"Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil."
"Behind every tree, there's something to see,
The river is wider than a mile."
"I love you 'cause your deuces are wild, girl,
Like a double shot of lovin' so fine."
Do these sound familiar to you? If not, you're up for a quick lesson on the greatest songs about poker in the history of music!
In our humble opinion, this is a definitive list of poker songs and a great starting point for further research into artists who used poker lingo to convey affection, their fears, passions, or even certain health issues.
From Delta blues to pure American country, from rock anthems to pop bangers, we present to you the best poker songs ever recorded!
Absolutely Cool and Timeless Poker Songs
The chances are high that you've heard both of these classic poker songs. If you haven't, then what exactly did you do in college?! For the right measure, we will kick off with a headbanger that will make you move your body in ways you didn't know was possible, while the second sets a much moodier tone, ideal for a rainy day.
Ace of Spades - Motorhead
We're starting off with a bang! These guys knew how to turn things up a notch! The top spot on our list of the greatest songs about poker rightfully belongs to one of the most successful heavy metal bands, Motorhead.
From the moment that heavy bassline hits until this under-three-minutes 1980 banger finishes, you'll be jumping around the house playing air guitar, with filthy distortions piercing through your ears.
You might not catch the full lyrics on the first listen, but soon you'll find out they're packed with gambling-related verses like "pushing up the ante" or "double up or quit, double stake or split." The lyrics even reference "a dead man's hand," which, of course, stands for pairs of black aces and eights.
To a skilled punter, the verses "you win some, lose some, it's all the same to me" may come off a bit too carefree, but we dare anyone not move their feet when this song comes on.
Desperado - The Eagles
This is an abrupt transition, but bear with us: put on your headphones and turn the volume down a bit for maximum experience.
Co-written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, out-and-out kings of rock ballads, this Eagles track is bursting with poker references and surely qualifies for one of the best poker songs ever. The song's title may be deceiving, but the Eagles are not referring to a bandit on the run: instead, the protagonist sees solitude as prison and fears dying alone.
For the Eagles, the entire life journey boils down to the luck of the draw: "don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy, she'll beat you if she's able" or "the queen of hearts is always your best bet."
The song was released as the title track on the Eagles' 1973 sophomore album and, although it was never launched as a single, it quickly became one of the fan favourites.
Dark and Gritty Poker Songs That Are Diamonds in the Rough
Turning the volume down a notch. We suggest listening to the following three poker songs in our collection alone, with your headphones on. Dark and gritty, but still full of emotion and lush to the core, with majestic vocal performances that will send shivers down your spine.
Huck's Tune - Bob Dylan
If you've seen the 2007 movie Lucky You, which tells a story about a prospective poker player who is ready to lose it all to get a spot at the poker table with the pros., then you are probably familiar with this track.
Although Dylan makes specific references to the plot and characters in this flick, stripped of the context, Huck's Tune is still a dreamy, lush tune that will immediately enchant you.
Proving that he still has a couple of aces up his sleeve in the 21st century, Dylan sings about giving up on love to chase an impossible dream. And he does it so well that it makes it easy for anyone to relate to his lyrics like "From my toes to my head, you knock me dead."
Had the movie not been a complete flop, Dylan's best love song of the 2000s could have easily earned him his second Academy Award. But even without an Oscar, Huck's Tune remains one of the best songs about poker, written by the Bard himself.
The Stranger Song - Leonard Cohen
Released in 1967 and inspired by the 1955 film The Man with the Golden Arm, Leonard Cohen's The Stranger Song remains one of the best poker songs, even though its lyrics deal with so much more than this ultimate card game.
The Stranger Song tells a story about a woman who keeps finding herself in relationships with men who aren't ready to settle instead of chasing a vague and elusive dream of a perfect woman. Leonard calls them "dealers" for dealing random combinations of cards, "watching for the card that is so high and wild, he'll never need to deal another."
Tired of watching another man in her life lay down his hand like he was "giving up the holy game of poker," the woman gives up and looks for another guy, hoping this time would be different.
The profound lyrics coupled with Cohen's haunting bass make this track one of the best songs about poker and one of the finest songs about unrequited love.
On The Nickel - Tom Waits
On the first listen, the lyrics of Tom Waits' On The Nickel may sound dumbfounding to an average poker player. When Waits says he knows of "a place where a royal flush can never beat a pair," he isn't referring to some weird poker variant. Instead, he talks of a place where all of the rules are long forgotten, and only the fittest survive.
That place is the 5th Street in Los Angeles which, at the time when the song was recorded, was home to the downtrodden. Waits does an amazing job at making a metareference here as poker players might know the fifth street as the river in several poker variations, as you might have picked up from our poker guide.
On The Nickel is Waits' greatest homage to the marginalised and underprivileged, to people who have lost the biggest game of all - the game of life.
Rock Poker Songs That You'll Enjoy Loud
Are you ready to rock?! Write a note for your neighbours and apologize for the loud music because the following two songs about poker we have prepared for you will literally blow your ears off! So put on your leather jackets and get ready to jump for these roof-raising classic rock anthems!
The Jack - AC/DC
Although brimming with poker references (aces, full house, royal flush), The Jack by AC/DC has nothing to do with poker.
The 1976 song from the Aussie rock band tells a story about, wait for it: a venereal disease. In case you didn't know, "the jack" is Australian slang for gonorrhea. Yep, it seems that the entire band caught this STD at some point and decided to have fun with the unfortunate situation (and turn it into a super cool rock song).
We won't go into the details of the original lyrics, but they boil down to bad hygiene practices and dishonesty on the part of the woman in question, in addition to a bunch of other sexual innuendos such as "Her deuce was wild, but my ace was high." You get the gist.
What's interesting is that AC/DC has changed the lyrics to this track over the years. In live performances, you will notice many of the poker references have become more sexually explicit.
Deuces Are Wild - Aerosmith
Those who have played deuces wild poker are well aware that your main goal is to land a two. Of course, it is because deuces can replace any other card you need.
And this is precisely what Jim Vallance & Steven Tyler had in mind when they wrote Deuces Are Wild back in 1988. The woman that Tyler's talking about in the lyrics is down for whatever: "I love you 'cause your deuces are wild, girl, like a double shot of lovin' so fine."
In addition to this one, this sunny ballad features another reference to poker: "Cause you and me is two of a kind." As far as Steven is concerned, they are the perfect pair. His grammar knowledge aside.
Initially ditched by the label for their album Pump, the track became one of the most listened to poker songs and has been included in virtually every Aerosmith's greatest hits compilation.
Classic Poker Songs That Sound a Bit Dated But Are Still Awesome
From lesser-known rock bands to nearly a century old blues classics, these songs about poker might feel slightly outdated, but they still pack a punch! We did our research, and we bet you haven't heard at least one of these tracks, so kick back and relax as we present three classic poker songs you might have missed.
Diamond Jack - Wishbone Ash
Wishbone Ash is perhaps the least known band in our collection of songs about poker, but the lyrics of their 1977 song are filled with poker reference to the brim, so it would be a shame not to include it.
The uptempo tune lays out the philosophy of life through the metaphor of a game of high-stakes poker. From "an ace of hearts, the dream of every man" to the end, the band talks about the uncertainty of life and taking things as they come.
The lyrics "black magic or lady luck" might also reference another piece of popular culture. In the movie The Cincinnati Kid, the young pretender gets busted by a more seasoned punter when he draws a jack of diamonds to form a highly improbable straight.
Maybe we'll never know if the lyricist had the movie in mind, but that won't stop us from reaching for the microphone and singing along.
Kenny Rogers - The Gambler
If there's one poker tune that should be part of the history of poker, then it's this absolute country music classic and one of the most memorable poker songs.
In the song, Kenny Rogers recounts an encounter with a gambler he met on the train "bound for nowhere;" the two agree that for every word of wisdom the gambler conveys, our protagonist will trade a sip of whiskey.
You get all the wisdom you need once the catchy chorus kicks in: "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run," which, in all honesty, applies to both playing a poker hand or simply living your life in general, as any of the famous poker players would tell you.
Even if you're not a country music fan, you'll know to appreciate this devil-may-care Texas Holdem song, which the one and only Johnny Cash also covered. The Man in Black's version features back vocals that work in perfect harmony with Johnny's deep voice, giving another joyful layer to the tune.
Little Queen of Spades - Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson's classic blues tune is hands down the oldest track in the poker songs book and is packed with gambling references, including the little queen of spades that men won't leave alone.
Johnson, too, is one of them, getting chills every time she's around. Throughout the song, Johnson repeatedly cries that he's "gonna get a gamblin' woman" because the last thing a man needs is a woman to give all his money to.
At the end of the song, Johnson makes a proposal: he asks the "little queen of spades" to join him in the union to "make our money green." Whether he speaks about making money in poker or having a romantic relationship, it doesn't matter because his verses strike the right chord.
Newer but Still Cool Poker Songs
Entering the bouncy world of pop, here come a couple of songs that have been released fairly recently but cemented their position among the most remarkable songs about poker.
From Lady Gaga to Ghostface Killah, we give you two poker bangers you will surely include in the playlist for your next party.
Poker Face - Lady Gaga
The beginning of Lady Gaga's rise to stardom practically coincided with the global poker boom of the early 2000s. And what else was the girl to do but capitalize on the rising popularity of the game!
Drawing parallels between love and poker, Lady Gaga's Pokerface features an infectious beat and a ton of poker-heavy verses such as "I wanna hold 'em like they do in Texas" or "can't read my poker face."
And "just like the chick in the casino," she took our bank before paying us out, leaving us nothing else to do but play this pop banger on repeat and dance our hearts out!
Unlike multiple personas Gaga has donned and shed during her career, this Texas Holdem song ain't going anywhere anytime soon.
Pokerface - Ghostface Killah (ft. Shawn Wigs)
If you're making a poker song, you can't possibly go wrong with samples of World Series of Poker TV coverage, the sound of poker chips clattering, and a couple of lines from the movie Rounders (1998 drama about the underground world of high stakes poker).
Boasting all these features, Pokerface might be the ultimate musical homage to poker in the 21st century. Ghostface Killah wastes no time in using poker terms to reference love. Instead, on this rhythmic journey, he dives right into the essence with verses like "you can't make much either if you a believer of luck." Really though, name one serious gambler who can't relate to this?!
Ghostface Killah even goes to such lengths as to reference one of the greatest songs about poker - Kenny Rogers' The Gambler - saying: "This is no-limit hold 'em, you gotta know when to fold 'em." Dayum, man, that's some fine rapping right there!
Classic Poker Songs That May Not Be So Good
Let's go back a couple of decades and see what artists had to say about poker in the 1960s. These are two classic songs about poker that some might say haven't aged well. Regardless, they both deserve to be included in our list, if for nothing else, then because the people who sang them were and remain one of the biggest stars in music history.
Frank Sinatra - Luck Be a Lady
Luck Be a Lady was first featured in the musical Guys and Dolls, but it wasn't until a decade later that Frank Sinatra immortalized it.
And to be honest, Frankie's delivery is flawless: his singing is on point, and you could write a book about how charming he is. And we must agree that the songwriter nailed it when he decided to compare women to luck in poker, with all the witty remarks that pop up from every verse.
Put into the perspective of a poker game, praying for luck not to leave one's side is cute. Frank says: "A lady doesn't wander all over the room, and blow on some other guy's dice" and "a lady never flirts with strangers."
However, put into a modern context, we bet many women would mind telling them how a lady should behave. As far as the superstition goes, this poker song works like a charm. But enter women's emancipation into the equation, and we feel compelled to press "next."
Viva Las Vegas - Elvis Presley
It may sound surprising, but the unofficial anthem of the Gambling Capital of the World wasn't a massive hit at the time when it was released. However, as Las Vegas solidified its position as the world's most famous gambling destination, Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas became one of the most popular songs about poker and has since given rise to countless covers.
There's no doubt Viva Las Vegas is a great gambling song: in it, the King of R'n'R pays tribute to virtually all casino games. Poker, blackjack, roulette, one-armed bandits; they're all there. Elvis even goes on to laud Vegas nightlife and a thousand women living their life to the fullest.
But the song also feels like a travel brochure, listing all of the things you would expect to get in Sin City. Perhaps after all these decades, it's time to find another poker song that would replace Viva Las Vegas as a new anthem for the city.
Poker Songs That Are Lame
Trying too hard is never good. Just take a look at any pop star going the extra mile to stay relevant forever (looking at you, Maddy!). Well, these fellas seem to have put their heart and soul into the lyrics and music they wrote, but the final result comes off a bit cheesy and over the top. We'll let you judge for yourself as we present the last two songs about poker in our list:
Clint Black - A Good Run of Bad Luck
Clint Black's A Good Run of Bad Luck tells us about the perils of following your heart while splashing us with a bunch of gambling lingo.
References like high rollers, chips, lady luck (Frank Sinatra, anyone?), or betting on a loser sprout from every corner. Wrap a love story around poker, and you get an uptempo country song that found its place in the soundtrack for the movie Maverick, which we featured in our carefully curated collection of best poker movies.
Perhaps a fitting selection for the movie, A Good Run of Bad Luck strikes us as a cheesy love song that capitalizes on poker slang to add a bit more flare:
"Squeezin' out a thin dime 'til there's no one hanging on my arm"? Sorry, Clint, but we are not convinced!
Shape of My Heart - Sting
There is a strong chance you'll hear Sting's Shape of My Heart at your local grocery store at any time of the day. The song has been dominating the airwaves for nearly 30 years, praised for its brilliant concept.
Shape of My Heart tells the story about a poker player who couldn't care less if he's winning or losing. He plays for knowledge, rather than monetary gain, dealing "the cards to find the answer, the sacred geometry of chance, the hidden law of a probable outcome."
But how many poker metaphors can you squeeze in a song? According to Sting, there is no limit! As the track drags on, the player learns that "spades are the swords of a soldier," "clubs are weapons of war," and "diamonds mean money for this art," and so on.
Sting might have had a brilliant concept, but he clogged the lyrics with poker references, turning the song into a snooze fest. In the end, the track feels pompous and hard to digest, so maybe it's time for radio stations to turn it down a notch and quit playing this tune over and over again.
We hope you enjoyed our selection of songs about poker and had fun while listening to these tracks. We tried to cover as many genres as we could to appeal to everyone's taste.
Did you like any of them? If so, why not include them in a playlist for your next poker night with friends?
Maybe they'll add a bunch of other tracks to this selection, and you'll end up having an all-night poker-themed party!