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Legends of Poker – Nick Dandolos

📁 articles 🕔09.May 2018
Legends of Poker – Nick Dandolos

It’s time for part 3 of our Legends of Poker series! Last time around, we told you about the life and times of Johnny Moss, the ‘Grand Old Man of Poker’ – but what about his opponent in the most famous game of poker he ever played, one of the most famous of all time? Introducing Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandolos!

Early years

Nick Dandolos was born on 27 April 1883 to a wealthy family in the town of Rethymon on the Greek island of Crete. He travelled to North America in 1901, when he was 18 years old. Nick’s first experience of betting came in the form of gambling on horse races in Montreal, Canada. Although he would prove to be very successful, winning over $500,000, he then lost all of it by playing card games after moving to Chicago. However, he had acquired a taste for it and quickly became a master of dice and card games – poker, in particular.

The legendary poker marathon against Johnny Moss

As we mentioned last time around, Nick Dandolos and Johnny Moss played each other in one of the most legendary poker games of all time – it was a heads-up tournament in 1949 that lasted five months, and was the brainchild of Benny Binion, who would go on to create the World Series of Poker.

Over the course of the tournament, it became a tourist attraction and drew crowds wherever they played. Dandolos lost approximately $2 million dollars to Moss, and bowed out of the game with one of the most famous poker-related quotes of all time – ‘Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.’

Other legends

A colourful character, Nick the Greek was inevitably featured in a number of urban legends. Perhaps the most famous is the story about how he once escorted Albert Einstein around New York. According to Dandolos himself, he received a call from a friend in the State Department sometime before the end of World War II. The friend asked him to accompany someone who was looking for a poker game in Manhattan that weekend, and Dandolos said yes. Allegedly, he introduced Einstein to his gambling friends as ‘little Al from Jersey’.

Dandolos was also part of another crossover between the worlds of poker and science; and, this time, this might have actually happened. According to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, he met Dandolos one evening and they had a pleasant conversation chatting about poker strategies and how Dandolos was so successful.

A love for the game

It’s plain to see from the life of Nick Dandolos that he played poker for the sheer love of the game and nothing else. In his later years, he was often seen playing low-stake games in California – when asked how he could stomach playing such games after having played for millions of dollars, his response was “Hey, it’s action, isn’t it?”

Sadly, his life was largely characterized by feasts and famines in quick succession. Some estimates claim that he won and lost over $500 million in his lifetime, and he himself stated that he’d gone from rags to riches over 73 times. Nick Dandolos died in 1966, and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame upon its inception in 1979.

He’s certainly one of the most legendary names in poker history, and we hope you enjoyed this look back at the life of Nick the Greek!

 

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