The 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship will begin at London's Alexandra Palace on Friday, as reigning champion Michael Smith begins his defence of the title on a bumper opening night.
The 31st staging of the World Darts Championship will see players from around the globe competing for the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy, with number one seed Smith headlining the 96-player field.
The festive feast of darts - which takes place from Friday December 15 through to the final on Wednesday January 3 - will see 24 debutants and 27 countries represented in the 2.5 million pound showpiece.
Smith created global headlines with his sensational triumph in January, producing an incredible nine-darter in a leg dubbed 'the greatest of all-time' on his way to a 7-4 success against Michael van Gerwen.
The world number one will take centre stage on his Alexandra Palace return on Friday, when he plays Dutch debutant Kevin Doets or Grand Slam of Darts quarter-finalist Stowe Buntz for a place in round three.
"I'm not quite ready to be called the former World Champion yet," declared Smith, a finalist in three of the last five World Championships.
"I know what it takes to win it now, and I know I can bring my A-game. To become only the fourth player to go back-to-back would be amazing.
"When you retire, people can sometimes forget that you've won it, but when you've won it multiple times, you leave a legacy behind, and that is what I want to leave now."
The pre-Christmas period at this year's World Championship will feature nine days of first and second round action from December 15-23.
The top 32 players from the PDC Order of Merit will enter the tournament in the second round, with the ProTour Order of Merit qualifiers taking on the International representatives in round one.
2010 runner-up Simon Whitlock will also feature on the tournament's opening night, as he plays Paolo Nebrida for the right to face Gary Anderson in round two on Saturday December 16.
Two-time World Champion Anderson has enjoyed a welcome return to form in 2023, scooping a hat-trick of ProTour titles and progressing to last month's Grand Slam quarter-finals.
The 52-year-old won a record 17 consecutive matches at Alexandra Palace between 2014-2017, and he's bidding to roll back the years to become the first Scot to win a third World Championship crown.
"This is the big one," insisted Anderson, who has featured in five Alexandra Palace finals throughout his glittering career.
"If you cannot get up for the World Championship, then you shouldn't be playing the game!
"I think it's going to be a brilliant tournament. You need to use every bit of knowledge and skill you've picked up over the last 20 or 30 years, and hopefully it all comes together."
Four years on from her history-making exploits in the capital, Fallon Sherrock will take on Jermaine Wattimena in her first round tie on Sunday December 17, with former Masters champion Joe Cullen also set to star.
However, world number three Luke Humphries will headline Sunday's double session, having lifted World Grand Prix, Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals titles during a blistering 49-day spell.
"I'm riding the wave at the moment," insisted Humphries, who has won 20 of his last 21 Premier televised matches, in a record dating back to October.
"I'm full of confidence and I think that makes me dangerous, because when I'm at my best, I am a very tough player to beat.
"I feel much more equipped this year than I have done at any other point of my career, and I really believe this could be my year."
2021 champion Gerwyn Price begins his latest title bid on Monday December 18, on a night which will also see World Youth Championship finalist Gian van Veen make his bow in the sport's biggest event.
Van Veen's compatriot Van Gerwen will then enter the fray on Tuesday December 19, as the Dutch superstar sets his sights on a record fourth Alexandra Palace crown.
"The World Championship is the World Championship, and the top boys will come out fighting," vowed Van Gerwen, who will meet either Keane Barry or Reynaldo Rivera in round two.
"I know I am one of the favourites, and you need to perform like a favourite. It's important to put your opponents under pressure from the beginning and that's my goal.
"I feel relaxed, I feel comfortable, and I believe if I play my A-game, nobody else beats me."
Steve Beaton - making a record-extending 23rd consecutive PDC World Championship appearance - will also be in action on Tuesday, alongside four-time semi-finalist James Wade and Japan's Mikuru Suzuki, who returns to Ally Pally following a four-year hiatus.
Two-time World Champion Peter Wright will open his challenge on Wednesday December 20, with World Youth Champion Luke Littler up against former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist in round one.
The first round draws to a close on Thursday December 21, as 2018 winner Rob Cross, seventh seed Danny Noppert, last year's semi-finalist Gabriel Clemens and Australian number one Damon Heta all take to the stage.
Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld - a winner on debut in 2007 - will be among the high-profile names in action on Friday December 22, with 2022/23 semi-finalist Dimitri Van den Bergh and Masters champion Chris Dobey also set to star.
The second round will then conclude across two sessions on Saturday December 23, as World Matchplay winner Nathan Aspinall gets his sixth Alexandra Palace campaign underway.
The world number six made back-to-back semi-finals in his first two World Championship appearances, and now he's aiming to cap off a terrific season by claiming the darting holy grail.
"It would be the stuff of dreams," admitted Aspinall, who will feature on December 23 alongside Jonny Clayton, Stephen Bunting and Josh Rock.
"If I was to win the World Championship, I think it would be one of the greatest wins in darts.
"I've had the injury, issues with my throw and the knockbacks, but there is no reason why I can't pick that trophy up this year. It will happen. Whether it's this year, next year or the year after, it will happen."
Following a three-day Christmas break, the third and fourth rounds will be held from December 27-30, with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final taking place from January 1-3.
Alongside the 500,000 pound top prize for the eventual champion, players will also be competing for the Ballon d'Art trophy - created by title sponsor Paddy Power for the player who hits the most 180s during the event.
The new award is the latest addition to THE BIG 180 Campaign, which will see Paddy Power donate 1,000 pound to Prostate Cancer UK for every maximum scored during the 2023/24 World Darts Championship.
The tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).