THE 888CASINO SHOOTOUT is snooker’s version of the short, sharp shock. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s not to everyone’s taste but somebody will leave Blackpool on Sunday night £32,000 better off.
The atmosphere at the Tower Circus Arena is like nothing else in snooker – and it’s this that puts some people off. An often rowdy crowd get involved as matches last a maximum of just ten minutes, with a 15 second shot-clock for the first five and only ten seconds per shot for the last five.
This makes the event largely a lottery but has led to some genuinely exciting matches over the previous three years.
Nobody is pretending this is the World Championship so the best policy is to just sit back and enjoy it. Or, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t watch it.
The four players World Snooker and broadcaster Sky Sports really wanted in the Shootout are in fact not playing. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui have all stayed away.
But the event gives lower ranked players an opportunity to shine and when matches go close, it can be great TV.
The downside is that matches are often not close at all. Also, after three years of the Shootout the novelty may have worn off. There were all sorts of wild calls to incorporate the rules into major events after the first staging in 2011 but nobody is seriously suggesting that should happen now.
Blackpool is an apt setting for this piece of entertainment: a party town with a sense of fun. Snooker can sometimes take itself too seriously so there’s nothing wrong with a novelty event, but competitions such as the Shootout will only ever be distractions from the stuff that really matters.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.