Nick The Greek – Legends of Las Vegas 1

Nikolaos Andreas Dandolos, more famously known as Nick the Greek, is among the most iconic personalities who ever graced the US high-stakes gambling scene.

Estimates indicate that the gambler won and lost around $500 million in his lifetime, although the accuracy of these figures needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Nick played poker against the era’s top players, mentored a renowned scientist, and is linked to the origins of the modern World Series of Poker.

Dandolos experienced many ups and downs throughout his career and it is safe to say that his life was nothing short of eventful.

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The Beginnings of His Journey

Son of a carpet seller and godson of a shipbuilder, Nikolaos Dandolos, was born into a life of luxury. The Greek earned a degree in philosophy and was sent to the USA when he was 18 by his grandfather, who had a profound influence on his life.

His grandfather sent him $150 every week (a huge amount at the time) with the intention of covering his housing and food expenses so he could focus on building a successful career. After spending some time in Chicago, young Nick decided to move to Montreal.

Passion for Horse Racing

In Canada, he discovered his love for wagering on horse racing and joined forces with Phil Musgrave, a famous jockey well-versed in horserace betting. Together, they reportedly earned an impressive half a million dollars within a year.

This led people to believe that they were somehow manipulating the races. Faced with these allegations, Nick and Phil made the tough decision to part ways with the former returning back to America.

Poker and the Marathon Match

During his time in Montreal, Nick had acquired a taste for gambling and wasn’t willing to give up that lifestyle. So, he returned to American casinos to try his luck there.

Back in Chicago, Nick ended up losing all his fortune after betting it on card and dice games. However, this setback fueled his growing interest in classic casino games.

Nick the Greek found a great deal of success playing these games, especially poker. Traveling across America, he explored every casino in his path, mastered many games, and studied the odds, probabilities, and house edge of each venue before placing any bets.

Johnny Moss Legends of Las Vegas
Johnny Moss – the man Nick had to let go.

His strategies, while bringing both huge wins and losses, gradually helped him earn legendary status in the gambling world.

In 1949, Nick the Greek asked Benny Binion to organize a marathon poker match between him and seasoned veteran Johnny Moss.

Lasting from January to May, this five-month match became a major tourist attraction at the Horseshoe Casino. Throughout this marathon, they played every poker variation available.

This poker marathon between Dandolos and Moss was believed to have inspired what later became the “World of Series Poker”.

With the world watching, Binion allowed Moss and Nick to play as long as they pleased. The game concluded when Nick stood up and uttered one of the most iconic quotes in poker history: “Mr. Moss, I will have to let you go,” and walked away.

Records indicate Moss took away $2 to $4 million from Dandolos during these five months.

Interactions with Famous Personalities

While this story isn’t entirely verified, legend has it that he received a call from a friend at the U.S. State Department just before World War II. The friend asked him to accompany Albert Einstein through Las Vegas.

When Nick mentioned gambling was prohibited, the friend assured him that law enforcement wouldn’t intervene. Dandolos allegedly introduced Einstein as “Little Al from Jersey” during this game.

Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, also crossed paths with Dandolos. As shared in Feynman’s autobiography, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Dandolos revealed his winning strategy, emphasizing that he didn’t rely on luck at the tables.

Instead, he understood the odds, bet against those with superstitious views, and leveraged his reputation to make successful bets against others.

Furthermore, Nick the Greek also faced off against mafia boss Frank Costello and managed to win $550,000 from the notorious gangster.

Nick the Greek – The Gentleman

Nick the Greek stood out not only for his exceptional gambling skills at the table but also for his gentlemanly demeanor. Even in the face of defeat, he maintained his good nature and didn’t shy away from putting huge sums of money on the line.

This generosity extended to his everyday life, earning him a reputation as a philanthropist. According to reports, he donated over $20 million to charity during his lifetime, often sharing his wealth with people waiting outside his house.

Nick the Greek was also known for his compassion; he always lent a listening ear and provided assistance wherever and whenever possible. He once claimed to have lived the American dream of “rags to riches” an astounding 73 times.

Death and Prominent Personalities at the Funeral

Nick ‘the Greek’ Andreas Dandolos passed away on Christmas Day, 1966, at the age of 83. His remarkable reputation extended beyond the gambling world, as was evident by the presence of many celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, at his funeral.

Hank Greenspun, the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, fondly dubbed him “The King of Gamblers” and described luck as the love of his life. In 1979, Nick became one of the first inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame, alongside his former rival Johnny Moss.

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