The first incarnation of the Shootout in Blackpool two years ago was a success.
It entertained the paying public, provided Sky Sports with very good audience figures and gave the players a chance to let their collective hair down over what was a bit of well paid fun.
There was all manner of nonsense talked afterwards about how the rules should be adapted for the World Championship but this was soon forgotten when proper snooker soon returned into view.
Last year’s staging of the Shootout wasn’t quite as entertaining, but that’s the thing with novelties: they soon wear off.
This season’s Shootout, sponsored by Betfair, begins this evening with new rules. Matches will still be ten minutes long but rather than the first five minutes having a 20 second shotclock and the last five one of 15 seconds, it will now be 15 seconds for the first five minutes and 10 seconds for the last five.
This risks making the players look pretty stupid. One of the appeals of snooker is the skill on show but there is precious little time under this format to even get into position to play, let alone execute the shot correctly.
The rules were altered at the insistence of Sky, who felt players were guilty of running the clock down last year. Even if this is true, it is one of the inevitabilities of having a timed match.
The Shootout is a piece of entertainment. It’s an ever-changing cast of players competing for the £32,000 first prize. However, it is only really compelling when matches go close.
It’s better in my view than Power Snooker, of which little has been heard of late, even though a date for an event was added to the World Snooker calendar for March, but shouldn’t really be taken seriously – either within snooker circles or by those who really, really, really want everyone to know how much they dislike something on television that they are apparently forced to watch/tweet about all night.
One player I spoke to last week had it about right: ‘I’m going to go up there, have a few beers and enjoy myself.’
And what is wrong with that?
That said, Neil Robertson isn’t playing and Judd Trump, who recently said snooker audiences should be more like those at darts, hasn’t entered the one event where this already happens.
Blackpool is a party town and I trust a good time will be had by all.
Those for whom it holds little appeal only have to wait a few days until the German Masters.