Just a few hours after Ronnie O'Sullivan eased to the World Grand Prix title, another ranking event will begin at the Welsh Open. The Rocket - imperious in Preston - understandably starts a warm favourite at 3.9, bidding for what would be a fifth Welsh title.
Unlike recent events that were either invitationals or already down to the latter stages, we're starting from a 128-man draw here. That means two rather than the usual one pick in each section of the draw, with an eye towards including a few huge-priced outsiders.
The key to building a successful book in any snooker tournament is identifying players expected to advance through the early stages without too much bother. The first four rounds are played over best-of-seven, so a stack of upsets are almost guaranteed. A pre-tournament trade can become extremely valuable just by reaching the quarter-finals. Recent seasons have been littered with huge-priced semi-finalists, including the odd 1000/1 chance.
Although this column uses a points system that doesn't involve covering, I must add as a piece of wider trading advice. If holding a big position in the semis, the most sensible strategy is to at least cover the risk. I generally look to unload trades and each-way positions from the quarter-finals onwards.
Back Yan Bingtao 1.5u each-way @ 25/1
Back Barry Hawkins 1u e/w @ 33/1
One man who really shouldn't have much trouble early on is Barry Hawkins. Granted, normal rules haven't applied during a dismal year but this is a class act who urgently needs the ranking points after falling way down the one-year list. This draw offers a golden chance to build some form, whilst his main rivals in this section carve each other up.
The men to beat here are Mark Williams and Yan Bingtao. With two recent wins to his name, the former has an obvious chance on home soil. The latter will win soon - the World Grand Prix and perhaps our bets hinged on Bingtao losing the deciding frame to Ronnie. His potential and very swift progress make Bingtao hard to accurately price but I'm happy to stay onside.
Back Neil Robertson 3u @ 17.016/1
Back Elliot Slessor 0.25u e/w @ 275/1
The three heavyweights here are Robertson, Ding Junhui and the perennially over-bet Judd Trump. Ding warrants the utmost respect on last week's form but is always vulnerable in early best-of-sevens and will probably be tested in every round.
Robertson did little wrong when carrying our cash last week. He eased through the first match and was then blown away by a mixture of Selby brilliance and poor luck. Entirely forgiveable and he's another with huge ranking incentives.
As always, Kyren Wilson is hugely respected but I'll try a miracle each-way instead. Elliot Slessor has already reached a ranking semi-final this term, beating Ronnie along the way. He's perfectly capable of beating anyone in this section.
Back Luca Brecel 0.5u e/w @ 70/1
Back Ali Carter 0.5u e/w 70/1
That Slessor shock in Northern Ireland is a counterweight to the compelling narrative that Ronnie is unbeatable right now. At key moments at least in Preston, his ability to produce perfect snooker was somewhat reminscent of the masterclass here in 2014. That remains my pick for the best performance ever - losing just ten frames in seven matches.
Nevertheless, he is less than 4.03/1 to win seven matches, the first four of which are best-of-seven. There are capable types including in-form Graeme Dott in his early path. He traded around these odds twice for individual matches, and 22.021/1 for the title, during last week's romp. Slessor, and plenty of others, have proven that he is beatable on a single day and there's usually a chance to cover Ronnie at some stage.
Three months ago, 70/1 about Luca Brecel would have been unimaginable but the Belgian lost his form and has recently been seen struggling with replacement cues. The good news is that his main cue has been repaired so let's take a chance it works the oracle.
At the same odds, Ali Carter is worth a punt returning to the event that yielded his maiden ranking title nine years ago (he was also runner-up a year later). Although he hasn't been reaching the latter stages of late, Ali seemed to be playing fine in last week's 4-3 defeat and won a recent Championship League. His path is much easier compared to John Higgins or Stephen Maguire.
Back Shaun Murphy 2u e/w @ 20/1
Back Anthony McGill 0.5u e/w @ 80/1
World number one Mark Selby is naturally the main man here but can he be trusted on last week's evidence? We saw all his famed matchplay skills but he's still not at his best. As with Ronnie, a short-odds bet ahead of four quickfire early rounds makes no appeal. There's a good chance he'll face McGill in the last-16 and the Scot should not be under-estimated on last week's evidence plus a broadly progressive profile.
Murphy is the best bet on the card for me. He's overpriced generally on this season's form - even when not reaching the finals, he's cueing well. There's little obvious danger in his draw until the last-16, where Mark Allen could await but the new Masters champion has a very tricky opener against Cao Yupeng.
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