Throughout much of the ’90s and most of the noughties, people would tell you “Snooker is dead, there’s no money in it.” But the game looks nothing like it did in those dark days.  It has been reinvented and there are no less than 17 ranking tournaments during the course of the 2019/20 season with prize-pools starting at £170,000 and rising to £2.4 million.

During the course of the current season, over £14 million is up for grabs with additional bonuses for highest breaks and series bonuses such as the £150,000 BetVictor European Series, which has its third leg this week; the popular one-frame Shoot-Out competition.

It could be argued the BetVictor Shoot Out is, above all, the competition that has helped reinvent the sport of Snooker. It’s akin to ‘bonkers bingo’ which has reinvigorated the tired genre courtesy of the addition of music, flashing lights, an enthusiastic raucous audience and fast-paced action.


The Shoot Out Format

In this unique 128-player event, games are timed and all last no more than ten minutes. The matches are a ‘best of one frame’ format (a shoot-out) with a shot-clock of 15 seconds for the first five minutes of a game and 10 seconds for the final five minutes.

And there’s more… players must hit a cushion with a ball or pot a ball every shot. Failure to do so results in a ‘ball in hand’ (the ability to move the white ball anywhere); actually, all fouls result in a ‘ball in hand’.

And should your favourite player safely negotiate their opening match, they will then be subject to an FA Cup style random draw all the way through to the final. Of course, all of this action staged at Watford’s Colosseum, can be watched live on the BetVictor stream or on Eurosport TV.

Given all of these novel criteria, it is foolhardy to simply wade into the current ‘big name’ stars of the game. While Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy, Mark Williams and Kyren Wilson head BetVictor’s betting, this is one competition where lesser-known players normally prevail. Recent winners have been: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Michael Georgiou, Anthony McGill, Ronin Hull, Michael White and Dominic Dale.

I believe the winner may well be relatively young, possibly impetuous, definitely nimble (to dash around the table). Michael White was 23 when he won, Anthony McGill was 26, Georgiou 30. 2016 runner-up Luca Brecel was 20. Xiao Guodong has been runner-up twice, aged 26 and 28.


Competition Schedule

There will be 32 first-round BetVictor Shoot Out matches on Thursday over two sessions, starting at 1pm and 7pm. The format is the same on Friday with an additional 32 first-round games. The single-frame games are fired off in quick succession, starting immediately after the preceding game finishes. There is just one table in the auditorium.


Bravely back the Fearless

And so the only way to attack this event, for my two-penneth, is to back a generous handful of the younger breed at big prices along with some of the notoriously tactically brain-dead and supremely fearless players who will enjoy the ‘attack, attack, attack’ nature of this competition.

There are 22 Chinese players in this tournament, which highlights what a difficult task pinpointing the potential finalists will be. Nevertheless, here are a few candidates to consider at very attractive prices:

Yuan Sijun is only 19 but he’s registered 29 century-breaks in competition and made it to the fourth round of the Northern Ireland Open earlier in the season.

At 31, Xiao Guodong is still relatively young in snooker terms but he has plenty of experience and showed he likes this format when finishing second in this competition in 2015.

Tian Pengfei reached the fourth round of the 2019 Shoot Out (reached the third round in 2018) and is another Chinaman to consider.

Thailand’s Sunny Akani (24) was a Shoot Out quarter-finalist in 2018 and is another player that could go deep.

Of the domestic challenge, 25-year-old Casino croupier Elliot Slessor could surprise many but I really like Scott Donaldson, also 25, who has been in sparkling form in recent months and has registered twenty-five 90+ breaks from the 145 frames he has won in competitive action during the 2019/20 season.

Xiao Guodong

Scott Donaldson

Yuan Sijun

Tian Pengfei 

Sunny Akani

Elliot Slessor 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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