Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Mention Nick the Greek to a Las Vegas oldtimer, and you'll get instant recognition and probably a story or two. Not related to Jimmy the Greek, although they share a common heritage, Nick "the Greek" Dandalos was a Las Vegas legend known for his high stakes gambling. Born in Crete, he came to the U.S. in 1911, at age 18. He learned manners and dressed impeccably. He claimed to have a degree from an "unnamed English university".

Shortly after arriving in the U.S., he developed a penchant for gambling. He was drawn to the action and loved it. He won $500,000 in 6 months playing the horses after befriending jockey Phil Musgrave. He then moved to Chicago where he lost it all playing cards and craps. He decided to concentrate on poker and he tore through the East Coast, cleaning out rich gamblers. He once challenged someone to draw a card for a half million dollars but was turned down. He boasted of breaking gambling czar Arnold Rothstein who had allegedly fixed the 1919 World Series (remember Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox!).

The Greek's legend really took hold when, in 1949, he approached Benny Binion (see KENSUSKINREPORT, June 27, 2007) and requested a no-limit poker game head to head with a single player. Binion set him up with an old buddy from Texas, Johnny Moss, 15 years younger than the Greek. The game became the Clash of the Titans. Moss, a good ol' boy with a second grade education against the erudite Nick the Greek--two different styles. The two gamblers played poker day after day for 5 months--5 card stud, 7 card stud, lowball, Omaha, Texas hold-em, whatever--stopping only to sleep, and only a couple of times a week at that.

Moss would take his time away from the game to rest, while the impatient Greek would simply go over to the craps table (he always bet "don't pass"). Tourists and fellow gamblers watched breathlessly as huge pots went back and forth. Eventually, the patient cool hand Moss outlasted the Greek, winning the last pot, and Nick the Greek stood up and simply said, "Mr. Moss, I have to let you go," and he went upstairs to bed. He had lost over $2 million over the 5 month period.

Over the years, the Greek befriended many prominent people on both sides of the law. For example, he once took the famed physicist Albert Einstein on a tour of Vegas. Of course, he had to introduce Einstein to his friends, many of whom wouldn't know Albert Einstein from Albert Brooks. To get respect for his genius friend, he reputedly introduced him, "Meet Little Al from Princeton; he controls a lot of the action around Jersey."

Over the years, the Greek was said to have won and lost $800 million, although he ultimately died, in 1966, broke, playing out his last years in low stakes (legal) poker rooms in California.




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home