Rock and roll has always appealed rebels, risk-takers, and gamblers, and while it may no longer be the driving force in popular music that it once was, it doesn’t mean that people are ignoring the classics that have come before. Whether you’re a card shark yourself, or simply enjoy hearing songs about casinos and smoke-filled rooms, here are five songs to put on your next Texas Hold’em playlist.
On the Nickel – Tom Waits
Old-school Tom Waits writes the kind of gin-soaked bawdry balladry that evokes charismatic gamblers, reckless passion, and dreadful hangovers. “On the Nickel” refers to 5th Street in LA, as it would have appeared between the 1950s and 1970s (the latter period, when Mr Waits himself was haunting it). In this setting, “a royal flush can never beat a pair”, presumably because the guy with the bad hand is a violent cheat. Sentimental and sloppy, play this one near the end of the night.
Ace of Spades – Motorhead
We’ll admit, it’s a cliché to put Motorhead, especially this Motorhead song, on a list like this, but that’s only because it so masterfully captures the spirit, risk and lucky windfall that gambling and rock and roll are all about. “Ace of Spades” also draws on ample imagery from blackjack terminology and lore, which are certainly not lost on modern audiences. With blackjack available at online casino Magical Vegas online, the reach of blackjack far exceeds the limits of Las Vegas, with modern players finding more and more to love in Motorhead’s big hit. RIP Lemmy Kilmister.
Leonard Cohen – The Stranger Song
Lines like “like any dealer he was watching for the card that is so high and wild, he’ll never need to deal another” don’t make a lot of sense when applied to a conventional game of poker, but they do sound pretty badass anyway. No one’s quite sure whether Cohen was writing about gambling or something more vaguely cosmic and sinister here, but it’s awesome whatever the case.
The Card Cheat – The Clash
On a record packed with classics, The Card Cheat is relegated to London Calling’s third side. A tale of a cheat at poker who meets an unlucky end, this song is nonetheless vibrant, uplifting and a great energizer for the mid-game.
Pokerface – Ghostface Killah
Gamblers are storytellers (some would say liars), and Ghostface is one of the finest in the business. Pokerface isn’t so much a story as a trip through a carnival ride of intimidating and grandiose gambling lore. Did Ghost live these lines? Does it matter? Whatever the case, this song definitely deserves a place on this list.
The list of rock and roll gambling standards could go on and on. Add these to your next playlist, and we hope the spirit of these jams will help you out when you’re feeling lucky!