Christopher Kempf, the statistical analyst of the PDC, takes a look at how the PDC Order of Merit might change after the BetVictor World Matchplay.

Half a million pounds - the largest prize fund of ranking money on offer in any professional darts tournament barring the World Championship - will be at stake at the Winter Gardens beginning this Saturday.

Much attention will justifiably focus on the potential winner of the massive £115,000 winner's cheque, but the distribution of the rest of the money could make or break players' careers.

If Peter Wright or Michael van Gerwen win the Phil Taylor trophy, there will be little change at the top of the rankings, but the difference between a second round loss and a run to the quarter-finals will be felt intensely by the likes of Jermaine Wattimena or Adrian Lewis. 

Michael van Gerwen (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

With the exception of Phil Taylor, there are 11 players who failed to qualify for this year's event having competed in the 2016 World Matchplay.

Terry Jenkins will take the biggest hit to his ranking money once the £10,000 earned from his second-round exit - 12.54% of his current total - is removed.

He will fall from 45th to at least 48th; Jamie Caven will drop from 53rd to at least 58th, and, in two weeks' time, Robert Thornton could potentially find himself on the verge of falling out of the world's top 32 players, two years after qualifying automatically as the seventh seed at the 2016 event.

On the other hand, 12 players will enjoy the opportunity to add the maximum possible earnings to their Order of Merit total as they did not qualify to play at the Winter Gardens two years ago.

Jonny Clayton (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Six players - Jonny Clayton, Jermaine Wattimena, Max Hopp, Jeffrey de Zwaan, Richard North and Steve Lennon - will contest their first-ever World Matchplay and make a giant leap forward in their careers.

Jeffrey de Zwaan in particular has the misfortune of having drawn the toughest possible opponent in the first round - world number one Van Gerwen - and faces long odds to reach the second round.

But de Zwaan has already scored a huge victory for his position in the rankings. The £7,000 which the young Dutchman will earn merely by virtue of having qualified will improve his Order of Merit position by 20%, vaulting him ahead of four players who did not qualify and back into the world's top 64 for the first time in 16 months.

Van Gerwen himself, as the 2016 champion, is defending the £100,000 winner's cheque from two years ago.

Although this represents barely more than 5% of his current ranking earnings, and even though the two-time World Champion is the odds-on favourite to take home the even larger £115,000 winner's prize after capturing the Premier League crown, Van Gerwen will feel under pressure to start collecting the ranking income to match his prodigious 2016 haul.

Rob Cross (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

With Rob Cross likely to become the world number two before the end of the year, and defending no earnings at all from 2016 as he was still an amateur then, the rankings gap between the World Champion and the world number one may narrow considerably after a week in Blackpool.

A victory for Van Gerwen in his potential second-round match against Lewis - who is defending nearly 9% of his income - could confirm the two former World Champions' places in the Order of Merit, or a loss could mark a dramatic turning point in the trajectory of his dominant career.

Mervyn King and Steve Beaton, the surprise quarter-finalists of the 2016 event, will need to match those heroics with similarly outstanding performances this year to avoid falling down the Order of Merit.

King in particular has the steepest hill to climb; unless he can defeat World Champion Cross in his first match, he will lose £10,500 of ranking money and fall from 21st to at least 23rd in the world.

Steve Beaton (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Beaton's assignment is to eliminate Mensur Suljovic, but even a run to the second round would not be sufficient to retain his position as world number 24. 

This is the conundrum of major-event success; every achievement must be backed up two years later.

In the face of an unusually large group of young, talented World Matchplay debutants, some veteran players may find that the competitive realities of darts have changed dramatically in those two years.

Follow Christopher Kempf on Twitter through @Ochepedia

Full Ranking Permutations Table:

    2016 earnings Current OoM total % of OoM to be lost after Matchplay
Qualified 2016; did not qualify 2018 T. Jenkins 10000 79750 12.54%
Caven 6000 63000 9.52%
Payne 6000 67500 8.89%
Dolan 10000 122250 8.18%
Green 6000 78250 7.67%
Thornton 10000 157500 6.35%
M. Webster 6000 103250 5.81%
van der Voort 6000 124750 4.81%
Pipe 6000 150250 3.99%
van de Pas 6000 207750 2.89%
Norris 6000 230000 2.61%
    Minimum 2018 earnings Current OoM total % of OoM to be gained after Matchplay
Qualified 2018; did not qualify 2016 de Zwaan 7000 36500 19.18%
Lennon 7000 75250 9.30%
North 7000 78500 8.92%
Brown 7000 87750 7.98%
Hopp 7000 100250 6.98%
Wattimena 7000 130250 5.37%
Wilson 7000 155750 4.49%
Henderson 7000 160500 4.36%
West 7000 173500 4.03%
Clayton 7000 191750 3.65%
D. Webster 7000 241750 2.90%
Cross 7000 689000 1.02%
    2016 earnings minus minimum 2018 earnings Current OoM total % of OoM to be defended at Matchplay
2016 Winner A. Lewis 20000 230750 8.67%
Semi-finalist Beaton 10500 182000 5.77%
Semi-finalist van Gerwen 93000 1811750 5.13%
Quarter-finalist King 10500 206500 5.08%
Quarter-finalist G. Anderson 20000 548500 3.65%
Quarter-finalist Chisnall 10500 310250 3.38%
Second round K. Anderson 3000 171250 1.75%
Quarter-finalist Wright 10500 745250 1.41%
Second round Price 3000 274750 1.09%
Second round White 3000 275000 1.09%
Second round Smith 3000 306000 0.98%
Second round Suljovic 3000 388750 0.77%