The Story of Poker Genius – Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos

Nick Dandolos was a professional gambler, who became a prominent high-roller within the Las Vegas casino industry during the early 20th century. His story is stuff out of a Hollywood production, as his net wealth Yo-Yoed from rags to riches over 70 times, he is estimated to have won and lost more than $500 million dollars over his trailblazing gambling career. To be henceforth known as Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos, he was idolized by contemporary mega-stars Frank Sinatra and Aristotle Onassis, and once gave Albert Einstein a guided tour of the Las Vegas strip. His name will remain ingrained into the gambling culture of his time, and he rightfully earned the accolade of being the “philosopher of gambling”.
A poker table, with four players and a dealer.
Published on: 28 June 2020

Early Life of Nick ‘the Greek’ Gambler Legend to Be

Nick ‘the Greek’ gambler legend to be, was born on the island of Crete in 1883. Raised in a well-off family, his family were hard-working and entrepreneurial types, making a living selling various commodities such as silk, linens, and textiles. An academic from a young age, the adolescent Nick Dandolos chose to study philosophy at a local catholic institution. At the age of 18, in an effort to enhance his horizons and discover his calling in life, Nick’s father gave him a handsome allowance and sent him on his way to the United States.

Arriving in Chicago, the young Nick was completely overwhelmed by the liberal laws and the general distaste for authority that existed in the city. After entering into a relationship with a young American woman, and subsequently ending it on bad terms, Nick would continue on his adventures heading towards the Quebec capital city of Montreal. It was here that he discovered his love of gambling, and was introduced to horse racing. After learning the intricacies of the sport, he began to bet heavily, one day striking big and landing a $500,000 pay-day. This first win ignited a fire in the belly of the young Nick, who was slowly maturing and becoming a notoriously brazen gambler.

Someone looking at a poker hand.

Nick ‘the Greek’ Poker and Gambling Mastery

After his big win on the horses, Nick decided to return to Chicago where he quickly sought out many other forms of gambling, such as dice, cards, and poker. It was in poker that Nick discovered his passion for gambling, and quickly began developing his skills in the popular card game, becoming a master of many variants of poker. His talent did not go unrecognized, and his appearances at local casinos would cause huge commotion with fascinated spectators watching Nick ‘the Greek’ poker talent showcased live.

Nick became an absolute master of the bluff, and would often leave his opponents feeling incredibly manipulated due to his formidable powers of persuasion, use of body language, and unorthodox wagering styles. By this point, Nick Dandolos had become a celebrity in Chicago clubs, betting enormous sums of money on highly risky events like dice-rolls, or high stakes card games. His wealth skyrocketed but quickly tumbled on several occasions throughout this period, as the young Greek truly became the most well-known gambler across the country in the 1920s.

When the law banning gambling in the State of Nevada was lifted, Nick ‘the Greek’ decided to permanently relocate to Las Vegas, a city that had already become the gambling capital of the world. The sin city was perfectly suited to the intense demand that Nick ‘the Greek’ had for high-quality gambling establishments, but more importantly, they were also willing to take his astronomical betting wagers. After several years making a name for himself in Las Vegas, casino owners and mafia bosses regularly approached Nick to have him work for them as an affiliate partner, but Nick resisted. Throughout the entirety of his betting career, Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos never worked for anyone but himself.

Battle of Poker Giants: Dandolos vs Moss

The culmination of Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos’ talent as a poker player, his entertainment value, and the extremely high-value betting capacity he possessed made him incredibly hot property throughout Las Vegas, every casino wanted a piece of him and many quite literally begged him to visit. One such industrious owner was Benny Binion, who managed to arrange for Nick to face off against Johnny Moss in a poker match, Moss was chosen quite simply because he was one of the only gamblers on the planet who could match Nick’s high-value bets. The two elite poker masters caused a spectacle and crowds flocked to Binion’s casino to get a piece of the action.

Over the course of five months, Dandolos and Moss went head-to-head in a series of poker battles, with the game variant constantly changing to keep the audience interest peeked. Week after week huge cash flows were going back and forth. Until one fateful afternoon, Nick ‘the Greek’ had played his last hand, having just lost $4 million he announced to his opponent famously, “Mr. Moss, I will have to let you go.”

Years later, the memory of this epic battle lives on. The World Series of Poker credits its initial inspiration to start long form competitive poker tournaments to the legendary match between Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos and Johnny Moss. If you want to try and channel some of Nik’s talent, then head over to our top online poker sites or try your hand at casino poker.

Playing for the Love of the Game, Not the Money

Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos was a man who often mixed with the rich and powerful. On one such evening, playing in a VIP poker game with the likes of the Egyptian King Farouk I watching on, Nick cleaned out New York mob boss Frank Costello. As Nick began to leave Costello yelled at him claiming he was a coward for leaving, Nick immediately handed a deck of cards to the King of Egypt for him to shuffle, and invited Costello to a single highest card draw, with the winner taking $500,000. Costello lit a cigar, picked up his coat, and left the building without saying a word.

Moments such as these defined Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos, and he was also a charitable man giving away today’s equivalent of over $400 million to charities. Although his fortune at the time of his death had dwindled away, he continued to play poker to the very end. Just a few months before his death, an admirer spotted him playing poker for pennies and asked him how can he play for such small amounts when he has gambled millions back in the day, he replied: “It’s still poker, isn’t it?”. The pure love for the game of poker – rather than the astronomical sums of money he won over his career – may very well be the true gambling secrets of Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos.

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