Friday 13th will be unlucky for some and lucky for some others this week as the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) William Hill World Darts Championship, due to conclude on January 1, gets underway at the Alexandra Palace in London.
Last year’s version of this event, the final of which regularly attracts audiences of more than a million on Sky Sports TV, was the first since the departure of the 14-times winner, the now retired Phil Taylor.
Filling the void was Dutchman Michael Van Gerwen, who earned his third title in five years - and he is 5/4 on with the bookies to repeat that achievement by New Year’s Day.
But this time around it is another Dutchman who will be at the sentimental heart of the 27th version of this Championship - Raymond Van Barneveld, who has announced that it will be his last tournament as a professional darts player.
Van Barneveld is not expected to win a second title to the one he won in 2007. His odds are 150/1. But "Barney", now 52, will be revered as a massive and popular figure in the sport he has been playing at the top level for the last 35 years.
That news has played its part in the sales of tickets since they became available in July.
"The majority sold out over the first few days," Dave Allen, PDC’s media manager, told insidethegames.
"Over the course of the tournament that adds up to 85,000 fans over 16 days of play."
Sky Sports Arena will become temporarily re-branded as Sky Sports Darts for the duration offering wall-to-wall live action and a number of documentary and feature items.
Van Barneveld will feature heavily -although exactly when the fanfares ring out will be down to him and his continuing form. He is down to play fellow unseeded striver Darin Young of the United States in the first round on Saturday (December 15), with the winner meeting 23rd seed Jeffrey de Zwaan of The Netherlands.
A stats sheet has been assembled for Barney ahead of the Championships. He has won £564,000 ($741,000/€670,00) in prize money at the PDC Championships. Of his 54 matches in 13 editions since his first one in the season 2006-2007, he has won 41.
The unseeded Dutchman would no doubt dearly wish to sign off with the kind of flourish he produced on his first appearance in the PDC tourmament - when he beat Taylor in what aficionados of the sport still regard as the greatest of finals.
From three sets down, Van Barneveld came back to win 7-6 in the sudden death leg. In that leg, he threw first, scoring 100. Taylor – who had won 11 of the 12 previous versions of the Championships, responded like a champion with a maximum of 180.
And Van Barneveld responded in turn like a champion - with his own maximum.
That moment is a treasured piece of darts folk history.
Taylor later, sportingly, described it as the greatest final in which he had ever been involved.
The winner on that occasion received £100,000 ($131,000/€119,000) in prize money, with the runner-up getting half that.
It is a measure of the way the sport in general, and the PDC in particular, has grown in the intervening 12 years that the equivalent sums are now £500,000 ($657,000/€594,000) and £200,000 ($263,000/€238,000). And the total prize fund for the imminent Championships is £2,500,000 ($3,285,000/€297,000,000) .
Van Barneveld’s arrival in the PDC world in 2006 - he joined up in February of that year, soon after Taylor had earned his customary world title win - followed a hugely successful career in the rival British Darts Organisation (BDO), for whom he won four world titles.
The PDC World Championship began in 1994 as the WDC World Darts Championship, following a breakaway from the BDO by the newly formed World Darts Council in 1992 = with snooker entrepreneur Barry Hearn eventually becoming chairman of the organisation, which became the PDC in 1997 following an interim settlement between the two organisations.
Over the years, Hearn has made several offers to buy out the rival body and to unify the sport, but all his overtures have been turned down.
A decade ago the PDC made an offer of £1.8 million ($2.3 million/€2.1 million) to buy the BDO. The offer was refused.
Since that time the PDC has worked to create its own infrastructure for the grass roots of its game.
"We have set up our own structure of developing young players," Allen said. "We have created a very popular Qualifying School."
The latter allows any darts player of 16 or above the chance to compete to win a PDC Tour Card in January of each year.
Next year, from January 16 to 19, following what it describes as its "ongoing growth”, the PDC is organising two Schools to be held simultaneously in Wigan in the United Kingdom and Hildesheim in Germany.
"In that same time we have also expanded globally, establishing ourselves in places such as Australia, New Zealand, North America, Scandinavia and Asia," Allen added.
Also coming up will be the sport’s debut at Madison Square Garden in New York City - which will host the World Series event that has previously been held in Las Vegas.
While the PDC has prospered, the BDO has struggled.
After the first breakaway in 1992, involving a group of disaffected players including several world champions, there has been a steady drift of others in the same direction.
Back in 2006-2007, Van Barneveld became the highest of high-profile re-locators. But the process continues. The forthcoming competition at the Ally Pally will see the debut of Glen Durrant, who won a third consecutive BDO world title in January of this year.
Durrant has since established himself via the PDC Qualifying School and has already risen to 27th in the PDC’s Order of Merit.
His third victory came in the 34th and final staging of the BDO World Championships at the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green.
As of next year the BDO Championship will take place at the Indigo, a 2,800-capacity venue which is part of The O2 indoor arena in Greenwich, with the staging taking place from January 4 to 12.
"We have such fond memories and are extremely grateful to the Lakeside…and all that have helped over the years to make the most famous darts tournament in the world, such a success," said a BDO statement earlier this year.
"Moving to The O2, the most popular venue in the world, is an amazing opportunity and we look forward to working with the O2 and their partners over the coming years to develop a new future for the BDO World Professional Darts Championships."
The prize fund for the 2019 BDO Championships was £329,000 ($432,000/€391,000). As yet no figure for the 2020 version is readily available.
It has been a particularly sad time for the BDO given the recent death of the man who established and ran the organisation from 1973 until he left the Board in 2011 - Olly Croft.
His funeral is due to take place in London this Friday - the same day that the PDC World Championships begin…
Meanwhile, in another part of the darts forest, preparations for a future Olympic bid are coming - slowly - together.
The discussion about whether darts is a sport, or indeed an Olympic sport, has probably not and may probably never come to an end.
But there have been numerous high profile players who have spoken favourably about the prospect, including Van Gerwen.
Asked recently about whether he felt darts deserved Olympic status, Scotland’s Gary Anderson, fifth on the Order of Merit and winner of the PDC world title in 2015 and 2016, told Sportsmail:
"Is shooting a sport? I think darts is, because you have got to hit a target 8ft away and you're working to millimetres.
"I do think it is a sport. It is the same as archery. If you play darts out there at the Ally Pally I don't think there is an Olympic stadium that will come close to that. Show me a sport in the Olympics that gets half as loud in the crowd, I don't think you will find one.
"We are up there performing in front of these crowds. The money that is involved with darts, snooker, football, we are [drugs] tested all the time, which is good. It keeps us clean and happy.
"Anything where you are playing for prize money I am a great supporter of drug testing."
The responsibility for scoping out Olympic possibilities lies with the World Darts Federation, the official world sport governing body formed in 1974.
While the PDC answers to the Darts Regulatory Authority, the BDO has been one of the EDF’s associate member organisations, although its version of the World Championships is no longer a recognised WDF Major tournament.
On November 20 the position of WDF secretary general became vacant as Ray Laverty announced he was unable to complete his term of office because of family reasons.
But in his farewell address to WDF members he commented: "I would like to thank the entire WDF for the opportunity to be a part of such a great organisation, particularly at a time when the world of darts is on the verge of some exciting changes; ones which I am convinced will be greatly beneficial to the sport on every level.
"I believe the WDF is on the right path to seeing darts get recognized as an Olympic sport and thereby also an officially, nationally recognized sport in countries worldwide.
"Platforms now exist for player representation and for our youth.
"I therefore urge you all to continue to show your support for the WDF Executives and new Commission members as the implementation of these changes comes into play.
"Thank you again for everything; I wish you all the very best in these exciting times."
The WDF President, Bill Hatter, was a little less excited in his response to enquiries over the current status of the Olympic project – but he was nevertheless solidly positive.
"At this time," he told insidethegames, "the WDF is in the process of preparing our IOC (International Olympic Committee) application, looking at a time-frame around the third quarter of 2020 for a final review with our sport consultant before submitting to the IOC.
"What this means is IF the application is successful, darts would join the other Sports Federations in ARISF (Association of IOC-Recognised International Sports Federations).
"This is the group that contains sports that are recognised by the IOC and could apply for inclusion into the Games.
"We have no schedule as to when we would present our pitch for inclusion into the Games, though I would think that once we are recognised, we will look into that opportunity.
"The boost we have experienced recently is that all governance documents as well as the necessary Commissions of the WDF (World Darts Federation) have been reviewed and approved by the membership at the last General Meeting at the WDF World Cup in Cluj Napoca, Romania this past October, which gives us the green light to proceed with our application from the membership.
"There are stringent requirements to meet for IOC recognition and they require continuous commitment from the WDF.
"The application is still in its drafting stages."
Meanwhile, Allen underlines the general support of the sport’s top professional players for the WDF’s continuing efforts in this Olympic arena. The idea of a "Dream Team" assembling to do Olympic battle on the oche is distant, but not unviable.
"Players like Michael Van Gerwen and Gary Anderson have already voiced their support," Allen said.
"I think if they did have the opportunity to play at the Olympics, most top players would want to do so."