The ninth season of the WSOP Circuit has had a fair share of memorable moments so far this season. We’ve already awarded over $22 million in prize money, handed out 120 rings, and determined 20 players we'll be seeing at this year’s WSOP National Championship presented by Southern Comfort 100 Proof.

And we’re only halfway done. 

The first half of this season ended on a high note at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. The always-popular stop was bigger than ever. A $580 buy-in re-entry event early in the Choctaw schedule drew 2,209 entries, making it the fourth-largest Circuit event ever. The Main Event drew equally impressive numbers with 1,140 entries—the third largest Circuit Main Event ever.

Choctaw wasn’t the only highlight for the Circuit so far this year. The season kicked off with a bang, as Kyle Cartwright won his record-tying fifth Circuit ring in the IP Biloxi Main Event. He also became the first and, so far, only three-time qualifier to the National Championship. Over the course of the season, notables like Amanda Musumeci, “Miami” John Cernuto, Dan Heimiller, Ari Engel and other picked up rings. 

Alex Masek found himself in the winner’s circle twice so far this season, a place he is quite familiar with. Masek won ring number five in December at Harrah’s Rincon, then set a new all-time record with a sixth win earlier this month at The Bicycle Casino.

For WSOP Media Coordinator Lukas Willems, a highlight of the season came at one of our new stops, the River Rock Resort and Casino in Vancouver. 

The first-time event, held in Richmond, BC, CA at River Rock Casino just outside Vancouver, was a mega success,” Willems explains.

“The Main Event drew 1,032 entrants and was the second [of three] Main Event of the season to draw more than 1,000 players. Additionally, it went in the history books as the third largest Circuit Main Event until Choctaw Resort bested it just last week.

River Rock Casino also made the most of their partnership with PlayNow.com, a Vancouver-based, government owned and regulated online poker site. The site ran two events; $320 and $530 No-Limit Hold'em tournaments. The online tournaments were recognized as official WSOP Circuit events, awarding gold rings to the champions and official WSOP Circuit ranking points to all those who finished in the money.

It's safe to say the 2012-2013 WSOP Circuit series at River Rock Casino was the inaugural stop in what promises to be a very long, successful relationship.”

The success stories weren’t exclusive to our new properties though. As WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla points out, even some of our original stops saw booms in attendance.

“Each tour stop has its own reasons for attending.  Many stops are attractive for reasons which extend far beyond the poker table.  The very best tour stops combine a competitive tournament atmosphere along with the social interaction of a gaming convention or a frat party,” Dalla says.

“One of the current season's best examples of the WSOP Circuit being far more than just a poker attraction was the November stop at Harvey's Lake Tahoe.  Those two weeks were special.  Everything seemed to come together in one place at one time.  Poker players, their families, and their friends came to beautiful Lake Tahoe from all over the country.  Virtually all of the WSOP Circuit regulars made an appearance in what was the best attended stop there in its nine years as part of the tournament trail.  It made for an event that was competitive, but also fun.  The tournament room was full by day, and at night the bars and restaurants were also filled with poker players having a great time.”

Certainly the attendance at our events this year have drawn headlines, but several individuals have made the Circuit worth following this season. Alex Masek’s aforementioned results were unprecedented. Erik Roussakis was another player whose results weren’t just impressive by Circuit standards.

“Roussakis’ run in Circuit events is one of the more exceptional performances I’ve ever seen,” WSOP.com Managing Editor Jessica Welman admits. “This part-time poker player has played four Circuit Main Events ever and managed to navigate some big fields to final table every single one of them. While he hasn’t won the ring just yet, results like these are just too good to ignore.”

We’ll have more on the 2012-2013 Circuit season as the week progresses, including notable stats, more on the unprecedented performance by women this season, and what you can expect for the back half of our busy Circuit schedule.  If you would like to relive the highlights of the first half of the season, be sure to check out the WSOP Circuit Blog and our video archive of final table livestreams on ESPN3.