POKER LIFESTYLE

Top 7 Songs about Playing Cards to Get You in a Gambling Mood

By David Huber
December 31, 2023

Songs about playing cards entered into pop culture long before the wave of online competitive card playing began. The game of poker, specifically, has been a main theme in several chart-toppers in the past decades that have been played (and replayed) almost as much as bad beat stories themselves.

In this article, we’ll list seven of the most popular songs related to card playing ever recorded. These tunes are a sure fit for any casual home game, and are perfect for getting your guests in a gambling mood.

poker songs

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Original Release Date: September 2008
Album: The Fame
Composer: Lady Gaga

In between concert wardrobe changes, professional level piano playing, and fifth-octave vocals, Lady Gaga burst onto the global scene in the late 2000s with perhaps her most famous hit record – Poker Face.

The official YouTube video itself ranks third among Lady’s Gaga’s career discography, with more than 1.2 billion views to date.

The song delves into modern day relationships and uses a number of poker terms in its backdrop. The main chorus, “No he can’t read my poker face,” is a not so subtle reference to competitive “player reading” that has become commonplace in casino card rooms around the world.

The song was also released near the very peak of the worldwide poker boom. Although new sign-ups had stagnated, Vegas casinos were still dedicating prime real estate to live poker tables while the largest online sites were hosting millions of players at their virtual tables each day.

Aside from poker, the song intertwines other gambling references ranging from Russian Roulette to a “chick in the casino.” And let’s not leave out the “bluffin’ with my muffin” poker reference.

At the time of the song’s release, Poker Face was the perfect accompaniment during home game parties and thriving bar scenes that showed cable-hosted live poker tournament final tables on big screens with no sound.

The Gambler – Kenny Rogers

Original Release Date: November 1978
Album: The Gambler
Composer: Don Schlitz
Movie: The Gambler

There’s a lot of musical history that precedes Kenny Rogers’ rise to culture icon status. He was once the lead singer and bass guitar player for a band called First Edition and enjoyed crossover success in multiple genres during the 1960s and 1970s.

But once The Gambler released in 1978, Rogers became the performing artist who recorded perhaps THE most iconic country song about gambling to this day.

The Gambler launched Kenny Rogers’ silver screen career. It also led to a subsequent pop-country crossover opportunity when he teamed up with Dolly Parton to record the Bee Gees’ classic “Islands In The Stream” hit in 1983.

The lyrics to The Gambler are a pure homage to poker, card playing, and are rich with gambling lingo. Even before the main chorus of the song is sung, there is plenty of gambling terminology used.

“Son, I’ve made a life out of reading people’s faces”
“And knowing what their cards were by the way they held their eyes”
“I can see you’re out of aces”
“If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right”

The “know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em” line from The Gambler’s chorus still resonates as solid card playing advice. That line is also instantly recognized among card players around the globe.

Following a post-chorus chord change (almost obligatory for country-western songs of that era), the poker-themed lyrics further blend into life lessons.

“Knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep” is a reference to poker Draw Games.

“Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser” is a reference to showing down with the best hand or bluffing with the worst hand.

Near the end of the song, the singer finds “an ace that I could keep,” referring back to the chorus lyrics.

It’s amazing that The Gambler was composed entirely by 23-year-old computer programmer Don Schlitz – way back in August of 1976.

Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley

Original Release Date: April 1964
Album: (45-RPM single, ‘A’ side)
Composers: Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman

The legendary Elvis Presley recorded this hit tune at a time when Las Vegas performance artist residencies were in their infancy. The VIVA LAS VEGAS fanfare chorus resonates with Sin City tourists to this day, while the lyrics themselves tend to lean on the “degenerate gambler” side.

Due to the heavy commercialization of the tune, it’s easy to miss out on the lyrics and how they relate to the Las Vegas casino atmosphere. There’s talk about “blackjack,” “poker,” “roulette,” and “hot dice,” – not to mention a 24-hour (or 64-hour) no-sleep gambling binge amid all the “bright lights” of Vegas.

And while the Las Vegas skyline has gone through multiple major changes since the 1960s, much of Elvis’ tune remains relevant decades later.

If you or your home game guests are about to travel to Sin City, then Viva Las Vegas is a must-add to any music playlist. It’s full of ambition, anticipation, adventure, and anxiety. It is perfect for an outgoing flight of tourists looking to strike it rich. However, it’s not usually a song that makes it into personal playlists on Sundays, when gamblers make their return flights back home.

The Winner Takes It All – ABBA

Original Release Date: November 1980
Album: Super Trouper
Composers: Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson

Another gambling-themed song that has been so heavily commercialized that the actual non-chorus lyrics are easy to forget.

As one might expect, the tune talks about lost love and mixes it with a lot of card playing jargon. You can find the phrases “played all my cards,” “no more ace to play,” and “throw a dice” within this popular hit.

Queen of Hearts – Juice Newton

Original Release Date: February 1981
Album: Juice
Composer: Hank DeVito

Poker is a recurring theme within this country-pop song, which blends the topic of love with an unforgettable chorus line. The “joker ain’t the only fool” and “Queen of Hearts” lines are the only references to the actual game, but they are repeated several times within the song (along with a chord change) and are the most memorable part.

Good Run of Bad Luck – Clint Black

Original Release Date: February 1994
Album: No Time To Kill
Composers: Clint Black, Haydon Nicholas
Movie: Maverick

If ever a gambler’s “anthem” existed, it’s this song. The lyrics are rich in craps jargon and, of course, tell the story of “risking it all” for love.

In the first stanza, there are several references to shooting dice and casinos.

  • High roller (casino)
  • Chips (casino)
  • Tables (casino)
  • Ten the hard way (craps)
  • Windfall (gambling)
  • Shoot the moon (dominoes)

Once the chorus comes around, Clint Black talks about “seven come eleven,” references lady luck, and ends with a craps term and blends it with the “bottom line.”

This tune was one of the main parts of the Maverick movie soundtrack in 1994, which starred Mel Gibson alongside vintage “Rockford Files” protagonist James Garner and “Silence of The Lambs” psy-doc Jodie Foster.

The official video uses playing cards as a dance floor prop, and ends with an image of the Queen of Hearts playing card.

Leaving Las Vegas – Sheryl Crow

Original Release Date: January 1994
Album: Tuesday Night Music Club
Composers: David Baerwald, Bill Bottrell, Sheryl Crow, Kevin Gilbert, Brian MacLeod, and David Ricketts

This is a little-known tune off of Crow’s debut album that included the “All I Wanna Do” hit with top-notch steel guitar accompaniment. Leaving Las Vegas has tons of references to the city, casinos, gambling, playing cards, and luck.

The song starts off with talk about a “neon street,” a clear reference to the Las Vegas Strip. Other notable words include losing streak, odds, bet, drink, blinds, blackjack, joker, jack, king, and middle of the desert.

Again, if you or your home game guests are about to embark on a Las Vegas adventure, this tune is almost guaranteed to lift your spirits and put you in a gambling mood.

Card Playing and Popular Culture

It’s quite amazing just how much gambling, card playing, and casino-going have made their way into global pop culture over the last few decades. Many songs about these themes also hit close to home when it comes to describing the Las Vegas desert, bright lights, and casino atmosphere.

More noteworthy perhaps is just how much actual card playing is mentioned when compared to other casino activities. There aren’t nearly as many popular songs that rave about casino slots, fine dining, bingo cards, or even horse racing.

As far as screen acting is concerned, Kenny Rogers was able to parlay his blockbuster hit into starring role appearances in both The Gambler and Coward of The County. Both these movies shared a title with corresponding single releases.

The prominence of gambling within country-western music writing may be linked all the way back to the late 19th Century in Tombstone, Arizona, and the Wild West days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Some of these themes (especially the card playing) are captured quite vividly in the recent video game title Red Dead: Redemption 2.

But gambling and card playing have also been popular themes for role-playing video games dating as far back as the 1980s, with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game Casino Kid.

And who could forget vintage trends such as placing a pair of fuzzy dice inside one’s vehicle, or using a keychain that portrays one or more playing cards, dice, casino chips, or casino prizes.

Like it or not, gambling has earned its way into popular culture and has endured for multiple generations as media has advanced.

Whether it’s music, movies, games, or trinkets, card playing and gambling are in our lives on a daily basis.

Card Playing and Good Times

Some of this author’s own fondest memories come from decades ago, playing micro stakes poker at a kitchen table with family. Card playing can be one of the most enjoyable group activities available — especially when all competing players are gambling well within their own bankroll limits.

Home games often combine music, poker tables, poker props, and other card playing accessories that result in “good times” for all involved. Fixed Limit Stud Games, Draw Games, Omaha, and Texas Hold’em are typically the most common games played at a poker table — but there are plenty of other variations as well.

All you need is a few friends or a couple of family members to turn a few hours of free time into an unforgettable card playing experience.

Take your home game to new heights by adding these popular, gambling-themed songs to your playlist and bide your time until your next visit to Las Vegas!

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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