‘The Mad Yank’ was an irritating feature of poker rooms in London about five or six years ago. He had been in the US military, he said, a submarine officer, but he said a lot of things, he seldom shut up, high-pitched, often shouting, with an opinion on everything, almost all of which I disagreed with.
I kept my distance from him, from the cult of his own personality that he was trying to promote. He had a walrus moustache and wore thin-rimmed glasses, he was average height, a little overweight. The last time I saw him was in a corridor outside the Rio Exhibition Room in Las Vegas in 2006, at the time of the World Series of Poker, when he was trying to beat the world record for the longest period of playing heads-up poker, and his manner, of giddy, slightly aggressive hysteria, seemed appropriate for once.
He went to live in Thailand and I doubt if I’ve thought of him in the intervening time. Yesterday, a friend alerted me to a news story from the Phuket Gazette. The suspected murderer of a bar girl had been apprehended after what was described as one of the biggest man-hunts in Thai history. The following day, the suspect, an American, Ronald Fanelli, who had once been a lieutenant in the US Navy, was at a press conference. He confessed to the crime. Asked if he was the same person who had been a poker player under the moniker of the Mad Yank, he said that he was. He laughed, apparently, the reporter said, with ‘bitter irony’, and said ‘that was a long time ago’.