This time the story is about Nick Dandolos, better known as Nick the Greek, – a legendary player whose reputation and fame of a professional gambler have dispersed across Europe and who was also included into the Poker Hall of Fame in the year 1979.
What is more, the man was highly respected for his input into charity. Dandolos once said: “I play for the risk, not for the money. A trout fisherman fishes for sport, not for meat. This attitude creates mystery in the mind of the opposition. Nobody wants to put a mystery out of action. They want to see how it comes out.”
The gambler was born in Greece in 1883, in a wealthy family and from early childhood his parents would teach the boy the importance of being an educated man: Nick studied several languages and worked hard on improving his literacy skills. Dandolos also received a Bachelor of Philosophy at the Greek Evangelical College, and later, right because of this degree, people would call him “The Aristotle of the Don’t Pass Line.”
As soon as Dandolos came of age, his grandfather offered financial support to the boy if he left for America. He sent him 150 dollars per week to pay for accommodation and food. The grandfather had high hopes for his grandchild and believed the boy would build a brilliant business career. Unfortunately, he didn’t expect that Nick would choose a different path – neither had he become a businessman nor had he returned to his homeland. A couple of years Nick had to work part-time in Chicago to make his own living. Then he decided to go to Montreal, Canada, and since that moment his life changed forever.
Life in Montreal and His First Gambling Undertakings
At those times horse racing was coming into fashion, and it was almost impossible for the city visitors to escape this new attraction. And that’s what happened to Dandolos. Right after he made a step on the racetrack, he felt that adrenaline rush. He soon got to know Phil Musgrave, a popular jockey who knew a lot about horse betting. Dandolos quickly grasped the jockey’s methods and turned into an expert. He used his math skills to discover his chances of winning on a particular bet. He used the cash he was sent by his grandfather to pay for his gambling undertakings.
Musgrave and Dandolos created a partnership to earn more money. In a year they gained more than $500,000 dollars and many people started thinking they somehow managed to cheat the system. So that they could keep their reputations impeccable and Musgrave didn’t lose his job, the men decided to part their ways. By that time Dandolos had already developed another interest – gambling, so the player went to the US to try his luck in casinos there. To his own surprise, he was extremely successful, especially in poker.
Dandolos was traveling all over the United States, from New York to Nevada. But visiting New York was something special for him – the man was highly impressed by the variety of choices offered in this paradise for gamblers. Before gambling in any casino, Dandolos would first study the house edge in that particular casino as well as his chances of winning there – all these helped him succeed at tournaments. However, the man wasn’t always lucky and could lose quite a lot in a game.
Dandolos also became famous for his quotes, like “The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing.”
Nick Dandolos earned his fame not only for winning significant amounts of money but also for losing them. There were some infamous competitions where Dandolos lost large sums.
His first failure happened in 1949 when Dandolos was competing against Johnny Moss. The two gamblers agreed to play every type of poker. This idea is said to have offered a framework for the creation of the World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, in this competition Dandolos lost over $2 million – quite a large sum even for the wealthiest of high-rollers.
In spite of Dandolos’ passion for various games, there was one he loved most: Faro. The game is almost extinct nowadays, but even in those days it was a rare thing to see a man playing it. Nick was absolutely confident about his experience and skills so he asked Carl Laemmle, a famous movie producer, to provide him with financial support for a competition in Faro that would last for three months. However, the gambler was down on his luck and lost all Laemmle’s money.
One more failure occurred during the game with Ray Ryan, a promising professional gambler. For more than 15 days they were playing stud poker and lowball until finally they decided to break off. Dandolos thought he would win with ease, but by the end of the session, he lost more than $500,000. Some people even didn’t believe this competition really took place.
After the tournament was over, Dandolos did some investigation and found out that Ryan had hired a man to sit on the roof and look after Nick’s cards. The gathered information was then passed on back to Ryan through a small handheld transmitter.
Assistance from Mafia
Dandolos was furious when he got to know about Ryan’s cheating and turned to his long-time friend Caifano, who was a notorious mobster. Despite his small height, Caifano looked terrifying and was even called “The Enforcer”. So Caifano together with his accomplices roughed Ryan up to make the man return some of the winnings to Dandolos. However, Caifano was caught by the police and sentenced to 10 years in jail for blackmailing and fraud. The rumors say that Dandolos managed to get the biggest part of the money he lost in that game back, and since that accident, no one else ever dared to defraud him.
Possible Acquaintance with Einstein
Those who were familiar with Dandolos say that he was very nice and charming. Some even say he looked as if he had known some things about everybody. There is some gossip saying that Nick was privileged to escort Albert Einstein on his trip to Las Vegas. As far Einstein’s personality was supposed to be concealed, Dandolos told everyone to call his companion “Little Al from Princeton”. He also said that people should have been careful with the man as he controlled New Jersey. All this might be pure speculation, but it’s a well-known fact that during his break from Princeton, Albert Einstein was in Las Vegas, and Dandolos lived there at about the same time.
Dandolos’ Last Days
Nick had never been married and didn’t have children, so when bequeathing his wealth the man was extremely generous. He donated somewhere around $20 million to local charity funds, thousands of dollars to service personnel as tips, and huge sums to those in need. When in the year 1966 the gambler passed away, many people came to California to his memorial ceremony.
Nick Dandolos inspired many authors. In 1968 a book “Gambling Secrets of Nick the Greek” by Ted Thackrey was published. All Dandolos’ strategies were described there. On Amazon, the book is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
In 1978, Harry Mark Petrakis wrote a book called “Nick the Greek” that is also based on the life story of the legendary gambler. However, many readers doubt the credibility of some facts.