Nick "The Greek" Dandolos
Andreas Dandolos was born in Rethymnon, Crete in 1893. It was a
luxurious life he was born into as the son of a rug merchant, and he
attended the Greek Evangelical College in Smyma where he studied
Philosophy. This upbringing by wealthy parents might not sound like the
makings of a gambler, but there were some early clues to what young
Nicholas really enjoyed.
In fact, at the
tender age of 10, Nicholas was sent home from school. His crime?
Flipping coins and "matching." His mother admonished him that if he was
not careful, he would grow up to be a gambler. Sometimes mothers know
their children all too well, as truer words have never been spoken.
longed for adventure in America, and his grandfather agreed to send him
there with a weekly allowance of $150. By the time his steamer pulled
into New York harbor, he was nearly broke. He had enough money to make
his way to Chicago, then waited for more money to arrive.
While he waited, Nick toured the city and its bars and gambling dens.
He loved watching the games, and although he considered himself a
lady's man, nothing held his interest like gambling. After a
falling-out with his first American love, he headed to Montreal, where
the people were more "sophisticated."
He may not have run into too many sophisticated folks in Montreal, but
he did make friends with one of the best jockeys at that time, Phil
Musgrave. Phil introduced Nick to horseracing, and Nick introduced Phil
to the mathematics of gambling.
Within less than a year, Nick had won almost a half-million dollars. He
had been planning a trip back to Chicago, and now that he had the money
to do so in style, he was on his way. It was his chance to show those
low-life players in Chicago what real money, and real gambling talent
In a month, Nick was broke. The locals showed the young man plenty of
new games, and every one was a way to lose every dollar in his pocket.
It hardly made an impact on him. If there was one thing that set Nick
apart from nearly every player he ever faced, it was his ability to see
gambling, and the money, as just his tools of the trade. Although Nick
enjoyed the money, and what it bought, he never worried about losing
what he had.
With a desire to learn more about gambling, and especially poker, Nick
continued to play games on a lower scale around town. As his ability
grew, so did his bankroll. By 1919, Nick had seen his bankroll rise and
fall, and had taken to betting on baseball. This was the year Arnold Rothstein,
another wealthy gambler, had gotten involved in the "Black Sox"
scandal. The Chicago White Sox felt they were underpaid, and with the
help of $80,000 from Rothstein, threw the 1919 World Series.
Although much of America was appalled at what had happened to their
American Pastime, Nick saw this as just another chance to cash-in. He
had already made friends in the Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland gambling
communities, and was now ready to play some of the well-bankrolled
poker players in New York. Rothstein was on that list.
Like Nick, Rothstein dressed well, but he didn't quote Aristotle and Plato, as Nick did. Rothstein
had also spent most of his life working for a living, even if it was in
underground casinos, or smuggling liquor and narcotics, unlike Nick,
who never held a conventional job in his life. At the poker table, they
were closely matched, but Nick took advantage of his "push it all in"
attitude about money, and won large sums of money from Rothstein.
Later, when Nick boasted that he had personally "busted" Rothstein, the American press loved the story. Nick could never have won all of Rothstein's money, but the readers liked the fact that Rothstein,
seen as a villain in the Black Sox incident, had been beaten. Soon
Nicholas was being called "Nick the Greek," a name he originally hated.
Nick often dined at the Brown Derby on Hollywood's Vine
Street, and had admonished the messenger boy there for calling him Nick
the Greek. He admitted however, that he changed his mind one day as he
was reading a newspaper story about the heroic Greek army making a
valiant stand against the invading Nazis. When the boy came through the
restaurant saying, "Call for Mister Dandolos," Nick told him to go
ahead and call him Nick The Greek.
During the 1940's, Nick took on movie-star status, and was often
mentioned in the press. His play was monumental for the times, and his
stamina, unmatched. The need to be "in action" can be as enticing and
alluring as any drug known to man, but the rewards often turn slowly to
the fresher and more alert gambler. Those who drift to the tunes of the
sandman after only 15 or 20 hours of play will find themselves suddenly
unable to sleep when their luck seems to run out. After the evaporation
of a once lush bankroll, they will lie awake in their beds, restless
and frustrated. Such was never the case with Nick.
The Greek enjoyed playing at Harrah's Club in Reno, often playing Faro
Bank for hours on end, and the story is often repeated that he once
stayed at the club for 90 hours straight.
Nick occasionally talked others into bankrolling him by extolling the
virtues of his aggressive, knowledgeable play, and sometimes these
backers actually got their money back. Sometimes.
While in Las Vegas, Nick played forty straight hours of Faro at the
Golden Nugget. He then walked down the street to the Boulder Club,
where the owner, Jim Young, watched his interest change to craps.
The dice were hot from the start, and Nick stacked-up a mountain of
chips. Eventually the dice turned, and for Nick, it was like somebody
had opened a vein. His chips bled back onto the table, and there was no
doctor in sight. After his pockets lost their "bulge," Nick trudged out
the door, once again in search of a hot Faro game, and Jim Young headed
out the door after 30 long hours, in search of a bed.
Nick went to see his friend, Benny Binion,
the following day at the Westerner Casino. Benny would then set-up what
became the biggest poker game of all time, which saw the finest poker
player of the time, Johnny Moss. Moss eventually win over $2 million of Nick's money.
As always, Nick was willing to bet huge amounts of money even if he was
not a favorite. His style of play went against the grain of most
gamblers, and Nick would even risk his large bankroll against poorly
staked players. Nick had to play, he had to gamble.
Near the end of his playing days, he was often found in Las Vegas
playing the minimum, instead of the maximum, which had once been his
trademark. When questioned about this turn of events, Nick simply said,
"It's action, isn't it?"