Of all the gamblers who have ever lived, none was more well known than Nicholas Andreas Dandolos, aka; Nick The Greek. The year was 1946. Benjamin “Bugsy” Seigal had just opened the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and things were about to change forever. For the next 20 years the mob maintained a steel grip on legalized gambling in Nevada.
It was during this time that “The Greeks” legend had begun to take hold. Although he was well known and liked in the hay days of Damon Runyon’s 1920’s and 30’s, it was his Vegas adventures that solidified the mystique surrounding the man.
There are so many stories attributed to the Greek that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. The only reliable accounts I have were told to me by my father who had spent as much time in Vegas as the guys that empty out the slot machines.
As a young man in his very early 20’s, Nick was engaged to be married and the day before the wedding, his fiance ran off with another guy. Heartbroken, some friends took him to the racetrack to get his mind off it.
As the story goes, without rhyme or reason, Nick proceeded to randomly pick 8 consecutive winners parlaying his bankroll into nearly $20,000. From that point on the stage was set and our hero never looked back. Some people believe in destiny, some don’t. In this situation it’s hard to call it anything else.
At the craps tables he was a confirmed “don’t pass” bettor always laying full odds against the point. He was a bold gambler with an uncanny understanding of the mathematical percentages of any gambling proposition. He had very sound judgment and an innate instinct for finding an edge.
As with most seasoned gamblers, the methods they use to increase their wagers when on a winning streak was for the most part intuitive. When you’ve been around gambling for that long a time a lot of it becomes second nature.
The “Greek” was also know for using a system of plateaus, as he called it. This was a method of locking up a portion of his winnings to insure he wouldn’t play it all back once he had a winning session.
Using an example; Starting with $1,000, you hit a winning streak. You gradually build the stake up to $1,500. He would then lock up $500 (50% of his starting stake) and continue to play with the rest. If he won another $500 he would lock that up and be playing with the winnings only.
This is a very intelligent money management system that protects your capital and allows the player to try build to another plateau using his profits. Each time he reached another $500 level he would lock it up and refuse to play it back regardless of any adverse run of luck.
Nick The Greek seemed to have an inspired knack for any type of gambling. He was a believer in luck and recognized that all luck, good and bad, ran in cycles. He knew the best way to take advantage of those cycles was to bet heavily when it was working in your favor and to reduce his bets to a minimum when it went against him. This procedure would guarantee that his winning wagers would all be significantly larger than his losing ones.
One night at a dinner party, Nick went upstairs to a high stakes poker game. About two hours later he emerged from the game having lost $250,000. He went onto the dance floor laughing and joking and having a great time. A friend came over and asked him how it was he could be dancing and in such good spirits having just lost a quarter of million dollars. With a big smile on his face he looked at his friend and said, “your life doesn’t go with it.”
Maybe the reason Nick the Greek’s legend is so enduring is because he was clearly, a very classy guy. He was also known for saying, “the only difference between a winner and a loser… is character.” For our purposes, we’ll call it self-discipline.
It was said that The Greek won and lost about $400 million dollars in his lifetime, close to a billion dollars in today’s money. Nick died broke in 1966 but I never got the sense having a lot of money meant all that much to him anyway. It was just a way of keeping score.