A long season that began nearly ten months ago has come down to one last tournament series, and a climactic final championship event.  The 2012-2013 World Series of Poker Circuit is winding down to a most dramatic conclusion here at Harrah's New Orleans.
 
Friday witnessed the start of the $1,675 Main Event.  The first of two opening sessions attracted 316 players, with a similar-sized field expected for Saturday's action.  The tournament is the crescendo of many dreams and aspirations of poker players all around the country.  For many, this is one of the final shots to gain a seat in the much-anticipated WSOP National Championship presented by Southern Comfort 100 Proof.  That finale is to be played here in New Orleans next week (May 22-24).
 
Right now, the king of the poker mountain is none other than local promoter and favorite, Ben Mintz.  His name should sound familiar to those who follow the WSOP Circuit.  Mintz owns one gold ring, has 16 Circuit cashes, and is known as “The Destroyer.”  He also makes about 50 Twitter posts a day on poker and sports, plus all things New Orleans-related. 
 
Indeed, Mintz is a popular favorite at the moment after bagging up 313,000 chips, but there remains a lot of poker still to play.
 
Only 51 players made today's cut.  After Saturday's Day 1B session, Day Two will be played on Sunday with the combined survivors from both Days 1A and 1B.  Action resumes at noon and will play down as close to a final table as possible.  The finale (Day Three) takes place on Monday.
 
Other players looking forward to a possible showdown on Monday include Daniel Lowery, who ranks second with 308,500, and Brian Green in third place with 279,500.  Some other recognizable names in the 51 who made it through today include Tripp Kirk, Jonathan Tamayo, Nick Jivkov (a gold bracelet winner), Aaron Massey, Luke Graham, and others.
 
However, an even greater number of big names didn't quite make the cut.  These players who get another chance on Saturday (the re-entry option on Day 1B) include Maurice Hawkins, Joe Tehan, Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, Josh Arieh (a two-time gold bracelet winner), Doug “Rico” Carli, Kurt Jewell, David Nicholson, A.J. Jejelowo, and others.
 
Another name that's well known who did not make it past Day 1A was Robert Mariano, who is better known as “Boston Rob” from the television shows Survivor and Redemption Island.
 
And so, many poker players will enjoy a day off on Saturday, anticipating returning to action on Sunday.  There's plenty to do.  New Orleans has become a popular gathering spot for poker players from all over North America during this time of year.  
 
As is the case at all WSOP Circuit stops this season, two seats into the WSOP National Championship will be guaranteed.  These final two qualifiers will include the Main Event champion as well as the Casino Champion (based on points accumulated in gold ring events at this series).  Right now, Joseph McKeehen leads all players with 87.5 points.  The nearest challenger has 52.5 points.  There are three gold ring events still to go.
 
For those still undecided, there's a late entry option.  Players may enter the Main Event Championship as late as noon on Sunday (they would be part of the Day 1B carryover).
 
After that, there are only two gold ring events remaining.  Both are $365 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournaments.
 
Here are the top ten chip counts from the end of Day 1 of play in the Main Event. The full list of counts is available on WSOP.com:
 
1. Ben Mintz - 313,000
2. Daniel Lowery - 308,000
3. Brian Green - 279,000
4. Chip Ervin - 249,500
5. Tripp Kirk - 245,500
6. Benjamin Reason - 204,500
7. Tru Yen - 202,000
8. Lance Campione - 189,500
9. Nicolas Gellepis - 182,000
10. David Melius - 165,500