The Pukka Pies UK Championship is second in importance only to the Betfred.com World Championship and it will take eight days of qualifying, starting tomorrow, to produce the 16 players who will join the elite top 16 in Telford next month.
Matches are best of 17 frames as opposed to the standard best of nine and competition will be fierce at the qualifying school in Prestatyn.
Judd Trump is a player bang under pressure having failed to win a match in the season’s first two events, the Shanghai Masters and Grand Prix.
However, the talented 20 year-old has performed very well on his debut in the Sky Sports-televised Premier League and takes his place alongside three former world champions – Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy – in the play-offs next weekend.
It’s a long drive from Hopton in Norfolk to Prestatyn but if Trump beats O’Sullivan to reach the final next Sunday night he will have to get to North Wales by 10am the following day.
Not the best preparation for such a crunch match, particularly one that will be played over two sessions.
But at least Trump isn’t in denial about the way his season is turning out.
“This match is really big for me because I can’t afford to lose. There will be a lot of pressure but hopefully it will turn out well on the day. I want to keep moving up the rankings but this season hasn’t been great for me so far,” he told worldsnooker.com last week.
Longer matches tend to mean fewer shocks so it would be a surprise if Ricky Walden and Liang Wenbo, both of whom are provisionally ranked inside the top 16, missed out on a place in the TV stages.
Jamie Cope may have ordinarily been heavily backed but could have to play ex-world champion Ken Doherty, who has enjoyed a major resurgence this season after two desperately frustrating years.
Those of a sentimental nature will support Steve Davis, who won the first of his six UK titles 29 years ago.
If the 52 year-old wins his qualifying match he will play his fellow legend Stephen Hendry in the opening round in Telford.
Obviously, players who only have to win one match have it easier than those who enter the qualifiers in the earlier rounds.
But Matt Selt qualified for Shanghai and the Grand Prix having started in the very first round, winning four matches in each.
Can he complete a hat-trick this week? Well, his confidence will be sky high right now but he faces a tough draw, starting out against David Gray, UK runner-up five years ago, with a match against Rory McLeod, who recently won the Masters qualifying event, looming in the third round.