Nick 'The Greek' Dandalos

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Nick 'The Greek' Dandalos

As one of America's most famous and prolific ever gamblers, Nick The Greek has seen around $500,000,000 pass through his hands.

Born in Crete in 1893, Nick was sent to America by his grandfather when he was 18 years old, with an allowance of $150 a week. After falling out with a girl in Chicago, Nick moved to Montreal, where his passion for gambling really took off.

He became close friends with the leading jockey Phil Musgrave. Following Phil's advice, and using his own abundant gambling skills, Dandolos won $500,000 on the horses in just 6 months.

Moving back to Chicago, Nick soon lost the lot playing cards and dice. But the gambling bug had taken its hold. He began by studying the games, and soon became known as a successful freelance gambler. Refusing the many jobs offered to him by casino owners, Nick The Greek drew crowds to the casinos anyway, who just came to see him play. Nick rarely stopped gambling, even after dropping as much as $100,000 in a single session at the table.

His reputation as a gambler grew, as did speculation about his unusual betting habits. It is rumoured that Dandolos won a Los Angeles city block, challenged one opponent to draw one card for $550,000 (his challenge was refused), and that he once played faro for 10 days and nights without sleep.

But Nick wanted some even more exciting action. He wanted to take on the best poker player in the world in heads-up action. He approached Benny Binion, the patriarch of Las Vegas, who agreed to set up a high-stakes poker marathon with Johnny Moss, reputedly the best poker player of all time, on the condition that the game was played in public view.

The five-month long marathon in 1949 saw every kind of poker played, with breaks only taken for sleep. Moss eventually came out on top, with winnings of around $2 million. When Nick lost his last pot, he stood up and said his now famous line, "Mr Moss, I have to let you go."

This poker marathon gave Binion the idea for a World Poker Championship, and was the inspiration behind the World Series of Poker, which commenced in 1970.

Dandolos worked on the basic gambling principle of giving himself as near an even chance as possible, avoiding roulette but enjoying craps. It was stud poker that was his strong suit, earning over $6 million at the game during his career. Nick's love of gambling was more important to him than the money. He estimated that he had swung from the extremes of poverty to the extremes of wealth, and back again, 73 times!

Despite his prolific gambling wins and losses, Dandolos was know as exceedingly honest and likeable, and always paid his debts on time. Nick The Greek died in 1966, and was enshrined as a charter member of the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979.

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