Posted February 13, 2017 by Mike Mineo in Features

Poker Songs

Poker is more than just a card game; it’s a worldwide phenomenon. From the multi-billion dollar online poker industry to traditional high-stakes, televised live games, poker has become a pop culture staple that has infiltrated movies and the media. The excitement and glamour associated with the modern game has influenced millions and many celebs are now hitting the casino instead of bars and nightclubs to maintain their image. Although there are hundreds of well known poker and casino movies, many forget that some of most well-known songs have poker references or are explicitly about poker. We’ll be taking a look at five hits with interesting poker back stories and references to the game hidden in their lyrics.

Ace of Spades, Motorhead

In the 1970’s, lead singer Lemmy was at the top of his game. He was living a hard and fast lifestyle by drinking, taking amphetamines and chain smoking, taking the rock star image to a new, dangerous level. Of his music, he once said that ‘it will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die’. Although he was more of a slot machine fan, he penned the lyrics of Ace of Spades to include multiple gambling references. One line refers to the ‘dead man’s hand again’, which is allegedly the two pair hand of black eights and black aces held by old west folk hero ‘Wild’ Bill Hicock’ when he was shot in the head by an insulted rival poker player in 1876.

The Jack, ACDC

The Jack is a slow rock / blues track from ACDC’s 1975 album T.N.T. The lyrics make it pretty clear that the song is about a poker game with a sultry woman, but there is an altogether more sinister meaning behind the words; ‘From the tattoo on her left leg, and the garter on her right, She’d have the card to bring me down, If she played it right’. The repeated lyric ‘She’s got the Jack’ in the chorus may seem innocent at first, but the meaning of ‘The Jack’ is actually Australian slang for Gonorrhoea. Talk about the rock and roll lifestyle corrupting the clean cut game of poker…

The Stranger Song, Leonard Cohen

‘It’s true that all the men you knew were dealers’ begins Leonard Cohen’s journey through relationships that uses gambling metaphors to spell out the types of men that women are attracted to. With references to ‘ giving up the holy game of poker’ to possibly refer to monogamy and ‘sweeping up the jokers that he left behind’ when men don’t commit, Cohen paints a candid picture of how men take advantage, but women are still attracted to this type of personality.

Pokerface, Lady Gaga

Another explicit song that links poker to the adult, rock and roll lifestyle, the ‘poker face’ in these lyrics relates to Gaga’s indifference to the sexual attraction of past boyfriends, showing them that despite her potential interest, they’re just another hand to her. Alongside the more plain ‘Fold ’em, let ’em, hit me, raise it baby stay with me ‘ line, the lyric ‘“bluffin’ with my muffin” is just as explicit as it sounds, using her ‘talents’ to get ahead with men, but in a fun, innocent way. The song was written as something that she could enjoy as a gambler, but would also have fun lyrics that guys she new would like.

The Gambler, Kenny Rogers

Arguably the most clean cut on this list, Roger’s classic captures a real image of how poker was before it transformed into a glamorous game for the celebs. A chance meeting on a ‘train bound for nowhere’ between Rogers and an unknown gambler sets the scene. The opening of the chorus ‘You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away, And know when to run’ is not only great advice in poker, but great advice for surviving in life.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].