Nick “The Greek” Dandolos – Legend and Reality

Thursday, 3 March 2016

by Bogdan Fechită


If we were to point out the most hardened poker player in history then we would certainly place Nick Dandolos on top. Even by his statement, “The Greek” has gone 73 times from extreme poverty to being rich, of course through poker. From other sources we learn that he earned over 500 million dollars with gambling. A real fortune that is.


Nicolas Andreas Dandolos was born in 1883 in Crete Island and was lucky to come from a wealthy family. His father was a merchant and his godfather a shipbuilder. At 18, he was sent to Canada, and his family has secured him a $ 150 weekly allowance, a significant sum for those days. Having enough money, in 1911 he made his first bet and thus discovers his true passion: gambling. From here, the history of his life splits in two versions: some of the things he had done are true, and some had partly achieved over time an aura of legend.



At first he played for a year, betting on horse racing and he was a constant gambler. He bet on every race, analyzing the odds and percentages, and at the season finale he had managed to raise a fortune of $ 500,000. It was his first hit as a player.


With these money in his pocket, he decides to move from Montreal to Chicago. In this city, Dandolos discovered poker and the game of craps. He started playing against professionals and thus soon lost all the money won at the track. Even if he had lost his money, he later admitted that this experience taught him a great deal about poker and the craps games. He began studying these games better and continued to practice.


There was a time when huge gains alternated with fatal losses. An example of this was when he decided to go to New York to attend a great event of craps. He played for 12 days continuously, and at the end he had lost 1, 6 million dollars! An amount which is considered even today the greatest loss in the history of this game.


Large losses did not discouraged Nick. He continued to study gambling, particularly poker. However, his manner of playing had remained inconsistent. He won hundreds of thousands of dollars, he lost money, and then he started again.



In 1931, the Nevada State legalized gambling, so Nick has found a new location to implement his passion. He was becoming more and more popular in the casinos of Las Vegas. One of the greatest legends of “The Greek” Dandolos is also connected to this city.


It is said that in 1949, Nick had spoken to Benny Binion, owner of the Horseshoe Casino and informed him that he would like someone to play with on high stakes. Benny turned to Johnny Moss, and between the latter and Nick started a poker game that lasted five months. At the end of this period, says the legend, “The Greek” would lose between 2 and 4 million dollars to his opponent.


The story of this game’s longevity is not confirmed and it is challenged by many people. Others believe that the game would be played, but the time periods and the amounts were inflated to give a greater aura to this legend. The fact is that the match between Johnny and Nick was a preamble and an inspiration for the today’s WSOP. The most famous poker tournament was founded by Benny Binion in 1970.


By way of epilogue

Even towards the end of his life, Nick continued to play poker, whether it was on high or small stakes. A suggestive episode took place in a casino in Gardena, California, where he was seen playing stakes of $ 5. Asked how it feels to play on such small stakes after playing for millions of dollars, he summed up his passion for poker in a few words: “It’s about the adrenaline one feels, is not it?”.


He died on the Christmas day of 1966 and, together with Johnny Moss, he was the first player included in the Poker Hall Of Fame. The importance he plays in the history of this game is signaled by an editorial appeared immediately after his death in Las Vegas Sun Newspaper. The editors of this magazine called him “King of Gamblers” and said: “Luck was like a lady, and she was certainly the love of Nick’s life.”


What are the craps games?

The game of craps, is one of the first gambling games practiced by Nick, it is a craps game popular in North America. Two dice are used. If their sum is between 7 and 11, then it’s a win. 2, 3 and 12 are losing numbers, while the other numbers imply throwing the dice again until either a winning or a losing number comes up.



– he has donated over $ 20 million of his winnings to education and charitable causes;

– adjusted to the current inflation, the total amount won by Nick over time would be 15 billion dollars;

– both a novel and a short story were written about him and the legend of the poker game with Johnny Moss was written in a book in its turn, “The Biggest Game in Town”;

– Another legend circulating about him is that he had the privilege of escorting Albert Einstein into Las Vegas and showed him the city.

Author: Editor

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