| Nick "The Greek"
b. April 27 1893
25th December 1966
A man who became almost as legendary as any man in romantic fiction
and certainly America's most famous gambler.
He was born in Rethymnon, Crete, from which his father sent
him to live with a wealthy godfather in Smyrna, Turkey, where attended the
English run Baxter school. He was later educated at the Greek Evangelical
College there. He spoke English, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Greek and
Yiddish as well as being a talented poet. After travels in America he had
planned to study at Oxford and graduate to a Donship in Philosophy.
( whose real name was Nicholas Andrea Dandolos ) was the son of a rug
merchant and the godson of a wealthy shipowner. When he was 18 years old, his
grandfather sent him to America, giving him an allowance of $150 a week. In
Chicago he met and fell in love with a girl, but they quarreled and Nick moved
on to Montreal. There he became friendly with a leading jockey of the day, Phil
Musgrave; assisted by the jockey's advice and his own natural ability for
working out odds, Nick won $500,000 in six months' betting on horse
Nick then went back to Chicago and promptly lost the entire
amount playing card and dice games that were unfamiliar to him. But he was not
at all deterred from continuing in his chosen profession. He began to study
these games assiduously and in a few years had become so well known as a
freelance gambler that casino proprietors were offering him large salaries to
work for them. He usually refused, but became an enormous attraction at the
casinos nevertheless merely by playing - partly because he would seldom stop
gambling even after losing (as he frequently did) as much as $100,000 in a
single session at the tables.
Naturally this unpredictable gambler with
a knowledge of philosophy and a passion for Aristotle & Plato was the
source of endless speculation and rumour. It is widely believed that he once
won a city block in Los Angeles, that he challenged an arrogant opponent to
draw one card for $550,000 (the other man backed down), that he played faro for
10 days and nights without sleep.
In the January of 1951, as the story
goes, Nick the Greek approached Benny Binion with
an unusual request-to challenge the best in a high-stakes poker marathon.
Binion agreed to set up a match between Dandolos and the legendary
Johnny Moss, with the stipulation that the game
be played in public view.
During the course of the marathon, which
lasted five months with breaks only for sleep, the two men played every form of
poker imaginable. Moss ultimately won "the biggest game in town" and an
estimated $2 million. When the Greek lost his last pot, he arose from his
chair, bowed slightly, and uttered the now-famous words, "Mr. Moss, I have to
let you go." Dandolos then went upstairs to bed.
He was enshrined in 1979 as
a charter member of the Poker Hall of Fame.
physicist Richard Feynman also met Nick the Greek, according to the
autobiographical Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!. Nick explains to Richard
how he wins big not by playing the tables, but by knowing the odds at the
tables and betting against others who have superstitious beliefs about the
Albert Einstein stopped of in Las Vegas on a coast to coast
journey. It was Nick who met him at the airport and chaperoned him around the
Vegas casinos in a story told by Nick himself. Einstein was famous for saying
that no one could win money at the roulette table, 'unless he steals money
from the table while the croupier isn't looking'. So during a visit to the
Tropicana Casino Nick approached a roulettte table and placed a handful of
chips on red. It won and he let it ride and after winning again he did the same
to further success. He then cashed in his chips, pocketed the cash and turned
to grin at Einstein.
Nick then said, "Any questions?"
"And that is........?"
"I was wondering if you would be
kind enough to wash my mouth out with soap?"
During his life Nick
Dandolos donated more than $5,000,000 to charity and more than $2,000,000 to
'friends' in need. He sent 29 chilrdren of friends through college, paid
hospital bills for 1,000 or more individuals and set up non-interest loans
enabling another 300 or so to launch businesses of their own.
the life of a modern Socrates," a friend said shortly after Nick's death. "He
believed in absolutely nothing material. His sum total of possessions at the
time he died would have fitted handily into a shoe box. His most valuable
presonal effects were the kind he could take with him. And he
Nick Dandolos claimed that he went from rags to riches over 73
times and near the end of his life Dandolos was reputedly near broke and
playing $5 limit Draw poker games in Gardena, California.