Poker may be a game that is all about gambling, but this hasn’t stopped multiple music artists from using the game as a reference in their songs. And it’s not something that has only happened recently either. Throughout the years, card games and poker has been referred to in many big hits and even put on display in music videos for all to see.
So, that gave us a bit of a thought. What exactly are the best songs that base themselves around or have reference to poker gaming? Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable tracks and their respective artists.
“Ace of Spades” by Motörhead
You don’t need to look much further than the title of this song to realise that it has at least a reference to card gaming. Yet, if you delve deeper into its lyrics, you’ll see that vocalist Lemmy was rocking his way through sentences like, “If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man” and “I don’t share your greed, the only card I need is the Ace of Spades”.
It’s potentially the most-known song of the band, and the lyrics are completely riddled with references to gambling, poker hands, antes and much more. Speaking of writing the song, Lemmy spoke of using gambling metaphors, mostly relating to cards and dice. However, his own favourites were actually one-arm bandits – alas, he might have had a bit of a different success rate had he chosen to sing about spinning fruit.
“Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
In 2008, Lady Gaga proclaimed that you can’t read her poker face. In doing so, she also saw herself receive commercial success worldwide. In fact, the majority of the lyrics in this song reference the game of poker and cards, with sentences like “I wanna hold ‘em like they do in Texas play” and “Love Game intuition play the cards with spades to start”. Yet, the song itself isn’t really about playing poker. According to Gaga, she’s referencing bisexuality and was a tribute from her to her rock and roll boyfriends.
Yet, in an interview, she did state that the main idea behind the song was “sex and gambling”. Gaga went on to say that she does participate in gambling, but that she had also dated a lot of guys who were into it, too. Whatever the case may be, the pop singer certainly brought a lot of attention to the meaning behind the words “poker face”.
“Desperado” by The Eagles
The Eagles aren’t specifically known for their ballads, although they should be if we’re talking about their song “Desperado”, which was a track on their 1973 album of the same name. It’s usual for a desperado to be someone who is on the run from the law – yet, the one in this song isn’t one of those. In actual fact, the song references a desperado dying alone, although The Eagles seem to believe that this is all about the luck of the draw.
Lyrics in the song like “don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able” and “the queen of hearts is always your best bet”, provide clear references to card gaming. It wasn’t really until Linda Ronstadt covered the song on her own 1973 album Don’t Cry Now, that the song really became a popular one.
“Diamond Jack” by Wishbone Ash
Formed in Torquay, England in 1969, the hard rock band known as Wishbone Ash released the song “Diamond Jack” in 1977 as part of their album, Front Page News. The band may not have gained much success outside of the United Kingdom, but this song centres heavily on the world of poker play.
The lyrics within the song begin by stating, “As the dealer dealt the cards to everyone, I could see that I was free. I had an ace of hearts, the dream of every man”. The diamond jack that appears in the chorus of the song is actually a proceed with lyrics referring to “black magical lady luck”, who supposedly will show you the way. Listening to this track will certainly give you the urge to sing along, though.
“The Jack” by AC/DC
Leave it to a band like AC/DC to record a track with lyrics that reference poker gameplay, but that is actually about gonorrhoea! You see, “The Jack” is actually an Australian slang reference – which is where the band originates from – referring to the venereal disease.
Released as a track on the band’s Australian-only TNT album in 1975, it features lyrics like, “She gave me the queen, she gave me the king, she was wheelin’ and dealin’, just doin’ her thing” and “she was holdin’ a pair, but I had to try, her deuce was wild, but my ace was high”.
Clearly, anyone who is listening to this track without the back story behind it would completely believe it to be a song about poker. There are even references to the woman in question having a poker face and cards coming from the bottom of the pack. Of course, it’s only fitting that AC/DC is the owner of such a song.
“Pokerface” by Ghostface Killah (Feat. Shawn Wigs)
Some people may not have heard of Ghostface Killah, but just let it be known that in 2006, he released a track known as “Pokerface”. It has nothing to do with the Lady Gaga release of the same name, and it actually has quite a lot more to do with actual poker gameplay.
It features poker chips clanking and even samples from television coverage of a World Series of Poker event. It features lines like “This is why the World Series of Poker is decided over a no limit poker tournament”, as well as, “It was an hour in, big chip leader of the game, caught pocket jacks and flopped two more of the same”.
Rap music may be far out of our sight line as potential listening material, but you’ve got to admit that this Killah track is perhaps one of the most ultimate tributes to poker gameplay.