With the success of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," it only seemed natural to make a list of the five best poker-related songs of all time.
There are a lot of songs out there that have to do with poker one way or another. To make it in my top 5 the song has to be at least somewhat about poker, but more importantly it needs to be a kickass song of awesomeness.
I chose five songs, with some honorable mentions to boot.
Starting at No. 5:
5) The Grateful Dead - "Deal." As one would expect from The Dead, this song is simple and intensely rhythmic. Its lyrics are definitely poker-friendly as well - the first verse goes:
Since it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose,
You and me bound to spend some time wond'rin' what to choose.
Goes to show, you don't ever know,
Watch each card you play and play it slow,
Wait until that deal come round,
Don't you let that deal go down, no, no.
4) The Animals - "House of the Rising Sun." Eric Burdon's vocals took this Animals rendition of a classic to new heights. Although the lyrics aren't expressly about poker, the topic is relevant: two generations of men who spend their lives in a gambling house in New Orleans.
The sheer awesomeness and power of this song make it a shoo-in for the top 5.
3) Motorhead - "The Ace of Spades." "We're Motorhead and we play ROCK AND ROLL."
I'm not sure any human rocks quite as hard as Lemmy. This song packs a brass knuckle-laden punch of pure rock goodness.
Pushing up the ante, I know you've got to see me,
Read 'em and weep, the dead man's hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die,
The only thing you see, you know it's gonna be,
The ace of spades
The ace of spades
I doubt anyone will ever again rock a song about poker quite as hard as this.
2) Corb Lund - "All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards." Even if you don't like country music, you might like this one by the Corb Lund Band (best known for their pseudo hit "Truck Got Stuck"). This song rocks with a good time country hoedown spirit, while the lyrics are all about the pokers:
crib and guts and stook and gin and stud and cowboy pitch
blackjack, eight or better, hold 'em and draw, chase the bitch
acey-deucy, never loosey, hearts and black mariah
smear and low chicago, man, the stakes keep gettin' higher
(excuse the poor quality of the video link)
With Corb Lund taking the second spot, that leads us to:
1) Kenny Rogers - "The Gambler." I'm sure none of you are surprised that this gem takes first place. When you think of music in conjunction with poker or gambling, "The Gambler" is the first song that comes to mind for most people.
Sing along with me:
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.
You just can't beat Kenny ... or the Muppets.
Although I could only choose five for the actual list, I do have a final song worthy of honorable mention.
Leonard Cohen - "The Stranger." Given that Cohen's one of my favorite musicians and poets, it only feels right to give him an honorable mention. Although this song sounds like it's referring to gambling at poker, the word "dealer" has a very different meaning from Cohen's lips:
And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
that is so high and wild
he'll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.
For a critical look at Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" and its impact on the poker world, make sure to check out Owen Laukkanen's story from a few days ago.
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