The Story of Nick Dandolos: An Unforgettable Legend of US Poker


Known as Nick the Greek, Nick Dandolos was one of the greatest gambling legends in the U.S. Aristotle Onassis and Frank Sinatra became fans when The New York Times praised him as the undisputed poker king after beating mafia godfather Frank Costella in a game. 

When he died in 1966, Nick had won and lost over $500 million and ended up penniless. Stories about this legendary poker player have been capturing the imagination of gamblers for nearly a century. 

Big wins and losses

Nick Dandolos came from a well-off family, and at the age of 18, his grandfather gave him an allowance of $150 a week. He went from Greece to the United States. In Montreal, Canada, he was introduced to horse betting and won over $500 thousand in his first year of betting.  

In Chicago, he started playing cards and learning about how probability works. He became a master of the bluff and a legend at Chicago clubs, where he would gamble huge sums of money. His losses were often as big as his wins. When gambling became legal in Las Vegas, he moved there and became one of its biggest attractions with his high-roller gambling skills.  

When playing games like poker today at Michigan online casinos, players also need to know how probability works in card games, although they don’t usually make bets as big as Nick the Greek.  

A poker game that took five months

Benny Binion, the owner of the Horseshoe Casino, invited Johnny Moss, another poker giant, to compete against Nick the Greek. It was a good advertisement for his casino, and crowds flocked there to watch. 

The battle took five months, and the players only stopped to sleep and eat. The two gamblers faced a number of variations in the game to keep the players’ interest. Nick the Greek lost $4 million and eventually had to concede the game to his opponent. Learning the poker basics isn’t that difficult, but when it comes to games between experts, the strategies can be complex. This lengthy game paved the way for the World Series of Poker. 

He played for the game and not for the money

Nick the Greek was one of the best poker players ever. An admirer asked him how he could play for pennies when he saw him playing some small-stakes poker games in California near the end of his life. His response was, “It’s still poker, isn’t it?”  

Once he lost $300,000 on a New Year’s Eve game. At dawn, he won $1.25 million and then lost it again in roulette and horse races. It was the thrill and the fun of playing that kept him going. 

He had offers from casinos to play for them, but he always remained independent. He continued to gamble in California until the end of his life at 83. His personality, positive outlook, and the high stakes he played for drew the attention of casino owners and gambling fans. 


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