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Nick ‘The Greek’ vs. the LOL

Tricked, but pleased to learn a new maneuver

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Jan 08, 2010


We all have heard the story of the great poker match between Nick “The Greek” Dandalos and Johnny Moss. This game lasted five months and inspired the World Series of Poker. While the stories of this game are legendary, there is a story about Nick that I have always liked much more. Internet users are acclimated to using LOL as an acronym for Laughing Out Loud. Bridge players have always used LOL as an acronym for Little Old Lady. An LOL is typically a grandmotherly type who plays a stodgy, unimaginative game, but somehow outfoxes the unlucky expert. LOLs are also frequently found in poker games, and many are much sharper than their mild, grandmotherly appearance would lead you to believe.

The Greek was in the midst of a losing streak, playing with wealthy celebrities in private Los Angeles games, and decided to trek down to Gardena and try his hand at limit high draw poker. In those days, California cardrooms were legally permitted to deal only draw poker. (High was originally much more popular than low.) The biggest game was $20-$40, and, of course, Nick sat down with a huge stack of chips. The player to his immediate right was a Little Old Lady. Even though she appeared to be an innocent, gray-haired lamb, she was actually an experienced Gardena rock.

Everyone anted and was dealt five cards, and the LOL opened for $20. Nick looked down to find trip aces and raised to $40. Without calling the raise, the LOL turned to the dealer and said, “I’ll take two cards, please.” As she started to separate the two discards from her hand, both Nick and the dealer stopped her to point out the raise. She squared her cards again, looking a little flustered, and said, “I reraise.” Nick had trip aces and knew that if she had the trips that her attempted two-card draw implied, his were best. He rapidly reraised, and so did she. After a dozen or so raises, the LOL was all in. Now it was time to draw for real, but when the dealer offered her cards, she quietly tapped the table, standing pat. Nick drew two cards. Since all the money was in, she faced her straight flush, and Nick’s trip aces hit the muck.

While some players would be upset at the fact that the LOL’s unethical angle-shooting had tricked him, he was so pleased to learn the maneuver at small stakes that he congratulated her on an excellent play.
Nick Dandalos
Your opponents are not trying to help you: Please, don’t learn this kind of angle-shooting play. I think this type of maneuver is bad for poker, and may cause a potential big loser to quit forever. What I do hope is that this story reinforces the fact that your opponents are not there to help you. In general, everything they do and say is designed to get you to make mistakes. The vast majority of players, especially those in home games and playing for small stakes, try to convey an impression that their hand is the opposite of what it is. They act strong when they’re weak, and weak when they’re strong. Mike Caro’s Book of Tells is a good source for learning more about this behavior pattern and how players manifest it at the table.

A cautionary note: Nick, it was claimed, made a fortune and went broke 75 times in his life. He ended up trying to survive very small-stakes games. Someone once asked him how he could play in such tiny games after gambling for millions. He answered, “Hey, it’s action, isn’t it?” The legendary Johnny Moss also ended up virtually broke and playing in some small-stakes games around Binion’s Horseshoe. If it could happen to these two legends, it can happen to anyone who doesn’t manage his money reasonably well. Spade Suit

Steve “Zee” Zolotow, aka The Bald Eagle, is a successful games player. He currently devotes most of his time to poker. He can be found at many major tournaments and playing on Full Tilt, as one of its pros. When escaping from poker, he hangs out in his bars on Avenue A — Nice Guy Eddie’s at Houston and Doc Holliday’s at 9th Street — in New York City.