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NAPT Venetian: Stein takes chip lead to final table

napt-thumb.jpgSam Stein is a wrecking ball.

Broad-shouldered and burly, Stein has approached the last two days of this tournament with a grim-faced determination that makes it look like he's been told he has to mow the lawn or clean out the garage. No matter whether he's flopping sets against overpairs or making a gutshot Broadway on the river, Stein's eyes don't sparkle so much as they relax into resignation. That is, he seems resigned to the fact that he is going to win this tournament, even if it kills him and everybody else at the table.

He singularly destroyed one-time chip leader Andrew Lichtenberger. Regarded as much for his luck as his obvious skill, Lichtenberger played this tournament like it was a game of Candyland for the first few days. He constantly carried the wry smile of a kid who has just realized his eighth grade science project accidentally proved the existence of cold fusion. Yesterday, Stein's Broadway straight (good for more than half of Lichtenberger's stack) made Lichtenberger buckle down and play poker like a guy who doesn't pick up aces every other hand. Today, while Stein was on another table, Lichtenberger managed to build his stack back up near two million. Then, when the tables condensed to one, Stein and Mr. Cold Fusion himself came face-to-face again.

It was a Lichteberger three-barrel bluff with king-high and Stein's call with tens on a jack-high board that sent Lichtenberger out for good and catapulted Stein into this event's troposhere. Stein finished today with 6,145,000 chips and will bring them all back on Wednesday to play the final table.

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Sam Stein

Stein will be joined by eight other players who have proven themselves capable of wading through an 872-player field in leather-tough Las Vegas. Here's how they stack up going into the final table.

Sam Stein -- 6,145,000
Thomas Fuller -- 4,735,000
David Paredes -- 4,700,000
Yunus Jamal -- 3,940,000
Tom Marchese -- 2,370,000
Eric Blair -- 1,690,000
Daniel Clemente -- 1,345,000
John Cernuto -- 1,300,000

While Stein is the hero of the day, it's not like this is his first rodeo. He has more than $400,000 in live cashes to his name, plus an untold number of big finishes online. Moreover, he is not infallible. Coloradan Tom Fuller won a huge confrontation with Stein late in the day that propelled the man from the Rockies to second place in chips.

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Tom Fuller

Now we wait to see the first NAPT final table on American soil. It's going to be a fun one--a combination of young guns from the internet (that's like coming from the future), old school pros (that's like coming from Miami, especially if your name is John Cernuto), and some Vegas locals done good (that's like not really coming from anywhere, because, well, were already here).

It begins Wednesday at 2pm PST. You can follow all the action live here or on NAPT TV.

Thanks for joining us here today. We'll see you back here tomorrow afternoon to find out if Sam Stein's wrecking ball can swing until the end.

All photography © Joe Giron

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