Capturing the thrill, despair, excitement, and dread of the casino is hard to put into a song. Although, several artists and bands found a way to infuse a part of the gambling experience into their songs such as the loss of a large bet or a player’s winning streak. We’ve compiled the best songs about gambling.
1. “Aces of Spades” by Motorhead
Ian Kilmister’s lyrics invoke card casino games with the Ace of Spades. If you go through the song, you get elements from different games such as “double up or quit, double stake or split” which refers to blackjack.
There are also some elements of poker from the lines of “pushing up the ante, I know you gotta see me. Read’em and weep. The dead man’s hand again.” Dead man’s hand is a two-pair hand consisting of.
2. “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” by Jerry Reed
Jerry Reed’s When You’re Hot, You’re Hot is about a player and his two friends playing a game of crap. As the song dictates, the player is enjoying a winning streak until they got interrupted by a police officer.
Upon facing the judge, the player knows him since he owed him money. When he said he will pay back the money to the judge for a lighter sentence, the player got 90 days in jail while the other only got two small fines.
3. “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
Kenny Roger’s The Gambler is the ultimate song for a professional poker player. This is a song about poker and the man who played it for a long time. With lyrics such as “I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces. Knowin’ what the card were”, you get a clear picture of the gambler going through thousands of games in his lifetime.
Parts of the lyrics also provide tips to poker players including “ Know when to fold’em”, which tells you to let go of hands you think will not win a round.
4. “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley
One of the best songs about Las Vegas, Elvis Presley Viva Las Vegas talks about a man having a wild time in Sin City. Las Vegas bright lights are the highlights with lines such as “Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire” and “Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin”
You cannot have Las Vegas Casinos without the games, which Viva Las Vegas have with lyrics “there are blackjack and poker and a roulette wheel”. Craps is lovingly mentioned with the lines of “let me shoot a seven with every shot.”
5. “The Jack” by AC/DC
Let me tell you about a woman who can make a grown man cry in AC/DC’s The Jack. Her attitude during a game tells you not to take her lightly, which you can see with the lines “She played ‘em fast, and she played ‘em hard” and “She’d have the card to bring me down if she played it right.”
You get a picture of a poker game between the singer and the woman in the song. You can see the singer has a hand with aces, who likely think he has the nuts. However, the woman has a better hand with “The Jack” forming trips or two pairs against the singer’s aces.
6. “Shape of My Heart” by Sting
Poker is the subject of Sting’s Shape of my Heart, but it is not about playing for money. In this song, a player is looking for meaning in the hands dealt with him. Lines such as “I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier” and “I know that clubs are weapons of ware” are an interpretation of what the cards are telling him.
While the player has a meaning for the spades, clubs, and diamonds, he does not have an explanation on the heart. “That’s not the shape of my heart” line indicates it is the suit that he identifies with.
7. “Do It Again” by Steely Dan
A song about the corruption of man, Do It Again by Steely Dan uses gambling as a metaphor for a man with mental issues. “Now you swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gambling man” shows that he denies he has a problem. However, you can see he has no control over his impulse with the line “then you find you’re back in Vegas.”
An interesting line in the first verse, “for the man who stole your water, and you fire till he is done” indicates a tendency to get into fights at a drop of a hat for something as abundant as water.
8. “Tumbling Dice” by Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger was writing a song about “good time woman”, but could not get the words out. When craps came into the picture, Tumbling Dice was born.
This song talks about a man taking chances with women, which you can see through the line “you got to roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice.”
9. “The Angel and the Gambler” by Iron Maiden
Angel and the devil. Good and bad. Winning and losing. Duality of gambling is played out across The Angel and The Gambler with Iron Maiden. With lines like “Gate open to heaven is ready and waiting” followed by “or straight down to hell can go there as well”, you get two results that every casino patrons get: winning or losing.
One verse to note is “Nothing to lose, but so much to gain. A little danger it goes without saying, But what do you care? You’re gonna go in the end”. This verse shows a gambler who is ready to bet on everything, winning or losing everything.
10. “Rambling, Gambling Willie” by Bob Dylan
Will O’Conley, the subject to Bob Dylan’s Rambling, Gambling Willie, is a folklore-like figure in American history. You get fantastic scenarios of Willie joining a card game on the Jackson River Queen boat, ending up owning the whole ship with this gambler song.
What made Willie a legendary poker player? You can find a clue in this verse, “The man, he left a diamond flush. Willie didn’t even have a pair.” Willie had an unreadable and unpredictable style of playing that no one could tell if he had the nuts or not.
11. “Lily, Rosemary, and The Jack of Hearts” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan creates another rousing story with his Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts song. While there is gambling involve with the line “backstage the girls were playin’ five-card stud by the stairs”, you can find some subtle poker reference.
In-between the lines of this gambler song are subtle poker references. “Big Jim was no one’s fool, he owned the town’s only diamond mine” and “but his bodyguards and silver cane were no match for the jack of hearts” talks about two poker hands in a showdown. Big Jim likely has a hand consisting of diamonds that was beaten by Jacks pair or a hand with a jack of hearts kicker.
12. “The Card Cheat” by The Clash
As the title indicates, The Card Cheat by The Clash talks about a dirty gambler who switches the cards on his hand to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, he got caught by the dealer and got shot for cheating everyone on the table.
There should be no reason for any cheaters to gain an unfair advantage over the house or each other. In the end, the greediest ones get caught and are forced to accept the consequences.
13. “Deal” by Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead tells you what it takes to win big with gambling in their gambling music Deal. The first line “Since it costs a lot to win and even more to lose”, tells you that you need experience and skills to win. For the second line, losing costs a lot more than the money you bet.
You hear the line “wait until that deal come ‘round, don’t you let that deal go down” used over and over. Combine it with “watch each card you play and play it slow”, the song is advising listeners to slow play their hand and bet when a good draw appears.
14. “Desperado” by The Eagles
The Eagles use poker card references to tell a story of a lone cowboy in their song Desperado. “Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy. She’ll beat you if she’s able” and “You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet” shows the player’s hole cards.
“Now it seems to me, some fine things have been laid upon your table” indicates good board cards. However, “but you only want the ones that you can’t get,” tells us that the player did not get the draw he needs for his hand.
15. “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA
ABBA The Winner Takes It All talks about the player taking the pot while leaving the rest out in the cold. This song uses poker as a metaphor for a relationship between the singer and his spouse torn in two.
Bjorn Ulvaeus used his divorce as an inspiration to create this song. With the title of the song “The Winner Takes It All”, Bjorn tells you that there is only one person who takes everything while another loses all.
16. “Losing Hand” by Ray Charles
Not every hand is a winner and Ray Charles exemplifies that with Losing Hand. You get a story of a man who played the game as intended but was taken advantage of by a cheating woman. Despite the unfair relationship, the man continues to gamble and get the woman’s affection.
17. “Deck of Cards” by Tex Ritter
A soldier was playing cards inside a church in Tex Ritter’s Deck of Cards. He provided a religious interpretation of what each card means such as “When I look at the ace in my deck of cards, it reminds me that there is but one god.”
Given the soldier’s connection of each card to a biblical figure, it gives the notion of “having faith in your hand” a different meaning during a poker game.
18. “The Galway Races” by The Dubliners
One of the wholesome songs about gambling in this list comes from The Dubliners with their The Galway Races. This song talks about a typical day on the tracks and the folks who come to visit.
A notable line here is “There was half a million people there of all denominations The Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, the Presbyterian. Yet there was no animosity”. This line shows how everyone gets along to enjoy the races.
19. “Gambler’s Blues” by B.B. King
B.B. King’s Gambler’s Blues is about someone playing the game without taking unnecessary risks. “Oh, I don’t claim to be no gambler people. Oh, I don’t know much about the dice” shows he was playing it straight in a relationship. Unfortunately, he still loses his partner leaving him.
Gambler’s Blues’ main takeaway is to not expect a win in every single game. Even if you are playing strategically in any casino, you will still experience losses.
20. “Roll the Dice” by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
Everything about life is a gamble, including entering into a relationship with one another. While Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Roll the Dice has plenty of romantic tones, there are some aspects of gambling in-between the lines.
“This love is a gamble. But baby I play to win. So, Let’s go all-in” has the description of a poker player who thinks they have the nuts to make an all-in bet on the gambling table. With so much “Roll the dice” line on the lyrics, the two are heavy risk-takers who are taking chances to make their relationship work.
From legendary players to the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, these gambling songs capture the essence of being a gambler. On the other hand, various parts of gambling such as winning, losing, card decks, and poker are great metaphors for various parts of life such as relationships.