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Wisconsin Poker Player Rick Syverud Dead at 49 After Cancer Fight

Rick Syverud
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  • Midwest regular Rick Syverud, 49, died Sunday after a long fight with lung cancer.

Rick Syverud, a poker player from Wisconsin who was featured here on PokerNews during the course of the 2017 World Series of Poker, died Sunday in his North Freedom, Wisc., home after a long battle with stage four lung cancer. He was 49.

The news was first reported by Mid-States Poker Tour Media Director and fellow Wisconsin resident Chad Holloway.

An affable, tattooed man who stood out in a crowd due to his impressive height, Syverud could often be found grinding the MSPT and World Series of Poker Circuit tours when they rolled through the Midwest. Failing a tournament to travel to, he was a regular in $1/$2 and $2/$5 games at a local Ho-Chunk Gaming tribal casino.

Despite his grueling fight with cancer, which was going on nearly 10 years since an initial 2009 diagnosis, Syverud was known for a friendly demeanor that contrasted with his somewhat intimidating appearance. In a 2017 feature here on PokerNews, he explained how his love of the game was a driving force in his life.

"I put on a smiling face, I laugh, but it really is hard a lot of times just to get up every day when you have such a debilitating disease," he said. "The one thing that keeps me going and keeps me motivated is poker, believe it or not.

"I can get up and know that I can take my dog for a walk, and then go to my local casino and play poker. It actually is keeping me alive really."

Rick Syverud
Rick Syverud, shown at an MSPT event.

Following his passion led Syverud, who was unable to work because of the toll cancer and chemotherapy was taking on his body, to over $67,000 in tournament cashes. In 2017, he fulfilled a long-held dream and played in the WSOP Main Event. Syverud was booking cashes as recently as December, but it appears his health took a turn for the worst at that point, something he admitted could happen at any time when he spoke to PokerNews last year for the linked feature and a video embedded below.

Holloway got to know Syverud personally over the numerous times they crossed paths as fellow Wisconsin poker players.

“When you looked at Rick, you saw a massive guy covered in tattoos," Holloway said. "He looked mean, but he was one of the gentlest and most genuine guys at the table.

"He knew his time was short. He didn’t let the cancer stop him though. He lived life to the fullest, which included living his dream of playing a big schedule at last year’s WSOP, even jumping into the Main Event. He may not have won a major title, but Rick left his mark on poker through the people he met.”

For those who knew Syverud, his obituary asks that memorials be sent in his name to Camp One Step, a children's oncology charity.

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