Richard Mann takes an early look at the World Snooker Championship which looks a particularly wide-open renewal this year.
Recommended bets: World Championship
This year's renewal of the World Championship has a wide-open look to it with many of those towards the head of the market having questions to answer and coming with risks attached.
As such, my first bet of the tournament has led me further down the list with Welshman Ryan Day standing out at 66/1.
As regular readers of this column will know, Day is a player whom I have long admired and three tournament wins last term, including two ranking events, represents just reward for a huge talent who has appeared destined for big things ever since pushing John Higgins close in the Grand Prix final back in 2008.
The subsequent years were littered with sparks of brilliance and periods of frustration but now approaching his forties, Day is a much more mature animal and one whose craft has been polished into something close to the finished article.
Six quarter-final finishes this season are a clear indication of Day's improved consistency and although he hasn't really contended post-Christmas, it was only in January that he pushed O'Sullivan close in their last-eight clash at The Masters.
O'Sullivan's post-match comments about Day are also worth noting: "Ryan is a class player and when I was watching him clear up, I thought 'if he beats me today he might go on and win the tournament.'"
That match eventually slipped away from Day but the fact he earned such high praise from someone of O'Sullivan's stature is telling and his peers clearly don't view him as a 66/1 chance to win any event.
In a funny way, the fact Day has been quiet in the last few weeks might even be viewed as a positive. A number of early exits in the build up to last year's World Championship allowed John Higgins to arrive in Sheffield fresher than most as he went on to make the final and perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt there.
It is reasonable to expect that Day has been working hard on the practice table in the interim and his game certainly looked to be in good working order when he knocked in breaks of 72, 82, 57, 108 and 64 in last week's China Open Qualifying defeat of Zhang Anda.
I'm also taking the fact that Day opted to skip the recent Snooker Shootout as another positive and I'm convinced that a big run in one of the remaining tournaments before Sheffield will leave the Welshman cherry ripe for the big one and with his price a good deal shorter than 66/1.
Day is a much better player than the prices imply and considering he has made it to the quarter-final stage of the World Championship three times before, he certainly boasts enough solid Crucible form to make him a big threat if able hit his straps in the early rounds.
Although the world number 17 will have to quality for the first round proper, that didn't prove an inconvenience for him last year and his narrow defeat to Anthony McGill a few days later was more a reflection of a tricky draw and, perhaps, a hard season.
As already mentioned, Day should arrive in Sheffield a fresher player this time around having lifted three titles in quick succession last term and assuming he makes it through qualifying again, he will be the one player who the seeds will be desperate to avoid.
Clearly, holes can be picked in any 66/1 shot but those at the head of the betting are far from bombproof with market leader Ronnie O'Sullivan suffering a couple of early exits since his thumping defeat at the hands of Judd Trump in the final of The Masters.
O'Sullivan was beaten in the second round in Sheffield last year and a couple of quarter-final finishes have been the best he has mustered in his last four World Championship appearances.
Like Day, a successful season and heavy workload might have counted against O'Sullivan's last year and he has clearly been keen to manage his workload 12 months on as he tries to chase down Stephen Hendry's record of seven world titles.
Nevertheless, at 43 years of age, there is fair argument that Sheffield's 17-day marathon plays against O'Sullivan's strengths and with that in mind, I'm happy to leave him be at 100/30.
At 4/1, Judd Trump makes more appeal to me and he is passed over a little more reluctantly.
A phenomenal talent who is a maturing beautifully, wins at the Northern Ireland Open, The Masters and World Grand Prix demonstrate what a ruthless winner Trump has become over the last 12 months.
A much-improved safety game has been a huge boost to his chances of winning the biggest and most valuable events and it's the direct result of the hours of practice he has been putting in as he seeks to squeeze the most out of his incredible natural ability.
With plenty of previous course form to his name, making a case against Trump isn't easy but on grounds of price, and the fact that he will arrive in Sheffield on the back of a hectic season where he has contented in an awful lot of events, I won't be backing him at 4/1.
Mark Selby is so often the man to beat in Sheffield and the should the reigning China Open champion lift that trophy again in early April, his current World Championship price of 13/2 could easily shorten significantly.
Selby's current form has to temper enthusiasm, though, strong shoots of promise held back by frustrating inconsistency that has stopped him from making the business end of a number of recent events when he has appeared on the cusp of regaining his best form.
In truth, the jury is out with me on Selby but he would need to be made of stone for his confidence not to have been dented by a lack of recent trophies and despite winning three of the last five renewals of the World Championship, he was beaten in the first round last year.
Mark Allen's form before Christmas had strongly hinted that a first world title for the Northern Irishman was close but having made the final of the UK Championship before winning the Scottish Open, he has looked a different player and indeed person this side of Christmas.
Openly critical of his own game, he doesn't look in a good place mentally right now and for all he is a wonderful player with a fabulous temperament, he is hard to fancy on most recent form, especially with quotes of 16/1 hardly dangling the carrot.
Recent Welsh Open hero Neil Robertson was crowned world champion in 2010 and has been back to his best this season, enjoying a fine run of form and playing some terrific snooker.
Of the market principals, he probably makes most appeal at current odds of 14/1 while Kyren Wilson has the game for Sheffield and is another who relishes playing at the Crucible.
Ding Junhui has seemed destined to become world champion for some time now, but he has drawn me in previously before falling short, while last year's winner Mark Williams has yet to reach anything close to those heights this term.
With the diamond that is Jack Lisowski still needing to be polished in order to have all the facets needed to pass the most rigorous test of all, that leaves John Higgins as the last player I will discuss for now.
Four times a winner of snooker's ultimate prize, Higgins has appeared shattered by losing in the final of this event in each of the last two years but his game is tailor made for Sheffield.
Arguably the second best player of all time after O'Sullivan, Higgins has everything required to succeed at the World Championship; flawless break building, a brilliant safety game and nerves of steel.
Furthermore, his previous experience is such a huge plus in the long matches that Sheffield offers and it was that hard match-play snooker that ultimately proved the difference in his semi-final defeat of Wilson last year.
For Higgins, this season has been a disappointing one but he played well to reach the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open recently and more important that that, he appears much happier with his game than in the early throes of the campaign.
Losing the last two finals at this event has hit him hard but time is a great healer and don't rule out Higgins returning to his peak by the time April comes around again.
If he does, he'll be a big player again and there will be some willing to take that chance at 20/1.
Posted at 0620 GMT on 28/02/19