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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The secret obsessions of John Gotti


He was one of the most notorious and violent gangsters America has ever seen.
But when he was not whacking his rivals John Gotti liked to unwind by playing board games  - and was obsessed with chess.
The mob boss idolised 1970s chess guru Bobby Fischer and looked up to him so much he called him the ‘Al Capone of chess’.
Gotti used to quote his catchphrases all the time and told his fellow gangsters to play the game because it ‘makes you think like a boss’.
He also had a soft spot for Monopoly and Scrabble and would sit up all night with his buddies and a dictionary under his arm arguing over whether or not words could be allowed - with huge bets on the table.
The surprising side of Gotti is unveiled by former associate Sal Polisi in his memoir ‘The Sinatra Club: My Life Inside the New York Mafia’.
Polisi was a mob bank robber and one of Gotti’s henchmen until the 1980s when he became an informant against the mob for the FBI.
Being so close to the man who ran the entire operation however gave him a front row seat to what he did in his spare time.
Much of their activities centered around The Sinatra Club, an illegal gambling den Polisi opened in Queens as a place for his mob buddies to gamble - but not Gotti.

Strict rules: John Gotti, seen leaving court, would sit up all night playing Scrabble arguing with a Dictionary under his arm over whether or not words could be played
Strict rules: John Gotti, seen leaving court, would sit up all night playing Scrabble arguing with a Dictionary under his arm over whether or not words could be played

Polisi writes: ‘Even though Gotti loved playing cards he was a lousy poker player and he hardly ever had a winner at the track - but he was great at board games.
‘John and me and (associate) Foxy and Jerothe - a young guy who’d been with John since he was a kid - played marathon games of Scrabble and Monopoly.

KEN, NOUN:

'The range of vision and/or perception, understanding or knowledge'

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
‘We bet on those games and John won a lot of them’.
During one game Polisi remembers Gotti challenging him over whether or not the word ‘ken’ was a word that was in the dictionary.
Polisi writes that he said: ‘Three hundreds clams (dollars) says it’s a name, a proper f****** noun and you lose’.
‘Gotti said: ‘Make it six hundred’. He nodded at Fox, who handed me the dictionary.
‘Oh f*** me,’ I said a minute later. I slammed the book shut and peeled off six hundreds.’

Polisi added that he then had to read out the meaning just so everybody could learn it, that ‘ken’ meant ‘knowing, to have knowledge about something’.
Money on the line: While playing Scrabble, the mobsters would phone up the Parker Brothers' hotline if they had a dispute over the rules
Money on the line: While playing Scrabble, the mobsters would phone up the Parker Brothers' hotline if they had a dispute over the rules
Buying in: Instead of using the fake Monopoly dollars that come with the board game, Gotti and his crew once used real dollars with players having to spend $3,000 to buy in
Buying in: Instead of using the fake Monopoly dollars that come with the board game, Gotti and his crew once used real dollars with players having to spend $3,000 to buy in

He writes that one time they played Monopoly with real money instead of the fake cash which comes with the game and players had to spend $3,000 to buy in.
The mobsters were also such sticklers for the rules that they would actually phone up the hotline set up by U.S. manufacturers Parker Brothers if they had a dispute.
It was chess however where Gotti really had his calling.
Polisi writes that his boss became inspired in 1972 when American Bobby Fischer was playing Russian Grand Master Boris Spassky for the world championship in Iceland, a match which took on huge significance given the Cold War had yet to thaw.
In his memoir he writes: ‘Wiseguys got into it like everybody else.
Inspiration: American chess-master Bobby Fischer is seen locked in combat with Boris Spassky in the 1972 tournament that inspired Gotti to call him the Al Capone of chess
Inspiration: American chess-master Bobby Fischer is seen locked in combat with Boris Spassky in the 1972 tournament that inspired Gotti to call him the Al Capone of chess

‘We all liked Bobby Fischer. Gotti called him the Al Capone of chess...he used to quote him all the time: "The thing I like most about the game is crushing the other guy’s ego".
‘John (Gotti) knew a lot about the history of the game. Experts are always saying that chess is like war, but John compared it to crime.
‘He said gangsters who want to get ahead should play chess because it makes you think like a boss.
‘It was a good way to develop your powers of concentration and learn how to see the big picture and think things through’.
Gotti also thought that chess gave players the kind of ‘mental discipline’ that would be handy for a mob boss too.
He supposedly got so into his chess that he used to beat everyone apart from Charlie Fatico, a Capo in the Gambino family who used to play with him at another mob haunt in New York called the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club.
After turning on his mob colleagues Polisi was put in a witness protection programme and is still alive today.
Gotti died in 2002 having been sentenced to life in 1992 for a string of crimes including five murders.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2182335/The-secret-obsessions-John-Gotti-waged-600-bets-Scrabble-3-000-Monopoly-buy-in.html#ixzz22uA6xYN1


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