Nick the Greek: Story about gambling and religion

In the UK, it is estimated that around 350,000 people are suffering from a gambling addiction. It is now easier than ever before to gamble, with a huge number of online betting shops enabling people to gamble 24 hours a day. Every year over 7 billion pounds is spent on gambling.

If a gambling problem is left to fester, debts can spiral out of control and people can become withdrawn, depressed and even suicidal!

Here is a story that can help us discuss this important social issue with young people.

Nicholas Dandalos (1883 – 1966) aka Nick the Greek was one of the greatest gamblers of all time. He was born in Crete in 1883. He was a cultured lad. He studied poetry and philosophy at the Greek Evangelical College of Smyrna in Turkey.

Later he moved to Chicago in the USA. He would play poker, a game he called 'the art of civilised bushwhacking', for three or four days without sleeping.

So what story was he living in?

His words and deeds tell all. "The next best thing to gambling and winning," he liked to say, "is gambling and losing".

There were times he refused to leave the gambling tables even when desperately sick. Sometimes he was treated by the doctor while still laying bets! He once confessed his faith in the following way:

"Luck is a lady, and she is the love of my life."

Nick went from rags to riches over 73 times and he won and lost over $500 million in his lifetime. Near the end of his life he was almost broke and was playing $5 limit poker games. Another player asked him how he could once play for millions and now play for such tiny sums, he replied:

"Hey. It’s action. Isn't it?"

He died on Christmas day in 1966 and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979.

Biblical Reflections

Although brought up as a Christian Nick switched faiths! Instead of following Jesus he started to follow Fortuna, the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck. She is capricious and is often depicted as a blind, veiled woman. Follow her and you will become like her! (Psalm 115:4-8) Julius Caesar was also a follower of this god.

Young people need to spot the false gods that enslave so many people's lives. The story of Nick the Greek needs to be told and pondered.

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