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World Series of Poker Spotlight -- Sam Stein

Stein Looks for Redemption at Final Tables This Summer

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Sam SteinSam Stein has had a strong start to 2010, but many would agree that things could have gone a little bit better for the tournament professional. He has made five final tables so far, but he is still searching for his first major tournament title. His run has been impressive nonetheless and he has accumulated enough Card Player Player of the Year points (2,826) to claim sixth place in the standings.

The 22-year-old is in Las Vegas this summer looking for his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet after a rookie campaign at the Rio that went poorly in 2009. Stein scored just one cash in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event last summer for $4,057 and he expects to improve on that showing to claim a bracelet this year. “I plan on playing 15 or so no-limit events and some pot-limit Omaha events when nothing is going on for no-limit,” said Stein. He is originally from Southern California but now owns a home in Henderson, Nevada to remain comfortable in during the summer.

Stein also plans on entering the $25,000 six-handed no-limit hold’em event, which should feature one of the toughest tournament fields of the year. “I enjoy playing in those tournaments with a bunch of good players; you’re more focused,” said Stein. “For me, it’s just easier to play against better players. When everyone is thinking logically, you can make moves and your hands make sense, so it is all about the mind game.”

Some might think that the goal of a bracelet will be tough for a player who has come so close at final tables many times this year and never won, but when you look a little closer, things become clearer. It is true that Stein was the runner-up at both the PokerStars North American Poker Tour Venetian main event and the NAPT Mohegan Sun high roller bounty shootout, but it is also true that defeat wasn’t always his fault.

He did falter with the chip lead at the start of the final table at Venetian, but many people can still recall the series of bad beats he took at the hands of Jason Mercier to lose the heads-up final at Mohegan Sun. First, Mercier was all in with KClub Suit 10Diamond Suit and Stein had him covered with AClub Suit QClub Suit. The flop gave him an ace when the dealer dispensed AHeart Suit JDiamond Suit 2Spade Suit, but after a harmless 5Spade Suit fell on the turn, the river brought a dagger in the form of the QSpade Suit. Mercier doubled up with a straight and he was all in again shortly after that with pocket threes in the hole against the ADiamond Suit JDiamond Suit of Stein.

The board ran out JHeart Suit 6Spade Suit 2Spade Suit 4Heart Suit 5Heart Suit and the second rivered-straight for Mercier allowed him to double once more while it left Stein crippled. He busted a short time later. “Hopefully things will start panning out at the final tables, and I will start winning a few of these,” said Stein. Despite the disappointment from lady luck, his strong run on the tournament trail this past year makes him a favorite to turn heads at the WSOP.

Since the conclusion of the 2009 WSOP he has made it deep in two World Poker Tour main events. He finished in ninth place at the Bellagio Cup V which came right on the heels of the Series last summer, and a month later he made his first WPT final table at the Legends of Poker. He cashed in fifth place in Southern California, which was good for $116,225 in prize money (his first six-figure score).

He has accumulated $1,568,431 in less than two years thanks to 14 cashes that have been stacked up the hard way. He is not the beneficiary of one large score but sustained poker success. His largest cash was the $522,306 he took home for finishing in second place at the NAPT Venetian event in February of this year.

His consistency has instilled self-assurance in Stein that makes him mature well beyond his years in the poker community, and he is peaking at just the right time of the year. “I have a ton of confidence, and I feel like I have been playing really well recently,” said Stein.