STUART BINGHAM’s enthusiasm for snooker is well known but the Essex man has one problem with the game – it sends him to sleep.

Bingham, who starts his Dafabet Masters campaign on Sunday night against twice champion John Higgins, says he gets so involved in watching the sport that it leaves him mentally drained.

“Any time I need to fall asleep I put the snooker on,” Bingham told Inside Snooker.

“I just seem to drop off. The other morning I couldn’t sleep so I went downstairs and put my match with Neil Robertson at the UK Championship on the laptop. I was falling asleep pretty quickly.

“I think the thing is that I’m watching so intently that it just drains me and tires me out.

“I even remember driving up to watch Jimmy White and Ken Doherty in the Masters with a few mates and falling asleep in those big chairs at the Conference Centre.”

Bingham has been wide awake for the last couple of months, reaching the Champion of Champions final, where Ronnie O’Sullivan pipped him 10-8, and recovering from 8-3 down before losing his UK semi to Robertson 9-8.

The Basildon man, ranked seventh in the world at the start of 2014, has never been past the last 16 of the Masters in four previous appearances but goes into this year’s staging of the sport’s most prestigious invitation event in the best form of his career. However, he won’t be underestimating Higgins despite the Scot’s poor recent run.

“I beat John the first time we played in the Welsh Open but since then he’s trounced me a few times,” Bingham said.

“It’ll be a tough game. He’s one of the best players in the world and even if he’s not at his best he’ll be hard to beat.

“It’s hard to take positives from recent tournaments but I’m trying to. It hurts for a few days afterwards – to come back to 8-8 with Neil and be half an inch from snookering him and having the frame at my mercy. I thought I had a good chance to beat Ronnie in Coventry. He wasn’t playing well and it went a bit scrappy in the second session. Looking at those two tournaments I was fractions away from putting my hands on both of the trophies.

“But you do have to look at the positives. I’m competing in tournaments now, getting to semi-finals and finals. I just hope it can continue.

“I’ve become a lot more consistent. From where I was to where I am now it’s only 5-10% better but that makes all the difference.”

Last year, Bingham led Mark Selby 5-1 in the first round at Alexandra Palace but Selby hit back to beat him 6-5 and, worse still, eventually lifted the trophy.

“What happened last year against Mark was a good learning curve,” Bingham said. “At 5-1 up I was looking at the trophy at the end of the table thinking it could be sitting on my mantelpiece at the end of the week. That’s the worst thing you can do.

“Then Mark started playing well and the rest is history. It was hard to watch him pick the trophy up at the end of the week but it shows what a class player he is.”

Bingham also believes the Masters’ proud history, stretching back 39 years, should be respected.

“The Masters is a great event with loads and loads of memories when you look back at things like Kirk Stevens’s 147, all of Paul Hunter’s wins, John Higgins beating Ronnie and so on,” he said.

“It’s a tournament with history. People talk about the history of the game in golf but I don’t know whether that’s been lost in snooker with the history of the great players. Now it just seems like it’s everyone for themselves, or about making a buck. But there’s a lot of history in our game.”

Photographs by Monique Limbos.