The Shanghai Masters, now in its fifth year, starts tomorrow at the Grand Stage, doubtlessly after the usual fevered opening ceremony.
Unlike tournaments in the UK, where players schlep to the venues often unnoticed, in China they like to make a bit of a fuss and treat them like the top sportsmen they are.
Players are often bemused by this because they aren’t used to it, but the Chinese like to make their events stand out.
Given this, it’s a shame they feel the need to persevere with the dreaded wildcard round, in which the eight lowest ranked qualifiers, who have already had to perform strongly just to make Shanghai, have to play invited players for no extra reward, with a genuine chance of losing.
By and large, Chinese fans are the same as snooker fans anywhere: they’d rather see the top players, those who can afford tickets anyway.
At the China Open, common sense prevailed to an extent as a couple of last 32 matches were at least scheduled for the first day so that big names were available for TV coverage.
That hasn’t happened in Shanghai and the knock-on effect means attractive matches have been shunted to the outside tables, including, ludicrously, Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham.
So that’ll be the China Open champion and World Championship runner-up against the winner of the last major ranking event on table three, then.
Eurosport’s coverage starts on Tuesday, after the wildcard round is over.
The eight qualifiers required to play in this round are an intriguing bunch, mainly experienced players plus young Jack Lisowski.
They include Dominic Dale, winner of the inaugural Shanghai Masters in 2007, and the archly determined Fergal O’Brien.
But the two players who may have problems are Anthony Hamilton, whose dodgy back will hardly have been helped by a long flight to Shanghai and who faces Li Hang, and Nigel Bond, who didn’t lose a frame in his two qualifying matches but who has to play the newly crowned world under 21 champion, Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon.
The top prize this week is £65,000 and Ali Carter will be defending the title he won a year ago.
And with the new seedings list looming at the end of the month, players will be looking for valuable ranking points as the various machinations of the list determine who falls into which bracket, and indeed who is world no.1.
There is no big favourite, but Mark Williams looks to me to be in the easiest quarter, if there is such a thing.