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Game Selection With the Chicago Mob

by Mike O Malley |  Published: Jan 30, 2004


Game selection has not always been my best poker "skill." In the past, I have been known to sit down in games in which I probably had little chance of winning. Whether it was a shorthanded game (my worst), a game I don't play very well (seven-card stud), or a game with a tough lineup, where I probably had no shot (almost every game), you could usually find me seated and ready to play.

On a recent Card Player Cruise, I displayed my wonderful game selection skills by sitting down in a game that I knew nothing about. It was the first night of the cruise and the games were just getting started. The boardperson informed me that there was a $40-$80 mixed game just about to start. I didn't think twice about it, and got two racks of chips and took a seat.

I have been on almost every Card Player Cruise, and usually know a large majority of the players (especially in the biggest game). As I unracked my chips and looked around the table, I noticed something very strange: I didn't know a single person at the table. In a regular cardroom this wouldn't seem so weird, but this was a mobile cardroom that goes into action four or five times a year, and I had been around for most of those trips. Card Player Cruises gives all the players name tags to wear while they're in the cardroom, so that everyone can get to know each other. As I looked at the name tags of the players in the game, I noticed something else that was very peculiar: All of these players were from the Chicago area! Imagine that, a table full of $40-$80 players from an area that is not known as a "hotbed of poker." Was I to believe this was just a coincidence that these guys just happened to go on the same cruise and sit at the same table? Listen, I might be a little slow, but I knew something wasn't right. Even I knew I wasn't supposed to sit in this game and play against people I had never seen and knew nothing about, and who were all from the same town. So, I picked up my chips and left the game, right? No way! That would be too easy, and would ruin my reputation as a game selection expert. Instead, I played in the game, and didn't quit until the game broke!

As I played, I began talking with some of the players. I found out they indeed were all from the same place, knew each other, and played regularly in the same home game. As I would soon find out, these six guys liked to play poker, liked to gamble, and liked to play hard against each other.

"The Chicago Mob" (left to right): Peter "The Squirrel" Fricano, Bob "The Outcast" Rasmussen, "Don" Frank Minella, Fred "The Singer" Renzetti, Richard "The Rock" Chase, and Joe "Did Pete Bet? I Call" Chiovari

So, who were they? I like to think I was playing with "The Chicago Mob": Peter "The Squirrel" Fricano, Bob "The Outcast" Rasmussen, "Don" Frank Minella, Fred "The Singer" Renzetti, Richard "The Rock" Chase, and Joe "Did Pete Bet? I Call" Chiovari.

The game went every night and was usually a mix of the six Chicago "mobsters," other players who came in and out of the game, and me. To say the game was "good" throughout the week would be an understatement. The Chicago gang was fun to play with and even more fun to watch. They played poker, watched the shows, dressed alike, and made fun of each other. They seemed to enjoy everything the cruise had to offer and tried to experience everything they could – all on the first night! By the third night, all they wanted to do was play poker and hide from their wives!

If I had gone with my instincts and not played in what should have been a bad game, I never would have met this wonderful cast of characters. My poor game selection skills enabled me to meet a group of true gentlemen who like the game of poker, and that made it all worthwhile.

So, the next time you look at a game and are deciding whether to play or not, remember that it's not always just the chips and cards that matter, but the players who are throwing them

Editor's note: Michael O'Malley can usually be found playing online at as Rzitup. To learn more about him, go to