The Northern Ireland Trophy, worth £30,000 to the winner, kicks off the new snooker season with ranking points up for grabs.
Hence the world’s top 32 including number one Ronnie O’Sullivan, along with 16 qualifiers will be cueing up for action at the Waterfront Hall from Monday night for a week.
Holder Stephen Maguire, second in the world rankings, has a new sponsor in Toals Bookmakers which will add to the local interest.
Maguire will be making a personal appearance in Toals Belfast shop in Pottinger’s Entry, just off High Street, between 3-5pm on Monday when customers will be given enhanced odds on the tournament plus complimentary tickets.
Four years ago, Maguire burst onto the scene by winning the European Open and the prestigious UK Championship and after a dip in form, has now worked his way back to be second only to O’Sullivan in the world standings.
O’Sullivan is likely to be all the rage on the betting front, but he does not have a good record here and much will depend on his mood.
But if on song, then he will be the man to beat and he has been installed by Toals at 7-2 ‘jolly’ followed by 11-2 Maguire, 12-1 Stephen Hendry and 16-1 Antrim’s Mark Allen.
The firm have been kind enough to lay yours truly a free bet of £100 on Hendry with the proceeds going to the Northern Ireland Hospice.
Let’s hope the Scot can deliver for this worthy cause.
But for the hardened punter, they will see that 7-2 as a juicy price if Ronnie is on good terms with himself.
He was 5-1 last year but never looked that bothered. But it could be a very different story this time and for those who make it to Pottinger’s Entry in Belfast next Monday afternoon, they will get even better odds, not just on Ronnie, but on anyone else they fancy.