No Rocket fuel
Neal Foulds says the World Snooker Shoot-Out will be thrilling - despite Ronnie O'Sullivan's absence.
Last Updated: 26/01/12 5:44pm
We were unsure what to expect from last year's inaugural World Snooker Shoot-Out because other shortened forms of the game haven't been that successful - but it was a roaring success.
What I liked about it was that not only was it a rapid, one-frame, sudden-death event, but all of the top 64 players in the game were in action over the course of the three days. You saw all your favourite players as well some names you didn't know or had forgotten about.
It is a very unforgiving and very unpredictable format. Some players broke off, made a foul and didn't get another look in, while no-one would have expected the two finalists we had, Nigel Bond and Robert Milkins
Everybody knows what they're letting themselves in for this time, though, and I'm looking forward to a terrific weekend. Anyone who cannot get to Blackpool's Circus Arena should definitely watch the action on the TV.
There was plenty of fan interaction last year and the players accept that in this form of the game.
You wouldn't want some witty comments from the crowd during the World Championship final but this is different; it's three days of snooker heaven, where the fan can make noise and the players can enjoy themselves as well as earn some serious money.
The lower-ranked players may be more determined to impress because some of them won't be too used to playing on the TV.
They could also do with the cash injection and the confidence that a successful weekend could bring. If they could generate a bit of momentum in Blackpool, it could spur them on for the rest of the season.
I like that the draw for the Shoot-Out was random; throw everyone into the hat and let it unfold.
Some excellent first-round matches have been thrown up, including a repeat of last year's final between Bond and Milkins, a repeat of last year's World Championship final between John Higgins and Judd Trump, Mark Williams taking on Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry facing a young hotshot named Jack Lisowski.
Michael White, the world number 65 at the cut-off point, has also come into the tournament because of Ronnie O'Sullivan's decision not to play. I'm disappointed that Ronnie won't be there - and I've heard conflicting reports why he's not - but I don't think it will really matter.
The tournament has enough going for it without O'Sullivan and people have snapped up tickets knowing full well that Ronnie wasn't going to be involved.
White will benefit from the Rocket's absence and I'm intrigued to see how he does. The Welshman won the World Amateur Championship aged 14 and is one to keep an eye on.
It is incredibly difficult to pick a winner of the Shoot-Out because almost anyone could triumph, but you'd have to say the players who are quick, instinctive and can cope with the pressure will have a distinct advantage...
Judd Trump could go a long way because he is a very swift player and certainly won't be inconvenienced by the shot clock. He reached the Premier League semi-finals in 2011 and if he can get past Higgins in his opening match, he could be hard to stop. He has developed into a superstar over the last year with his Crucible final and his tournament victories in the China Open and the UK Championship. He likes the spotlight and will be right at home in a packed-out Circus Arena.
Mark King (left) is pretty nippy around the table and played well in this event last year, making it to the last eight. His concentration was good in front of the lively audience. Jamie Cope, too, could do well. He has lost a little bit of form but I've been watching him in the Championship League this week and he is looking more like his old self; he is very fluent when on his game. Robert Milkins made the final last year and I wouldn't discount him repeating that feat this time around.
My good friend Alfie Burden (left) hit a century in this tournament last year and he could put in another good performance. It will be nice to see 20-year-old Jack Lisowski have a run because he is a seriously good talent. He is close friends with Trump and is not too dissimilar to him; he is a very precocious young player. Jack will go a long way in the game, so why shouldn't he go a long way in this tournament? The great Jimmy White is also in the event. He is not the force he once was over longer formats but the Shoot-Out could suit him down to the ground. He'll certainly have the support of the public.