he went to the Crucible that he made the World Championship final, making a 147 en route.
Since then he has won the Welsh Open, playing superbly in the final session of the final, and the Shanghai Masters.
So Carter is now among that group of eight or nine players from which the winner of most of snooker’s main titles will most likely come.
A heavy scorer, his strength also comes from his competitive spirit, although players who wear their hearts on their sleeves also run the risk of not being able to remain calm when things are going wrong.
I expect more of the same from Carter but am particularly interested now to see if he can land one of the ‘big three’ titles from which really good careers become great ones.
Last season I tipped him for the Masters, which is possibly why he didn’t win it. To triumph in these tournaments, consistency is key because you are certain to be facing world class players in almost every round.
Carter is good enough, I believe, to win any of these titles but the game at the top level remains highly competitive, so nothing is guaranteed for even the most talented.