The last of the true High Rollers
Nicholas Andrea Dandolos was born in 1883 (The exact day is up to speculation, as Nick was loath to divulge personal information), and died on December 25, 1966. He was a legendary gambler and superb mathematician. When asked, he estimated that he had won and lost over $500,000,000 over the course of his lifetime, and gone from rags to riches, and back, on 73 separate occasions.
He was a celebrity magnet. He knew personally many famous people, from legendary mob figures like Al Capone, Dutch Schultz, and Bugsy Siegel, to celebrities such as Chico and Groucho Marx, Ava Gardner, and Jack Dempsey, to other famous figures, such as Damon Runyon, John F. Kennedy, and King Fuad I of Egypt. However, it is worth noting that he wasn't impressed by celebrity... they were the ones who sought his company.
He was a master of all manners of gambling, from Craps to Blackjack to Poker, in all variations (Casino Craps is considerably different from back-alley Craps, for example), but his favorite Casino game was Faro, a game that no longer exists in casinos due to an extremely low house edge.
He was an extremely diplomatic man, able to converse with anybody on their own level. He might tell someone like Bugsy Siegel, "I think you're a bluffing son of a bitch," but would say, "I believe that you are trying to take advantage of mine innocence," to Reggie Vanderbilt. When Albert Einstein visited Las Vegas, Nick realized that his gambling friends wouldn't understand who Einstein was, so he introduced him as, "Little Al from Princeton - controls a lot of the action around Jersey." This amused Einstein greatly.
A very intelligent and philosophical man, he studied at Oxford in his late teens, and was a professed devotee of Plato and Aristotle. He was a natural linguist, being able to converse freely in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Greek, and knew some Yiddish as well.
He is, to me, the very definition of a great man. I wish I had had a chance to meet him, but he died several years before I was born.
Some details and anecdotes taken from Gambling Secrets of Nick the Greek, Copyright 1968, Rand McNally and Company.