What Are The Best Song About Poker Ever Written?
There are two truths: Musicians love metaphors and life’s a gamble. It’s therefore no surprise that poker has found itself intertwined with rock and roll culture, as lyricists draw parallels between taking gambles and winning (or sometimes losing) it all with the ups and downs of ordinary life.
So let’s consider a selection of rock’s greatest poker songs…
The Clash – The Card Cheat
To those unfamiliar with poker, it can seem that they whole game is based on cheating: Players pretend to have things they don’t and pretend to not have things they do, but that’s all part of the game and well within the rules. Bluffing is a skill all its own and players spend years developing the guile and skill to outfox their opponents and know when they’re being duped themselves.
However, out and out cheating is something else altogether and The Clash’s song celebrates one gambler getting their come-uppance as he’s caught, seized and “…forced to his knees”.
Driving piano coupled with Joe Strummer’s unmistakable vocals make for a timeless track, perfect for any poker night playlist.
Of a Revolution – That Was a Crazy Game of Poker
As poker songs go, this one’s packed with poker terminology and will test whether you know your full house from your royal flush or your Omaha from your Texas Holdem!
Inspired by Stephen King’s epic novel, The Stand, the song tells the story of a man who loses everything in a poker game with the devil: His money, his gold, his possessions, but won’t give up his soul.
At over eight minutes, That Was a Crazy Game of Poker is the longest song on our list but its length allows the story to fully unfold in an upbeat, country-meets-ska format.
AC/DC – The Jack
Poker players might wonder why AC/DC are so fixated on the Jack, the lowest ranking picture card (played effectively as an 11, due to its position between the Ten and Queen). The truth is that “The Jack” is Australian slang for gonorrhea, more commonly referred to as “The Clap” in the northern hemisphere.
Indeed the whole song is packed with poker terms, but every one is thinly veiled euphemism relating to a time when the band shared a house with a selection of women and everyone caught venereal disease.
“…all the cards were comin'
From the bottom of the pack
And if I'd known what she was dealin' out
I'd have dealt it back”
Take on a whole new meaning when you know the truth behind the song!
Grateful Dead – Deal
Robert Hunter’s affinity with western and outlaw themes comes to the fore in this cautionary tale.
As poker play reflects life, listener’s are urged to consider their actions: Be aware of what they’re “staking”, not to try and predict the future, watch other “players” carefully and don’t be a victim of the “game”.
Deal is a prime example of Grateful Dead’s “Jam” style, as elements of blues, rock and country are fused into one upbeat, all-American track.
Motorhead – The Ace of Spades
And finally, we come to this eponymous, immortal, juggernaut of a track.
For sheer energy, it’s hard to beat Motorhead’s Ace of Spades: Its relentless riff is paired with lyrics that describe a hedonistic life and surrendering to chance, enjoying anything that comes your way:
“You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools
But that's the way I like it baby
I don't wanna live forever”
The song’s length (just two minutes and forty-eight seconds) is but a blink of an eye when compared with That Was a Crazy Game of Poker, by Of a Revolution. But this quick hit seems to reflect the songs message that we’re not here for long, so take a gamble and enjoy life.
For its relentless energy alone, we think that Ace of Spades has to take the top spot.
People may not know rock, they may not know poker, they may even not know who Motorhead are… But you’d be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t recognise Ace of Spades when they hear it!