Phil Taylor won his 15th world title at the Alexandra Palace on 3 January
Phil Taylor will begin the defence of his Players Championship title at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet on Thursday.
Peter Manley, who Taylor defeated in three World Championship finals, is the 49-year-old's first-round opponent.
The 15-times world champion, from Stoke-on-Trent, defeated Scotland's Robert Thornton 16-9 in the 2009 final.
Adrian Lewis, fresh from an impressive run to the last eight of the World Championships, is also in action on Thursday against Brendan Dolan.
Lewis could face fellow Stoke-on-Trent player Andy Hamilton in the last 16, if Hamilton is victorious in his first-round encounter against Alan Tabern.
The tournament winner will receive a cheque for £60,000, with the final taking place on Sunday evening.
It is the final major PDC event to take place before the start of the Premier League in London on 11 February, with Taylor and Lewis both part of the eight-man field.