Youth and Experience Make Up NAPT Final Table Mix

Sam Stein
'The experience of playing under the lights and how they'll react to that, we'll have to see.'

The final table at the first ever North American Poker Tour Venetian main event was set Tuesday night.

And while it is hardly chock full of big names, the final eight is an interesting mix of youthful talent on the rise and at least one veteran player who seen it all before.

The event began four short days ago with a whopping 872 players and all the fanfare live PokerStars tournaments have built a reputation for.

But as a field of top pros, Internet qualifiers and Las Vegas rounders taking a shot at the big time fell by the wayside, 22-year-old Sam Stein pushed his way into the chip lead.

Stein, who made the final table at the World Poker Tour's Legends of Poker event this past August, will carry that chip lead into Wednesday's final eight.

Now he's hoping the experience of playing in front of the WPT cameras will pay dividends here at Venetian.

"I think there's only one player that's even been under the TV lights before and that's 'Miami' John Cernuto," said Stein.

"He's an older guy and he's been around the block, but he's a short stack, so that's good.

"The other guys are mostly online guys, they're all good players and everyone is playing really well, but the experience of playing under the lights and how they'll react to that, we'll have to see. It'll be a different game."

As Stein mentioned, Cernuto is the most venerable player to earn a spot on the NAPT's first final table.

Short stacked almost all day, Cernuto said the experience of an amazing 26 World Series of Poker final tables, three WSOP bracelet wins and a WPT final table certainly helped him stay patient.

"Experience has already paid off," he said. "I've watched players with way better shots to win the tournament just give their shot away. They just gamble, gamble, gamble. I don't know if it's an ego thing, a testosterone thing or a youth thing."

Regardless, Cernuto is the still the short stack going into the final and understands that these days, being the oldest player at the table doesn't necessarily make you the most experienced.

"Experience does give you an edge, but I'm not necessarily more experienced than these kids," he said.

"Every five years I've played poker they've done in three months on the Internet. So they may even have more experience than I do."

Thomas Fuller will come into the final table third in chips and with a fourth place finish at EPT Baden in 2007 and more than $600k in career tournament earnings over five years as a pro, he'll bring some experience with him as well.

Sitting third is law school grad and hedge fund employee turned cash game pro David Paredes, while Yunas Jamal, a Software engineer from nearby Henderson, Nevada with a few decent cashes on his part-time poker playing resume will come in fourth in chips.

Lurking dangerously under Jamal is 22-year-old Tom "Kingsofcards" Marchese, a regular at the $25/$50 cash games online who has played as high as $500/$1,000 with some the biggest names in the game.

Marchese, who hadn't had much success in live tournaments before making the final table of the Borgata Winter Open Championship earlier this month, believes his nosebleed cash game experience is key.

"I think it really plays to my advantage," he said. "A lot of people are concerned about the money. I don't even know what I'd get paid now. All I know is that first is like $870,000. I thinks that's a huge advantage when play tightens up."

Rounding out the final eight is Eric Blair, who just missed a WPT final table making eighth at Borgata in last year and 37-year-old live pro Dan Clemente, who has earned almost $200k from live tournaments with buy-ins $1k an under throughout his eight-year career.

The final table will play out beginning at 2 p.m. PST and PokerListings will have comprehensive coverage on our Live Updates page throughout.

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