The gambling industry has created some wonderful, lovable characters in its time. People who live life in the fast lane, people who have no respect for money, people like “Nick the Greek.”
Born April 27, 1883 in Rethymnon, Crete, Nicholas Andreas Dandolos was a son to wealthy parents, which maybe where his complete disrespect for money stems from. He was an intelligent young man who earned a degree in Philosophy at the Greek Evangelical College before being sent, aged 18-years old, to the United States of America by his grandfather.
He settled in Chicago before moving to Montreal where he used his $150 per week allowance to bet on horse racing, eventually winning over $500,000. He then moved back to Chicago and lost every penny playing Craps! By now he had a reputation for making big bets and he quickly built up his bankroll gambling on horses, casino games and poker.
It is poker that Dandolos had his most famous hour, or maybe I should say two months. Between January 1951 and May 1951 he played heads-up poker, practically non-stop, against the late Johnny Moss. They played every single poker variety known at the time but after finding himself down in the region of $4,000,00 Dandolos finally said, “Mr Moss, I have to let you go.” Although a skilled poker player, Dandolos was 24 years Moss’ senior which would have played a significant role in his defeat.
A Nobel-Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman once had the pleasure of meeting Dandolos and he worked out how he was such a successful gambler. He discovered that he knew the odds and probabilities of all the games in great detail and then gambled against people who had superstitious beliefs about the outcome of games. Against more experienced gamblers he simply used his reputation of a high-roller to his advantage.
Although it is thought “Nick the Greek” won around $500m during his lifetime, he ended his life almost broke and was known to play $5 fixed limit draw games in California. One of his opponents asked how he could play for just a few dollars when he was used to winning millions, to which he replied, “Hey, it’s action, isn’t it?”
He died on Christmas Day 1966 though his legacy still lives on. During his life he donated at least $20m to education projects and charities, which would amount to nearer $500m in today’s financial climate. Although he died almost penniless, his donations will have had a positive influence on people and will continue to do so even today.