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History - THE GREEK SYNDICATE: MASTERS OF BACCARAT

Greek SyndicateIn the history of baccarat, there have been high rollers who have won large sums of money at the game, members of the nobility who have indulged in what became a pastime that bordered on the religious, and of course, the images of James Bond that you can see from the movies.

However, there may not have ever been a group of players to equal the accomplishments of the Greek Syndicate.

This band of legendary gamblers was formed in 1919 and they proceeded to launch an assault on Paris, but this is not to imply that they were bandits or bad guys. These guys were not cheating; in fact, far from it. They were just very skillful at cards, to say the least, playing in Cannes, Paris, Deauville and in Monte Carlo.

The name "Greek Syndicate" sounded menacing, but at the same time it was something of a misnomer, as the members were not all Greek.

The group consisted of Francois Andre, who was French, and Zaret Couyoumdjian, and Armenian, as well as Greeks Athanase Vagliano, Eli Eliopulo and Nicolas Zographos.

They had a strong overall knowledge of odds and gambling, and a couple of them were bookmakers as well. The original pair was Zographos and Eliopulo, and the others came aboard before too long. Vagliano was a shipping magnate and had almost unlimited funds.

Not that they needed to HAVE unlimited funds; in fact, this team, though not unstoppable, was as formidable as any that has ever been put together. However, it was nice to have availability to it, because the Syndicate played a version of baccarat that had no limit.

The key man, by most accounts, was Zographos, for it was he who had the superior mathematical mind, flawless memory and unshakeable nerve. He was very prodigious at math as a youth, and decided he wanted to apply this ability to the world of gambling and odds, taking a kind of scientific approach that was not widely taken at the time. He took the game of baccarat apart, and resolved himself to memorize all the cards that were dealt in the game. Legend has it that he could recall all the cards that had been played, and in baccarat this is an impressive feat, considering that up to 312 cards (six decks) were dealt out in the game.

This knowledge came in handy when Zographos had to make a bet based on what cards were about to come out. In this way his mentality was somewhat similar to what a card counter does in blackjack today. He had a sense of his chances of winning on every deal, and had a keen instinct for what his opponents were holding. In this way, it was very much like the poker practice of reading "tells." He had mastered that too.

Zographos and his colleagues almost always opted to be the bank, a position that had its advantages in terms of control of the game. This is where Vagliano came in, just in case they needed to up that bid substantially. Needless to say, the Syndicate was shouting "Banco" quite often.

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