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Former Bemidji resident wins big at World Series of Poker event

FARGO — Playing in his first-ever World Series of Poker event, Fargo South graduate and former Bemidji resident Cody Crawford was texting one of his friends during a break to tell him about some of the big names he had played against to that point.

Crawford’s friend texted him back and said at least Phil Ivey, considered by many to be the greatest poker player in the world, hadn’t crossed paths with Crawford yet.

“Two seconds later, Phil Ivey showed up (at my table),” Crawford recalled with a laugh.

Crawford survived his run-ins with Ivey and a number of other poker pros to win $104,914 with a third-place finish Thursday night in the WSOP’s Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split 8 or Better $1,500 buy-in event. There were 991 entrants.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Crawford said on Saturday. “You never expect it.”

Crawford, 30, is an amateur poker player, working as a card dealer at the Aria Casino in Las Vegas. Even though he hadn’t played against the big names in the game prior to the WSOP, he said he has had a front-row seat watching the best as a dealer for cash games requiring buy-ins in the millions of dollars.

“I’ve dealt with these guys,” Crawford said. “I know a lot of their personalities. … Even being at the final table, I don’t think I ever felt looked down upon. I brought some game, and I got respect quick when I was willing to be aggressive with these guys.”

Crawford said he has played poker in home games, casinos and online for 12 years. But despite his experience, the most winnings he has had from any single event was $1,300 while playing online. He said he has no plans to play in any additional events in the WSOP this year.

He said he felt pretty confident about his chances in the event, so much so that he covered the entire $1,500 himself rather than allow his friends to stake part of it and get a share of his winnings. But it was something Ivey told him with about 150 players left that really gave him a boost.

“Phil Ivey told me, ‘You’re going to make the final table,’ “Crawford said. “That really gave me a shot in the arm. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best in the world.”

Crawford was born in Fargo. He moved to Bemidji as a youth before returning to graduate from Fargo South in 2002. He said he has college degrees from Minnesota State Community and Technological College in Moorhead and North Dakota State.

In 2008, he moved to Las Vegas. But when the recession hit, he said his goal of working in sales took a back seat, and he landed a job as a card dealer.

Despite his big WSOP winnings, he said there aren’t any big changes planned in his life. Crawford, who is unmarried, said he has no plans to turn pro and will continue working at Aria.

“I’m really a low-key guy in a lot of aspects to be honest,” he said. “I’m not going to go to the club and pop bottles.”

Hayden Goethe

Hayden Goethe is the Design Center Manager for Forum Communications and formerly the Assistant Sports Editor at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. A native of Thief River Falls, Minn., and a graduate of Minnesota State Moorhead, Goethe has been working at The Forum since 2002.

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