The Top 20 Songs About Gambling & Poker
As time passes, the casino culture continues to grow, and many musicians continue to find inspiration in the highs and lows of gambling. These songs about gambling are the ultimate soundtracks for anyone who appreciates card games. Apart from poker songs, movies that have depicted casino experiences have been created. Movies like “21” or “Ocean’s 11” have provided a glimpse of what the Las Vegas casino experience looks like.
With the continuous advancement of technology, gambling is bound to grow exponentially. Why? Easy accessibility. Nowadays, all you need is your smartphone and Internet connection to enjoy playing all your favourite casino and poker games at the palm of your hands. Numerous mobile casino platforms have been developed and are quickly transforming the casino culture.
Even with the increased use of technology on the gambling scene, music is one link that is bound to get stronger. Most of these gambling songs have provided thematical and lyrical aspects into the gambling world, thus allowing enthusiasts to get a better understanding of the gambling experience. Below is our list of the greatest hits related to gambling.
There are two things that man has always loved to do, sing, and gamble. Combine the two, and you have perfection! There are lots of artists who have used gambling as their inspiration for their songwriting, and it is the listening public who have (largely) benefited with the creation of many top-class tunes.
If you are looking for an inspired playlist of songs about gambling to entertain you while you are poking around with your virtual poker chips, keeping your fingers crossed for an ace and a court card in blackjack, or just hammering virtual pokies, then you need no further!
Here are the Ultimate Top 20 Gambling Songs as Their Subject.
 “The Gambler” – Kenny Rogers
Lyrics of “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, 1978
We are publishing this list in Spring 2020, just after the sad news that the country-singing legend Kenny Rogers has taken his honey-coated tonsils to heaven. While ‘Coward of the County’ maybe his most famous song, we can hardly let this list slide by without a mention of the all-time classic, ‘The Gambler’. This – like many of Kenny’s hits – is a story-based ballad about a man’s random encounter with a seasoned gambler. “You got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em” remains sound advice for online poker players right up to this very day.
 “Poker Face” – Lady Gaga
Lyrics of “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga, 2008
The hit that launched Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta’s career. As that’s quite a mouthful, it’s a good job she chose to be known as ‘Lady Gaga’ instead! This song isn’t strictly about a game of poker, but it is about keeping a poker face, which all successful poker players need to do. A ‘poker face’ is a neutral expression designed to keep secret the value of your cards while you are playing, which is crucial whether you are bluffing or not. Lady Gaga herself revealed that her song was actually about hiding one’s true sexuality from your partner.
 “Ace of Spades” – Motorhead
Lyrics of “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead, 1980
If there is one legend in British heavy rock, it is Lemmy. Born Ian Fraser Kilmister in Stoke-on-Trent in 1945, Lemmy lived life at such a speedy pace it’s a true miracle that he managed to reach 70 years of age before passing away in 2015. Fact – Ian became known as “Lemmy’ due to his love of slot machines! He loved them but was always short of cash, so would ask his friend to “Lemmy (lend me) a quid ‘til Friday”. This Motorhead classic explored Lemmy’s love of gambling, stating that he didn’t want to “live forever”, which was an ambition he achieved.
 “Luck Be a Lady” – Frank Sinatra
Lyrics of “Lucky Be A Lady by Frank Sinatra, 1950
It’s human nature to personify abstract concepts, which is why the phrase ‘Lady Luck’ is one you’ll be familiar with. The idea is that ‘luck’ is actually controlled by some mythical goddess, who showers you with bad luck or good depending upon how she is feeling. With ‘luck be a lady’, or’ blue eyes are hoping Lady Luck will be shining on him as he hits the casino tables. A key member of ‘The Brat Pack’, Frank Sinatra was not averse to the odd hand of blackjack or baccarat himself, although according to accounts at the time he was not a high roller.
 “Gambler” – Madonna
Lyrics of “Gambler” by Madonna, 1983
Perhaps the prototype for Lady Gaga, Madonna hit the music charts for the first time in 1983 with ‘Holiday’, but it wasn’t until “Live a Virgin’ a year later that she really announced her musical presence. Madonna went on to have several further US Billboard number ones and international smashes and is still going strong in her sixties. ‘Gambler’ was a 1985 release that flopped in the US but reached number four in the UK and number three in Italy. The song warns any potential suitors that Madonna isn’t one you can trust if you want a monogamous relationship.
 “Viva Las Vegas” – Elvis Presley
Lyrics of “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, 1964
Who doesn’t love Las Vegas? Elvis Presley did, that’s for sure, particularly towards the end of his career when his love of peanut butter-smothered hamburgers had seen him pile on the pounds, but he was still a massive draw with regular concerts on the strip. When this song first appeared in 1964, Elvis was still a slim hot-shot, and he sang it as the theme tune to the movie of the same name, in which he starred. Bizarrely, there’s zero gambling in the movie as Presley’s character (called ‘Lucky’) was a race car driver forced to work as a waiter to pay his bills.
 “Queen of Hearts” – Juice Newton
Lyrics of “Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton, 1981
Our second country ballad on the list, Queen of Hearts was written by Hank DeVito, a guitarist who worked with country legend Emmylou Harris. It reached No. 11 in the UK in 1979 when performed by Dave Edmunds but became an international hit for Juice Newton in 1981. In the song, the ‘Queen of Hearts’ is a lady who breaks hearts as often as she wraps her arms around them, with ‘The Joker’ being any one of the numbers of suitors who cannot help but fall for her.
 “A Good Run of Bad Luck” – Clint Black
Lyrics of “A Good Run of Bad Luck by Clint Black, 1994
It’s perhaps no surprise that quite a few of the songs on this song about gambling run-down can be described as country music ballads. Fans of country music love to hear stories in their songs, and the story here is about a guy who’s after the attentions of his favourite lady but is suffering a run of bad luck. However, he thinks it’s all about to change as good luck must surely be around the corner (i.e. the gambler’s fallacy). It was a US Country Songs number one in 1994 for Clint Black, the eighth such number one of his careers.
 “Losing Hand” – Ray Charles
Lyrics of “Losing Hand by Ray Charles
A lovelorn ballad from the R&B legend Ray Charles, ‘Losing Hand’ is full of gambling terminology as Charles bemoans the discovery that the love of his life has been cheating on him. He wanted to be her ‘king’ and her his ‘queen’, but he ended up being the ‘joker’ and love dealt him a ‘losing hand’. It was one of Charles’ earliest recordings, being recorded in 1953 and ending up as ‘B’ side to ‘Don’t You Know’ a year later.
 “The Jack” – AC/DC
Lyrics of “The Jack” by AC/DC, 1975
The Australian rocking legends that are AC/DC have been rocking since 1973 and are still going strong. However, only lead guitarist Angus Young remains from their original line up with vocalist Bon Scott dying in 1980, and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young 2017. ‘The Jack’ was a song released in 1976 and is actually about … venereal disease as ‘the jack’ is slang for this STD in Australia. The lyrics of the song are filled with gambling terms, but at the end of the day, it’s about a man moaning that after sleeping with ‘his queen’ he’s now got ‘the jack’.
 “The Winner Takes it All” – Abba
Lyrics of “Winner Takes it All” by Abba, 1980
Abba had it all. International superstars from 1973 onwards, they were comprised of two couples: Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Benny Anderson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. As time wore on tensions within the group built – Faltskog and Ulvaeus divorced in 1980, and Anderson and Lyngstad in 1981. ‘The Winner Takes it All’ is about life and love being a gamble, and when divorce comes along, the winner does indeed, take it all. This song perhaps being a little too close to the bone, Abba split in 1982.
 “Shape Of My Heart” – Sting
Lyrics of “Shape of My Heart by Sting, 1993
It’s hard to believe it, but Sting has not always been a pretentious, annoying wally. From 1977 until 1984 he was the front name of the hugely influence new wave group The Police, then became a successful solo artist. The less, though, said about his acting career, the better. In 1993 ‘Shape Of My Heart’ appeared on Sting’s album ‘Ten Summoners Tales’, and was later used in the film ‘Leon’. It’s about a poker player who doesn’t play the game of poker to win (or lose) but to understand the randomness and meaning of life.
 “Countin’” – 2 Chainz
Lyrics of “Countin” by 2 Chain, 2016
We tried not to, but we eventually had to concede defeat and include a rap song on our list. “Countin’” (as far as can make out, and as much as we could listen to this awful dirge) is all about money-earning it, counting it and spending it. In his rap 2 Chainz explains he put $100,000 on the Falcons (Atlanta’s American Football team), lost it, but intends to win it back by betting on the Nationals (Washington’s Baseball team). It seems 2 Chainz is as good at sports betting as he is at making ‘music’.
 “Tumbling Dice” – Rolling Stones
Lyrics of “Tumbling Dice” by Rolling Stones, 1978
While the Beatles were the 60s band everyone’s mum and dad liked, The Rolling Stones were the 60s band the cool kids liked. The lovely Beatles would never write a song about gambling though, but the Stones did. Frontman Mick Jagger was working on a song called ‘Good Time Woman’ but got talking to his housekeeper about the dice game Craps. The chat inspired Jagger so much that he discarded the lyrics to ‘Good Time Woman’ and created the song ‘Tumbling Dice’ instead.
 “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot’ – Jerry Reed
Lyrics of “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot’ by Jerry Reed, 1971
No, this was not an early 1970s version of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”. This 1971 release hit the UK Top 10 despite being a country song in a land where country songs were, at the time, extremely unpopular. This is yet another song with a story – unlucky Jim is busted playing an illegal Craps (what is it about songs and Craps?) game where he is on a winning streak and sent to the judge. Fortunately for Jim, his winning streak continues, and it turns out the judge is an old friend who sentences him to the minimum term – 90 days in jail.
 “Gamblin’ Man” – Lonnie Donegan
Lyrics of “Gamblin’ Man” by Lonnie Donegan, 1957
‘Gamblin’ Man’ is a song originally by Woody Guthrie. Still, we are going to mention the Lonnie Donegan version of it here as it’s often forgotten how influential Donegan was on the UK music scene in the late 1950s. He ‘invented’ skiffle, which was to rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s what punk was to glam rock in the 1970s. Donegan took “Gamblin’ Man’ to the top of the hit parade in 1957. The theme of the song could not be simpler – it’s about a guy telling the story of his life which he has spent travelling all over the US, gambling.
 “From a Jack to a King” – Ned Miller
Lyrics of “From a Jack to a King” by Ned Miller, 1957
It should come as no surprise to learn that yet another song on our list is yet another one by Country music singers. Ned Miller released it in 1957 but completely flopped. Released in 1962, it became a hit this time around, hitting the number two slot in the UK Singles Chart. It was also recorded by legends Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and by Ricky van Shelton in 1988. The song is all about playing cards – how a man who’s a ‘Jack’ (a loser in this regard) became a ‘King’ when he played an ‘Ace’ and won his ‘Queen’. No mention of a Joker this time around.
 “Dice Man” – The Fall
Lyrics of “Dice Man” by The Fall, 1979
If you ever get bored (for a while) of online gambling, then we recommend you read the novel ‘The Dice Man’ by George Cockcroft (writing as Luke Rhinehart). It tells the story of a man who takes the ultimate gamble – he makes major decisions in life by writing down all possible options than letting the throw of a dice dictate the path he takes. In 1979 legendary indie rockers The Fall recorded their tribute to the book, in their usual ramshackle, slightly-unmusical but still listenable-to way.
 “Stagger Lee” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Lyrics of “Stagger Lee” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 1996
Another ‘song with a story’ but for once not a country ballad, ‘Stagger Lee’ was a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds rock anthem on their 1996 album ‘Murder Ballads’. Based on a true story (and one that has been covered many times before in song), it told the tale of ‘Stagger’ Lee Shelton, a pimp from 1890s St Louis. A noted hoodlum and card player, Shelton shot his best friend Billy Lyons on Christmas night, 1895 at the Bill Curtis Saloon, as Lyons had … stolen his hat. Lyons died, ‘Stagger Lee’ was jailed for the murder and died in jail in 1912.
 “The Card Cheat” – The Clash
Lyrics of “The Card Cheat” by The Clash, 1979
A track on their seminal 1979 album ‘London Calling’, you may listen to ‘The Card Cheat’ by The Clash and think it’s simply about someone cheating at cards, but it’s actually Clash the main man Joe Strummer’s attempt to mimic the dark poetry of Sylvia Plath. In the song, the gambler plays the King of Spades that he’d had hidden up his sleeve, but is found out and gets shot dead. Other than that, it’s a bit confusing …
26 Mar. 2020, by Ari Waknine