Dandalos was born in Crete in 1883 to wealthy parents who enforced in him the importance of education. He learnt many languages, how to write literature and bolstered his math skills, which would become the key to his success later in life, earning him the moniker “The King of Gamblers.”
Aged 18 the young man travelled to the USA to become a businessman, bankrolled by his Grandfather who paid him an allowance of $150 a week to keep him in the expensive tastes he was accustomed to. Dandalos settled in Chicago, where he was expected to make connections and further his endeavors. He did that, but not in the way his family would have expected.
In Chicago he struggled to make ends meet, working part-time before deciding to move to Canada, or more specifically Montreal. In Montreal he gambled on the flourishing horse racing scene and won significant sums after his introduction to the Canadian jockey Phil Musgrave. Dandalos used his math skills acquired from his strict learning to determine his odds of winning, and began spending his Grandfather’s allowance on wagers on the horses. Such was his reputation as a significant gambler that people as widespread as Europe knew of his exploits.
Nick and Phil had discovered a way of working together to minimize the losses of each other’s bets, making more money than they would have done alone. In less than a year they had amassed over half a million dollars between them, making outsiders believe that they were cheating the system. Worried about their reputations, the two parted ways. Nick returned to Chicago with a new found love of gambling.
In Chicago, Nick lost all of his cash on card and dice games and so decided to study poker and continued to gamble all the while. He travelled the length and breadth of the country to cities in Illinois, New York, New Orleans and of course, the deserts of Nevada. He took a strategic approach to his gambling, opting to calculate the odds of winning everywhere he went before spending a dime. He must have felt untouchable, but of course, lady luck is not always on your side.
Accounts of his losses were plentiful, and it was against the poker legend of Johnny Moss that he really found his come-uppance. They played every variant of poker possible in front of a live audience, which is said to have inspired the World Series of Poker. Once the five months of the tournament had finished, Nick had lost a staggering $2 million.
He also played five-card stud against a man called Ray Ryan who took $500,000 from him in two weeks in what Nick had thought would be an easy win. Some quick investigative work established that Ray had been cheating. Nick however, earned a reputation as a bad ass after running to the Mafia for assistance. A man called Caifano and some accomplices roughed up Ray and convinced him to pay the cash back. No-one cheated Nick again.