“Nick the Greek” Dandolos was a professional gambler and high roller. He was born in Rethymno, Crete 1883 (April 27, 1883) and died in Gardena, California in 1966 (December 25, 1966).
Dandolos family was wealthy, and they sent him to the US with an allowance of $150 per week in 1901 when Dandolos was 18 years old. He first settled down in Chicago but he eventually moved to Montreal where he began gambling on horse races.
Dandolos was famous throughout his life for winning and losing large sums of money. He moved back to Chicago from Montreal with $500,000 won on horse races, only to lose it all on card and dice games. He became an attraction at casinos when he would play cards or dice games.
Dandolos and Johnny Moss played a two-person “heads up” poker match against each other where the two played virtually every variation of the game that existed at the time. This game, happend from January 1951 to May 1951, is widely credited as being the inspiration for the modern day World Series of Poker.
At the end of this five-month poker marathon, down an estimated $2-4 million dollars, Dandolos uttered what has become one of the most famous poker quotes ever: “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.” Dandolos was 24 years senior to Moss so fatigue played a major role in losing this marathon game.
Dandolos was a legendary figure in the world of gambling and there are many stories and urban legends around him.
One of these legends describes how Dandolos escort Albert Einstein around Las Vegas. He went around introducing the great Einstein as “Little Al from Princeton” thinking that his gambling friends in Vegas would have no idea who Einstein was.
In another occasion Dandolos was winning one million dollars against a Texan. After playing for hours Nick felt tired and called an end to the game but the Texan accused him of chickening out while he was winning. Nick the Greek then asked for a new deck of cards, shuffled them and asked the Texan if he wanted to play double or nothing. The Texan declined and they went home.
Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman also met Nick the Greek, as he wrote in his autobiography “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”. Nick explains 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 outcome.
“It’s still action,
Near the end of his life, Dandolos was playing $5 limit Draw poker games in Gardena, California. He was near broke. When asked by a fellow player how he could once play for millions and now be playing for such small stakes, Dandolos replied: “Hey, it’s action, isn’t it?”
Dandolos died on Christmas Day 1966 and was a charter inductee of the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979.
It’s estimated that he won and lost over $500 million in his lifetime. Dandolos has claimed that he went from rags to riches over 73 times, and this must be far from the truth. Dandolos has donated large sums to various charities over the years, it’s estimated that he has donated over $20 million (about $400 million adjusted for 2004 inflation) to education and charity.
Ted Thackrey wrote a book about Dandolos in 1968 titled Gambling Secrets of Nick the Greek. Harry Marks Petrakis wrote a novel about Nick’s life in 1978 titled Nick the Greek.