The long and winding road that is snooker's Championship League comes to its conclusion on Wednesday and Thursday with the Winners' Group.
Seven players, headed by 10/3 shot Judd Trump, will share the baize at Leicester's Morningside Arena in a cut-throat, round-robin dust-up with the top four from the standings going into the playoffs.
John Higgins, an 11/2 chance, is the defending champion having triumphed for a third time in this event last year.
|What||Championship League Winners' Group|
|Where||Morningside Arena, Leicester|
|When||Wednesday 1st March – Thursday 2nd March, 2023|
|How to watch||bet365 live Sports Streaming|
|Odds||J Trump 10/3, N Robertson 9/2, K Wilson 11/2, J Lisowski 11/2, J Higgins 11/2, S Bingham 15/2, X Guodong 10/1|
It all began back on 19th December when the first seven of this year's eventual quota of 27 participants, entered the arena at the Morningside Arena for Group One of this season's Championship League.
Jack Lisowski, the world No.13, played the opening match against Jimmy Robertson, won it 3-1, and just over 24 hours later had won the group to qualify automatically for the Winners' Group.
Since then, six more seven-man groups have yielded six more winners – Stuart Bingham, Kyren Wilson, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Xiao Guodong – all invited back to line up alongside Lisowski in the final group, played over Wednesday and Thursday.
It's the usual format – a round-robin group, all matches best-of-five frames with the top four from the standings going into the four-man playoffs. The overall winner, as well as picking up the trophy, gets an invite into next season's Champion of Champions.
Judd Trump is 10/3 to land the honours and less than two months after the gifted left-hander dotted up at The Masters, he's obviously a hard man to discount.
Trump had actually looked fairly rusty at Alexandra Palace against Ryan Day and Barry Hawkins, winning both games in deciders, before finding his form against Stuart Bingham who he crushed 6-1 and in bursts during his final success over Mark Williams.
He followed that up by making the final of the Grand Prix but since then has suffered early exits from the Welsh Open and Players Championship, playing a total 23 frames of snooker without mustering a single century.
Trump is pure class but needs to click into gear and these low-profile events certainly don't play to the crowd-pleaser in him. Though having booked his place in this final group – he won his qualifying group in the first week in January – he's clearly got a great chance.
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Trump may be the favourite but all seven men are genuine contenders with maybe 9/2 shot Neil Robertson thinking his name is on the trophy.
The Australian had to wait until Group Six to take his chance and looked like he'd blown it when he lost his first three round-robin games. But he came back the following morning and reeled off five straight wins to make it through, a rare success in what has been a fairly barren 2023 for the former world champ.
Masters and subsequent German Masters semi-finalist Jack Lisowski is going to have his backers, so too Kyren Wilson, fresh from making the Players Championship semis.
John Higgins has won everything while fellow veteran Stuart Bingham hasn't had a great season, though he did reach the last four of the Masters.
The outsider of the pack is Xiao Guodong at 10/1 yet he's surely the player with the most confidence having become the last man into the competition on Tuesday.
World No.38 Xiao had needed to win his final group-stage game just to make the playoffs and did so, beating Matthew Selt 3-1.
He then beat Graham Dott in his semi and trailing compatriot Lyu Haotian 2-0 reeled off three in a row to secure the final berth at the Morningside Arena.
The former Shanghai Masters runners-up enjoyed breaks of 104 and 64 against Dott and showed a real matchplay nous to take care of Lyu in the final.
Xiao has had a solid if unmemorable campaign though in the last couple of months he has reached the quarter-finals of the Grand Prix – beating Robertson and Ryan Day – and the same stage of the German Masters.