The first in our occasional series on poker’s all-time greats celebrates the life of America’s most famous gambler
Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandalos (1893-1966)
|Dandalos at 57 and Moss at 42 put present day players to shame with a heads-up to end them all|
Shipped off to America by his granddad at the tender age of 18, Nicholas Andrea Dandalos from Crete quickly developed a rapacious appetite for gambling winning $500,000 in six months on the nags after befriending top jockey Phil Musgrave.
Then, after a move to Chicago, he promptly lost it all playing cards and craps. But the die was already cast. Determined to be a success he made poker his life and his reputation grew in the casinos, cleaning out gamblers all down the east coast. His love of betting became legendary – once challenging someone to draw a card for over half a million dollars, only to be turned down.
However, it was his marathon game with ‘the best poker player in the world’, Johnny Moss, which etched his name in the history books. In 1949 Nick spoke to Vegas kingpin Benny Binion about putting on ‘the biggest game in town’ – an epic that the public could watch. Binion agreed and the format later became the inspiration for the World Series of Poker.
But there the comparisons end as Dandalos at 57 and Moss at 42 put present day players to shame with a heads-up to end them all, playing for four or five days solid, sleeping only once or twice a week, over a period of five months. Moss won, taking $2 million from Nick’s purse, but Dandalos’s gracious admission of defeat – ‘Mr Moss, I have to let you go’ – earned The Greek the kind of respect money can’t buy.