As card games can be full of tension, conflict, and glamor, it’s hardly surprising that the likes of poker and blackjack have inspired some of the biggest rock bands and artists of all time.
The standout tracks often embody the buzz and atmosphere of a high stakes game or tell the story of what it’s like to become captivated by the atmosphere at a casino table. Here are the best rock songs about card games.
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers (1978)
It doesn’t matter if you love or hate country music, it’s impossible to not appreciate The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. The hit track was written by Don Schlitz and recalled an encounter between a gambler and singer on a train journey to an unknown destination.
You can guarantee you will be singing the poker-filled chorus at the top of your lungs, which features lyrics like “you’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” It is a lyric most successful card players would agree with, too.
Ace of Spades by Motorhead (1980)
Motorhead’s Ace of Spades is undoubtedly one of the finest rock tracks in music history. While you might only know the words to the catchy heavy metal chorus, the whole song pays tribute to the Ace of Spades card.
If you listen closely, you’ll discover that the iconic song is filled with various gambling references, such as “you win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me” and “pushing up the ante, I know you want to see me, read ‘em and weep, the dead man’s hand again”. It’s three minutes of exceptional rock music and a fitting tribute to the adrenaline rush of a competitive card game.
Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley (1964)
By the time Elvis Presley secured a leading role in Viva Las Vegas, a 1964 musical, he had established himself as a rock music icon. To support the launch of his 15th film, the King of Rock n’ Roll released the hit theme song of the same name, which was co-written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. The track perfectly reflected his silver screen character, Lucky Jackson, who enjoyed the non-stop buzz of the Sin City.
While you could easily get swept away by the catchy rhythm and fast pace, it’s the lyrics that perfectly embody the glamor and atmosphere of Vegas, as it features lines such as “Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire” and “Oh, there’s blackjack and poker and the roulette wheel, a fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal”. The song is bound to get your foot tapping and head bopping while making you long to immerse yourself in the atmospheric Las Vegas strip.
Desperado by The Eagles (1973)
Desperado wasn’t an instant hit with music lovers when it was released in 1973, but the Linda Ronstadt version led to the original song rising in popularity. Plus, the track garnered even more attention when the legendary band reformed back in the 1990s.
The ballad, which was written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, features numerous poker references, with the song telling the story of a bandit attempting to flee from the law. Listen out for great lyrics such as “don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able,” as well as “the queen of hearts is always your best bet.”
Huck’s Tune by Bob Dylan (2006)
Bob Dylan’s Huck’s Tune is a proof that the Nobel Prize winner’s craft gets stronger with age. The song was written for the movie Lucky You, which stars Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana.
When you’re not falling in love with Dylan’s voice, you’ll fall in love with the clever lyrics, which detail the perils of money, poker, and relationships. Those who have ever come close to a poker showdown will surely relate to various lines within the song, such as “the game’s gotten old, the deck’s gone cold, and I’m gonna have to put you down for a while.” It’s four minutes of musical genius.
The Dealer by Stevie Nicks (2014)
Despite The Dealer appearing on 24 Karat Gold – Songs From The Vault, which was Stevie Nicks’ solo album, you wouldn’t be foolish to believe it featured on an iconic Fleetwood Mac record.
That’s because the song was first penned in 1979, but it wasn’t released until 2014. It is one track that’s worth a listen, as the topics of both love and regret are tackled through various card references. For example, Stevie Nicks claims to be a dealer who “held the cards” while often referring to herself as a card shark. It’s one song you’ll want to add onto your playlist.
The Stranger Song by Leonard Cohen (1967)
While many music scholars have argued about whether Leonard Cohen’s The Stranger Song tells the story of love, drugs, poker or all the above, no-one can deny the hit track would appeal to the most die-hard poker fans.
In fact, card players can easily relate to its well-crafted verses, such as “then sweeping up the joker that he left behind, you find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter” and “like any dealer, he was watching for the card that is so high and wild, he’ll never need to deal another”. It’s a catchy song you’ll definitely want to dissect.
So, if you are set to play poker, blackjack or gin rummy, you can guarantee the above songs will get you in the mood for a fun card game.