77+ Songs About Gambling from All Genres
Here is CasinoAlpha’s best gambling songs list. Find out the story behind hit songs about gambling from all genres. No casino songs enjoyer will be let down.
You can freely browse through our categorised list of gambling songs based on their genre and artist. You will also find a preview for each, plus some extra fun facts and info on your favourite musicians. And while we promised 77 gambling songs, read through, and you will find some extras.
Introducing songs about gambling
The casino songs we have covered either address the activity directly, from various angles or are not songs about gambling but are too fitting the scene not to be included.
We made sure to pick entries from renowned artists that will prove to be more than background music. These casino songs will become your long-term gambling soundtrack.
Music has a way of nuancing your day-to-day life. Whether spinning on the best slots sites or wagering within the slickest live casinos, these gambling songs will surely enhance your experience.
|Genre||Nr. of gambling songs|
|Country / folk||12 (+14)|
|Metal / hard rock||7|
|Punk / post-punk / new wave||9|
Country and folk gambling songs
Country and folk are overrepresented among songs about gambling. For centuries now, musicians have explored the casino scene as part of a broader Americana aesthetic.
The inciting gambling world has always been two steps away from Wild West, its mythology, and legacy. What would a Western be without a scene where the Stranger, just arriving in a desert town, blasts a parlour’s revolving doors open, orders a whiskey on rocks and sits down at the poker table.
The times did change, and now no one is at risk of a Mexican standoff when gambling. However, if you still want to retain the romanticism of scouring the desert for a saloon, even when comfortably playing in a mobile casino, these are the gambling songs for you.
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
There hardly is a better way to start a list of country songs about gambling than with Kenny Rogers’s 1978 hit single, “The Gambler”.
Don Schlitz wrote the song in 1976. It made the rounds among several Nashville artists, notably Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash. Both artists included a recording on their albums, “Bare” and “Gone Girl”.
However, it took Rogers’s rendition (with the notable accompaniment from The Jordanaires) to take the song to hit status. “The Gambler” proved lucrative, becoming the title track for the ’78 eponymous album, earning Rogers a Best Male Country Vocal Performance Grammy award.
The Dubliners – The Galway Races
Who said that the Americans have a stranglehold on gambling songs? The Dubliners bring their twist to this niche with the jolly sing-along folk song “The Galway Races”.
The tune paints a lively portrayal of the Eire, with name drops of emblematic areas in Ireland, from Limerick to Cork City, to the city the song is centred upon. All mixed up with some anti-British vitriol.
“The Galway Races” is among the few songs about gambling that portray the racing scene with its associated betting element.
Jerry Garcia – Deal
“Since it costs a lot to win and even more to lose.” This lyric may encapsulate many players’ feelings regarding gambling, even nowadays, when sites provide no deposit bonuses and promotional play systems. Losing still is essential to this activity. And naturally, chance and loss ring close to people’s love lives, too.
This was the take of Jerry Garcia in the iconic “Deal”, a song whose lyrics tote the line between casino play and dealing with love, with lines like “Goes to show, you don’t ever know,/ Watch each card you play and play it slow.”
Jerry kind of ends on a more explicit note, dispelling the metaphor and confusion, with “I hate to leave you sittin’ there composin’ lonesome blues.” We don’t know if pouring wine and tightening up shoes is a solid reason to stick around a person, but the song works, either way.
Nevertheless, casino goers should take the last lyric, “Wait until that deal come round, don’t you let that deal come down”, with a grain of salt. In love and gambling, you should recognise when your behaviours are on the toxic side and stop your addiction in time.
Lonnie Donegan – Gamblin’ Man
The UK Singles Chart welcomed skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan in its number one position throughout June and July 1957.
A folk music genre born in the Southern United States mostly played on manufactured and improvised instruments that took influences from blues, jazz, and American folk music. Skiffle became incredibly popular in the British isles, in the 50s, with Lonnie Donegan being one flagbearer.
“Gamblin’ Man” oozes with energy and pure joy bordering on the maniacal. “The King of Skiffle” was at his best, both in power and folksy charm.
Stephen Stills – Black Queen
Dallas-born Stephen Stills is a legend in the industry for his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Buffalo Springfield. His activity with the two bands, combined with his solo career, brought him over 35 million album sales. He also took 28th place in Rolling Stone’s 2003 The 1000 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.
And one of his most successful singles, “Black Queen”, is a must-listen among poker songs. In a standard play on words, the Black Queen from the suite of cards takes the form of an afro femme fatale that plays with the players like mere cards. The song moves from an image of an all-knowing unbeatable Black Queen to one that finds out that “truth is hard” when you’re playing “foolish cards.”
Doug Supernaw – Reno
“She’s a lot like Reno” – one lyric says it all. Supernaw turns the cold neon-lit image of an uncaring Reno into the portrayal of a particularly frigid partner.
The narrator presents the bleak helplessness of an unwinnable situation. No “loaded dice” can give him an upper hand. Supernaw confabulates the real, tangible disadvantage of gambling with the seemingly bleak situation following a relationship breakdown. As he says it, “Lady or Reno, either way, I lose.”
“Reno”, beyond being a classic dedicated to a famous casino destination, is moody in the corniest way. But we won’t judge you if you feel like listening to it while lamenting a lousy run.
Clint Black – A Good Run of Bad Luck
While we’re at gambling songs that are actually about falling in or out of love, we should cover Clint Black’s “A Good Run of Bad Luck”. The song was featured on the soundtrack of Maverick (dir. Richard Donner, 1994), with Black also having a cameo.
The song is considerably more optimistic and up-tempo than “Reno”, but the concept behind the content is similar. More importantly, it’s a great country casino song that will make you feel like Bret Maverick, even when playing in online casinos.
Combine your gambling songs soundtrack with the best live casinos to get the most authentic experience.
Juice Newton – Queen of Hearts
“Queen of Hearts” was written by pedal steel guitarist Hank DeVito, who was part of The Hot Band, Emmylou Harris’s backing group.
Dave Edmunds first took notice and recorded the track for his 1979 LP Repeat When Necessary. Edmunds’s rendition is a country-pop classic, reaching number 11 in British charts and 12 in Irish ones.
However, the Welsh rockabilly revivalist did not have the star power of a Juice Newton. Grammy-nominated pop and country artist Juice Newton recorded her version and reached number 2 in US and South African charts.
Direction-wise, the two covers are more alike than anything else. Newton’s version may be a bit more up-tempo, and Edmunds prefers to stay close to his pub rock roots.
Nevertheless, we mainly have to thank DeVito for creating the vivid imagery of this classic. Seeing a love story in the card suite has already become a trademark of poker songs, with masterful poets with a guitar, like Van Zandt perfecting the direction to sheer masterpiece status. Stay tuned for more on this.
Carly Simon – Riverboat Gambler
“Riverboat gambler” appeared on Carly Simon’s sixth studio album, “Another Passenger”, which was also called by Rolling Stone “[her] best album.” The track did not earn a single status, being outshined by “Half a Chance” and “It Keeps You Running.” Granted, it is a bit slow to be at the top of anyone’s playlist. However, Carly Simon’s “Riverboat Gambler” is worth a listen, perhaps during a comedown from a casino streak.
Simon’s 1976 tune should not be confused with Chris LeDoux’s “River Boat Gambler”, released in 1971 and included in “Songs of Rodeo Life”, which is considerably more upbeat and folksy.
Chris LeDoux’s “River Boat Gambler”
Kathy Mattea – Walking Away A Winner
On May 17, 1994, Kathy Mattea released her eighth studio album, “Walking Away a Winner, ” with the eponymous leading single.
The title track reached its zenith at number 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. The song is pretty good. However, on a sadder note, both “Walking Away a Winner”, the track and the album were the last hit successes of Mattea.
Jerry Reed – When You’re Hot, You’re Hot
Jerry Reed brings optimism to the betting table with this 1971 crossover single that peaked at number one in the country charts for five consecutive weeks.
This track’s unnuanced optimism and upbeat attitude are odd enough since its subject is an illegal game of craps that ends with an arrest.
Luckily for the protagonist, the judge presiding over his case turns out to be one of his old fishing buddies that let his fellows off the hook, mind the pun. Nevertheless, the protagonist ends up spending 90 days in jail.
Naturally, when you’re hot, you should stay hot without legal repercussions. In the online environment, it’s worth reading our casino reviews before going gambling.
John Jacob – American Folk and Gambling Songs
We have promised you 77 gambling songs. Since we love to provide our readers with the best casino bonuses, we are also throwing in some extra tracks.
Enter John Jacob’s collection, released in 1956 featuring the country and traditional folk songs about gambling originating in America.
The three great songwriters on gambling
Folk has had some of the greatest songwriters across the years. Their legacy was marked by Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
These ingenious creators naturally brought their personal touch to casino life with various songs about gambling. We will cover the three most essential singer-songwriters that approached the subject and produced some of the greatest casino songs.
Dylan is a living legend, with his poetic approach being a stamp of American pop culture for the better of 60 years running.
With tracks like “Blowing in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changing”, the singer of change, Robert Allen Zimmerman, has often been hailed as the greatest songwriter of all time. Despite the Nobel prize, we can safely say that the jury is still out on this decision.
Nonetheless, Dylan produced some of the best gambling songs in history, all imbued with his ragtag rambling style, gravelly voice, and nick for the folksy little man and underdogs.
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
Brimming with harmonica, overflowing with energy and spanning over eight minutes, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” is a masterpiece in parabolic storytelling.
Dylan builds sets the scene: the underbelly of society, marked by cabarets, gambling wheels, and the kingpin of it all, a certain Big Jim, owner of the “town’s only diamond mine”, dismayed Rosemary on his side. The stranger enters the picture, the Jack of Hearts, the leader of a team of robbers, and the one man that could turn the tables for the little town. Lily, too, “a princess” and “precious as a child”, joins, quickly becoming one romantic interest.
What ensues is a tale as old as time, filled with and fuelled by cunning, resentment, betrayal, and ending on a warm, hopeful note, as only Dylan can deliver.
Bob Dylan- Huck’s Tune
Here’s a slower, more soulful love song from the same brilliant Dylan. “Huck’s Tune” is an end-of-the-road tune where Dylan reflects and rejoices on found and lost love. He ends each verse with a tragic “I’m gonna have to put you down for a while.” It really is up to you what you see in this fatalistic declaration – an admission of failure, an end, an erotic invitation, or rather the mere implication of settling down.
The fifth verse is what inscribes “Huck’s Tune” among songs about gambling. Here, too, Dylan proves his fatalism with lyrics like “You push it all in, and you’ve no chance to win / You play ’em down to the end.”
Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Willie
“Come around, you roving gamblers and a story I will tell / About the greatest gambler, you all should know him well.” In “Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Willie”, Dylan does just that. He tells the tall tale of a man that spends his life roving the Great American plains, from Atlantic to Pacific, gambles, loves freely, and fathers children, albeit never having a wife.
A stamp of Americana and the mythology around it, the character of “Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Willie” acts as a hedonistic trickster worthy of being in the pantheon of gambling gods from around the world.
Who Killed Davey Moore?
Davey Moore was a legendary American boxer who fell into a coma and died following a brain stem injury contracted during a fight with Cuban-Mexican boxer Sugar Ramos.
Bob Dylan examines his death and tries to find who shares the guilt for this event. All actors, from the referee to the crowd, manager, boxing writer, contestant, and even gambling man, speak out their innocence. However, Dylan shows that we all share in the guilt of his untimely demise, from spectators to referee.
Times have a-changed since, as fans and gamblers have greater respect for the struggles and proficiencies of our best British boxers.
We’ll end with a classic, Dylan’s rendition of an American traditional folk song called “The Rambling Gambler.”
In September 1960, the then-19-year-old Bob Dylan recorded the version during his second-earliest solo session. You can nowadays find it on “The Bootleg Series vol. 7.”
Leonard Cohen was a much more volatile musician and writer, with a more memorable gravelly voice, brooding tone (especially in his later work) and a discography infused with Christian and Jewish mysticism and mythology.
No wonder his first published collection of poems got the title “Let’s Compare Mythologies.” Leonard Cohen did just that for his entire life, whether it be biblical stories or anecdotes from contemporary times.
Cohen was a dashing singer with an unparallel charisma and presence, managing to articulate states and emotions with universality and versatility. In a 2012 interview, the late Leonard Cohen reminisced about his “Messianic childhood” when he was once told he was a descendant of “Aaron, the high priest.” Looking back over his career, maybe David, the poet king, would have been a much better simile.
The Stranger Song
“The Stranger Song” is a piece of music that deserves the have praises sung. Gambling meets eyes with the love once more. Cohen tells the story of a tragic female character who only meets quote-on-quote gamblers, who spend their days with her for “comfort and shelter” and hit the open road, reminding her they were only strangers.
In a heartbreaking turn of events, Leonard Cohen concludes that “it was you, my love, you who are the stranger.” A story of recurring sorrow, a vivid image of abandonment, imbued with imagery specific to songs about gambling, “The Stranger Song” is the perfect entry drug into Cohen’s moody themes and world.
Townes Van Zandt
Townes Van Zandt is a diamond in the rough, much more earthy and, to many, still undiscovered.
But, if Steve Earle is anyone to go by, Van Zandt was “the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Dylan himself seemed to agree, stating that he owns all of his records. The feelings were partially mutual, save for Dylan’s fame that left Van Zandt cold.
Maybe, we won’t get up on Mr Dylan’s table to state our appreciation for Townes Van Zandt, but one thing sticks. He simply was one of the most gifted lyricists in current American history. “Pancho and the Lefty” is a folk classic, and renowned music director T-Bone Burnett, who, fun fact, worked on the soundtrack for the first season of “True Detective”, often used his tracks. More recently, “Euphoria” included the beautifully tragic “Rake” in its soundtrack.
- Townes Van Zandt suffered from drug addiction, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. In his youth, he was treated with insulin shock therapy that erased most of his long-term memory.
- Since his untimely demise, two books and a documentary film, “Be Here to Love Me”, were dedicated to covering his life.
St. John the Gambler
Gamblers now have their own saint, thanks to Van Zandt’s endless imagination. St. John the Gambler appears on the legendary 1969 album “Our Mother the Mountain” (that we gladly recommend.)
Van Zandt constructs the story of a young woman who leaves her mother’s breast as she has “given [her] soul to Saint John the gambler.” As she goes and endures the harsh and unknown world, her only consolation is to dress “in calico” for her gambler, who “likes his women fancy.” In her search for this patron saint of gamblers, she falls to her death, in her last moments hearing his “laughter right down from the mountains.”
A tragic ending that cannot be but quoted:
“[And] danced with her mother’s tears
To a funeral drawn a calico
‘neath the cross of twenty years.”
Mr Mudd and Mr Gold
We may have started on a sad note, but “Mr Mudd and Mr Gold” is anything but. Here, Townes Van Zandt takes all the tropes specific to poker songs and weaves them into a pattern so complex and dynamic that it simply requires repeated listening sessions.
The song establishes Van Zandt as a masterful modern storyteller, concocting an exciting tale with the ease of a wizard with nothing but his down-to-earth demeanour, raspy voice, and a good old six-string guitar. Moving art – both literally and figuratively.
From his words, “Mr Mudd and Mr Gold” came to him in a flash. “It wasn’t me that was writin’ it, it was a giant pencil from the sky.”
Cowboy Junkies Lament
During May and June 1990, Townes Van Zandt opened for the Cowboy Junkies in their US and Canadian tour. This period exposed him to a new wave of younger fans.
This is where “Cowboy Junkies Lament” found its inception. Van Zandt wrote the song by dedicating one verse to each band member.
The band returned the favour by writing “Townes’s Blues,” another certified bop.
Cowboy Junkies – Townes’ Blues
“Rex’s Blues” is featured on the “Live at the Old Quarter” and “Rear View Mirror.” We recommend the live album if you want to get a taste of how Van Zandt acted and sounded unplugged.
The whole album is impeccable, building an atmosphere that places you easily on a bar stool, seeing Townes wailing his ailing soul through heavy smoke curtains folding up towards the ceiling.
Imagine booting up some classic title on slots sites while Van Zandt takes you decades back to the famous Listening Room of Huston, Texas.
Townes composed “Rex’s Blues” to honour his good friend and founder of the Old Quarter Acoustic Café, Rex “Wrecks” Bell.
Dollar Bill Blues
“Dollar Bill Blues” is a track featured in “A Far Cry from Dead” that also appeared in “Hell or High Water.”
Beyond its energetic pace and catchy rhythm, the song will also give you a crash course in casino slang. “I’ve rolled the bones with either hand” refers to an old nickname for the craps dice. Naturally, Townes Van Zandt plays on the double entendre, following up the mortuary imagery with “Seven is the promised land”, seven being long associated with holiness given its frequent occurrence within the Bible. In craps, rolling a seven or eleven is called a natural, and the Pass line would automatically win.
Waitin’ Around to Die
You have just listened to Townes Van Zandt singing his emblematic “Waitin’ Around to Die” in James Szalapski’s documentary Heartworn Highways under the tearful eyes of Uncle “The Walking Blacksmith” Seymour.
It doesn’t get more Van Zandt than this, and while Heartworn Highways hardly being listable among gambling movies, it is worth a watch.
And as a bonus, for the fans of Van Zandt’s work, there is a rendition of “Waitin’ Around to Die” by The Be Good Tanyas that is worth a listen.
“Waitin’ Around to Die” by The Be Good Tanyas
Pop casino songs and hits
Songs about gambling are not restricted to more traditional country or folk tunes. Pop and rock artists have adopted and adapted its tropes into great gambling songs.
Here are the best casino, gambling, and poker songs coming from pop artists. We’ll cover both contemporary and all-time hits.
Billy Joel – Easy Money
Billy Joel’s ninth studio album had the concept of exploring and paying homage to music from the artist’s adolescent years.
So, expect to hear a lot of 50s and 60s inspired tunes, especially doo-wop and soul music. “Easy Money” easily fits into this mould. Naturally, it is no “Piano Man”, but as for songs about gambling, it is mindless expressive fun.
Suzanne Vega – No Cheap Thrill
“It’ll cost you”, but who wouldn’t bet on Suzanne Vega? To deliver a pop hit, we mean. The song and video are great mood-setters for casino play and great for an easy listen.
Despite Suzanne Vega’s lyrics, gambling doesn’t have to cost you. Free spins are a great example of features that allow extended free of charge play and not just for cheap thrills.
Prince – Money Don’t Matter 2 Night
Prince delivers, as always, in this sleek funky-infused pop classic. Don’t be surprised that you start grooving as soon as the needle hits the vinyl with this impeccably composed song.
Given its recurring game metaphors, the track is also a perfect companion for playing on blackjack sites. Prince is a must listen and an obligatory addition among gambling songs.
Kim Carnes – Draw the Cards
Kim Carnes of “Betty Davis Eyes” fame has also provided us with the synth-drenched “Draw the Cards.” In hindsight, both the music video and the song itself may have aged poorly, being excellent campy 80s material.
However, its mix of electric guitar riffs, excessive sax, and Carnes’s raspy voice, together with the 80s expressionistic video, turn it into a spectacle you can hardly take your eyes from.
The “Draw the Cards” album also has a special extended version for the title track.
Kim Carnes – Draw the Cards extended version
Abba – The Winner Takes It All
Here comes Abba’s classic “The Winner Takes It All”, a reflection on past love that will pull at your heartstrings. “The gods may throw a dice / Their mind as cold as ice / And someone way down here / Loses someone dear.” These lyrics perfectly encapsulate the aim of this song.
Whether you had a run of bad luck, be it at the casino or in love, Abba’s classic will surely console and raise your sorrow to the heights of 80s cheesy dramatism.
While we’re at the pop legends, let’s add Madonna to the mix, with her single “Gambler” harkening back to her early era, pre-sexual awakening and all that came after.
Rather than being at the whims of fortune and chance, the proverbial gambler Madonna embodies becomes uncertainty herself. It is a banger among gambling songs. Make it your anthem.
Katy Perry – Waking Up in Vegas
Katy Perry released “Waking Up in Vegas” on April 21 2009, during her heyday. Only one year prior, her breakthrough hit “Hot n Cold” was released. Come to think of it, “Hot n Cold” could be a good entry among gambling songs that are not directly songs about gambling.
Nevertheless, “Waking Up in Vegas” is a great track to have in your rotation if you’re planning a trip to Sin City, one of the many casino resorts, or just want to imagine travelling there.
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
“Poker Face” was among the hits that Lady Gaga took the pop world by surprise. As the name refers to one of the most popular gambling quotes and phrases, it is also among the best pop poker songs.
Lady Gaga explained that the track is about her bisexuality. More specifically, poker face refers to the face she pulls when she has sex with a man and wishes she did so with a woman. We could further read into Lady Gaga’s conscious self-sexualisation and self-objectification in the same vein.
However, the song’s success also hinges on its objective quality as a pop song, a quality no one could disagree with.
Sting – Shape of My Heart
Here is a slower song, with a moodier tone, from Sting. The artist goes through the card suite and naturally stops at the hearts, as the title suggests.
“Shape of My Heart” is a meditation on the music industry, the wider world, and the artist’s place and role in it. Thus, Sting distances himself from the materialist side, aiming to adhere exclusively to the shape of his heart.
Is this a good message for money-minded gamblers? It may undoubtedly induce some moderation into your play—another essential title among poker songs.
Steely Dan – Do it Again
Jazz-pop legend Steely Dan released his debut album “Can’t Buy a Thrill” in November 1972, with “Do It Again” as the first single.
The album proved a resounding success, peaking at 17 in Billboard charts, becoming certified platinum, and being included in Colin Larkin’s “All Time Top 1000 Albums” of 2000 and Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” of 2003.
The song itself hinges on the compulsivity of gambling, addressing a player who quits gambling only to return each time “back in Vegas with a handle in [his] hand.”
Rock casino songs and anthems
We’re slowly progressing to gambling songs with a heavier sound as we move from pop to rock tunes.
Find out the rockstars that had a jab at the casino world and which rock anthem is the best. These are the essential rock gambling songs.
Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City
Atlantic City is a famous tourist spot in New Jersey for gambling enthusiasts. For Springsteen, it is the background for a love story and a thorough meditation on transience. As the chorus says it best, “Well now everything dies, baby, that’s a fact / But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”
There is an undercurrent of ambivalence and nuance in Springsteen’s hit, like no other gambling songs share, the uncertainty of which is then dispelled by a romantic invitation, with all risks involved: “Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty / And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.” Transience, overturned by love’s transcendence.
The Boss transforms Atlantic City into a melancholic cityscape and the perfect location to express the uncertainty of romance.
Elvis Presley – Viva Las Vegas
“Viva Las Vegas” has become the unofficial anthem of Sin City, and you have the King to thank for that.
Presley’s song is a direct homage to Las Vegas’s exciting microcosm, representing the quintessential example of American songs about gambling. We could not exclude Elvis Presley’s classic from our list
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Go Down Gambling
“Born a natural loser I can’t recall just where.” This is how one of the best classic rock poker, craps and roulette songs starts.
This one also falls in an antiquated outlook on gambling as an activity and the propensity of participants just to stick in there, even when they’re “running low.”
We do not appreciate the message necessarily, as we know how important it is to stay in control of gambling. Nonetheless, the track is good, and we have to include it in our gambling songs list.
Bob Seger – Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Man
Bob Seger launched his debut album with its title track, “Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Man” – a standard 1960s four-chord progression that is as catchy today as in ’68.
The album was initially intended to be titled “Tales of Lucy Blue”, as the cover art would hint, but Seger changed it thanks to Doctor Fine. The cover, too, was supposed to feature Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in nude but was changed to the much more enigmatic lady in a dress on thinning ice combo.
The Grateful Dead – Deal
Your dad’s favourite rock band has one of the greatest gambling songs in the form of “Deal.” The song is a cover of Jerry Garcia’s classic, but The Grateful Dead add a lot to its dynamics and length.
The masters of trucker rock will make you feel like being in a seedy dive bar or stopping in Reno to bet on the wheel. This cover is a timeless classic, and a notable among gambling songs at that.
The Eagles – Desperado
Your dad’s second favourite band has one of the best slow poker songs out there. Take some time to take in its tragic piano chords and the melodramatic voice of Don Henley.
AC/DC – The Jack
Here comes your dad’s third favourite, AC/DC with “The Jack”, a part sleazy, part catchy hard rock anthem from the masters of this genre.
Wilco – Casino Queen
Alt-rock darlings Wilco channelled their bar rock energy into the joyously excessive “Casino Queen” from their debut album “A.M.”
Distorted guitars, shouted lyrics, and a simple sing-along rhyming structure make it an ironic gem. Wilco is far from the reflexive poetics of 2001’s emblematic “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”, instead delving into pub-style Americana. You shouldn’t miss the song or the album that signalled the birth of an impeccable band.
The Who – Dogs
The Who gained global fame throughout the 60s and seventies, thanks to Roger Daltrey, John “Thunderfingers” Entwistle, and legendary drummer Keith Moon.
“Dogs” was released in June 1968, taking inspiration from Townshend’s friend Chris Morphet’s fascination with greyhound races. The song was no success due to its quirky experimental style that, by Entwistle’s own accord, sounded too much like the Small Faces and would’ve been better as one of their songs. Just for reference, the single still made it to number 25 in UK charts, being the lower than any single from The Who.
The Rolling Stones
We’ll take a deeper dive into the songs about gambling written and recorded by The Rolling Stones.
The Stones and the band’s legendary lead Mick Jagger hardly need any introduction, being well-entrenched in the past and current pop culture.
The song appeared on the band’s 10th British and 12th American studio album, “Exile on Main St.”, an LP drenched in rock and roll, blues, country, and gospel-style tunes.
“Casino Boogie” is an edgier track portraying casino-style play as a quick, thoughtless, hedonistic excess specific to “thrill freak Uncle Sam.”
However, this song is not alone on the list of casino songs from the Stones, not even on this album.
“Tumbling Dice” is one single off the same album, a song full of vitriol, with lines like “‘Cause all you women is low down gamblers / Cheatin’ like I don’t know how” or, “Women think I’m tasty, but they’re always tryin’ to waste me.”
Yes, it did not age well, and we can hardly add it as a recommendation and not as a mere historical note.
Slower songs about gambling
Playing in casinos is not always a fast and thrilling experience. We promised to explore the full breadth of songs about gambling, and slow bluesy gambling songs are essential.
Tom Waits – Mr Siegal
Waits wails his way from whorehouse to the slots and back to the bottle in a ragtag journey that portrays the not so shabby parts of life.
Tom Waits’s voice is perfect, gravely gravelly grovelling behind the classic bar blues piano chords. The song may sound simple, but Waits surely puts his songwriter flair into it, often digressing into spiritual musings, all between two sins.
And more importantly for us, it is ideal for playing on various slots sites, being among the few songs about gambling that cover this specific activity.
Frank Sinatra – Luck Be a Lady
Many hinted at it, but Frank Sinatra finally said what many other artists only skirted, and this, in 1966.
More than just equating fortune with a (loved) woman, Sinatra goes a lot further. As the Sultan of Swoon implies, luck (or maybe the narrator’s romantic interest), albeit being a lady, has “a very unlady-like way of running out.”
A staple of big band jazz, “Luck Be a Lady” is a must-listen, guaranteed. The remastered version is suitable for listening, but you should also check out the official video version.
Official video for Luck Be a Lady
B.B. King – Gambler’s Blues
Only one year after Ol’ Blue Eyes released “Luck Be a Lady”, B.B. King was bringing to light one of the most terrific blues hit songs about gambling.
Stripped down, reverberating with guitar solos and distortion and the thundering voice of The King of Blues. As far as gambling songs for when you have the casino blues go, you can’t do much better than this.
The late Ray Charles was a legendary composer, songwriter, and pianist often referred to as “The Genius.” In a humble turn, the artist instead preferred the appellative “Brother Ray.”
Although being blinded during childhood due to glaucoma, Ray Charles became a pioneer and staple artist of 50s soul.
Ray Charles developed a passion for chess during his therapy for heroin addiction. When asked if people try to cheat against a blind man in chess, he jokingly replied, “You can cheat in chess, I’m gonna see that.”
You’d think that the 1950 single “Blackjack” would be a perfect song for blackjack enthusiasts. However, Charles has nothing but scorn for the game, as the lyrics portray, “Ah, let me tell you people / About this Blackjack game / It’s caused me nothing but trouble / And I’ve only myself to blame.”
We won’t fault Ray Charles for his animosity, but to his question, “How unlucky can one man be?” we can only answer with a thorough analysis of blackjack’s odds and bets. Naturally, we don’t want to steal the thunder of this single. “Blackjack” by Ray Charles is an essential among casino songs.
The Cincinnati Kid
Here, Ray Charles channelled his folk and country influences into one of the most dynamic poker songs out there.
The Genius presents the story of Cincinnati, “[a] kid with no ace in the hole” that “[h]ad staked his heart and soul” at the green felt table. Another legendary gambler, the Cincinnati kid wastes day and night, waiting for the “lush royal flush of his dreaming” that always seems so nigh.
Within the third verse, the queen of hearts, a tragic love interest, makes its appearance and waits for the “king of the green felt shadows.” Ray Charles is in his poetic prime with “The Cincinnati Kid.”
Rap songs about gambling and for gambling
Whether throwing dice on the pavement or joining high stakes roulette games in lavish settings, gambling has many ties to the culture that birthed and moulds hip hop and rap.
These are only some key artists who directly covered the subject or created the perfect soundtracks for gamblers.
Big K.R.I.T. – Life is a Gamble
Meridian, Mississippi-born Big K.R.I.T. gained fame with “Country Shit”, a single featuring Ludacris and Bun B, followed by his debut album, “Live from the Underground”, which reached number five in Billboard’s 200 chart.
Five years later, he was launching “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time”, a critical success like no other album in his discography. We have to wait and see if “Digital Roses Don’t Die” will outclass it.
“Life is a Gamble” appeared on 2013’s “King Remembered in Time” as track 14. With its extensive referencing of craps and other dice games. It is one of the best rap casino songs out there.
Ice Cube – It Was a Good Day
Neither Ice Cube nor his biggest solo hit, “It Was a Good Day”, deserve any introduction.
The single appeared on the rapper’s third studio album, “The Predator”, quickly reaching number seven on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs, becoming Ice Cube’s highest-charting single.
Both About.com, VH1, and Rolling Stone added it to their respective lists of the greatest hip hop songs. We also join in, adding it one our extended list of the greatest songs about gambling.
Why? Ice Cube recounts his trip to Short Dog’s house in the second verse. Short Dog, who is none other than Shorty of The Lench Mob fame. There, he cleans house after several rounds of craps and leaves “paid.” Just another success of the beautiful day lived by Ice Cube, so deserving of a homage.
There was heavy debate around the actual Good Day Ice Cube refers to. Donovan Strain was the first to try to locate it. Following a series of clues, he proposed that the Good Day occurred on January 20, 1992. However, other bloggers noticed several errors and established November 30, 1988, as the likeliest date. Unfortunately for these efforts, Ice Cube declared that he had no particular day in mind and just combined several events into one.
Kendrick Lamar – Vegas
“You’re the one who gets my heart to race and my arms to sweat / You’re the one I’d rick my life and waste it on a bet.” This is how Emily Main was supposed to start “Vegas”, a track recorded for the critically acclaimed jazz-rap masterpiece “To Pimp a Butterfly”.
Kendrick Lamar brings his genius to the table, turning Vegas and casino life into a beautifully tragic metaphor of love, seen as a zero-sum game. “If gambling’s a sin, then I’m rolling dice with Lucifer / To make sure I ain’t losing you.”
Kendrick delivers an intense and earnest portrayal of desperate love, punctured by the possibility of self-inflicted pain and death: “Life savings in my pocket / If I never make it back, then I had the option of takin’ a risk / So before I slit my wrist, Imma cash in on this las poker chip / you can bet.” A tragic fatalism runs through the whole song, with Kendrick’s force being doubled by Emily Main’s slow, smooth singing voice.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a full version of the song. Kendrick did not include it on TPAB nor on the outtakes album “Untitled Unmastered”.
2 Chainz – Countin’
2 Chainz released “Countin’” on November 3, 2016, with a music video styled after the now-antiquated mannequin challenge.
The song did not age so well. Nonetheless, it is one of the better rap songs about gambling, with 2 Chainz going at length about wagering and losing money on sports betting: “Bet a hundred thou with the Falcons / Lost a hundred thousand with the Falcons.”
2 Chainz is not a poet by any means. But, as a musician, he’s not half bad. Add this to your playlist.
Wiz Khalifa – This Plane
Wiz Khalifa delivers a reasonably decent brag rap with “This Plane”, the 13th track off “Deal or no Deal”, the rapper’s second studio album released in 2009.
If you wish to at least feel like you are quote-on-quote getting that paper, add “This Plane” to your music library.
Puff Daddy – All About the Benjamins
Here is another hip-hop classic from East Coast rapper Puff Daddy, with all specific tropes associated.
As the name would imply, the track is perfect for the money centred activity of gambling, thus making it essential for casino songs. We recommend the remix featuring Biggie, Lil’ Kim and The LOX.
Notorious B.I.G. – Mo Money Mo Problems
Speaking of East Coast rap and Biggie, we have to mention “Mo Money Mo Problems,” featuring Mase and the same Puff Daddy.
This funky tune from the gangsta rap golden age will change your mood entirely and lift your morals even on a cold run. We could not have omitted the Notorious B.I.G. from our extended casino songs list.
Ghostface Killah – Pokerface
Here is one of the poker songs classics from legendary Ghostface Killah, featuring Shawn Wigs. The ninth track from 2006’s “More Fish” is a fast-paced, energic song.
Ghostface Killah delivers his rap at a breakneck pace and in perfect harmony with the instrumental produced by K. Slack.
Not only it is one grand entry on the list of poker songs, telling the story of an epic round, but it also jogs your brain with its extensive terminology that brings it on par with the best books on poker.
“Pokerface” was also featured on the soundtrack of “Rounders” (dir. John Dahl, 1998), featuring Madd Damon, Edward Norton, Gretchen Mol, and John Malkovich.
Akon – I’m So Paid
Akon’s sixth track from 2008’s “Freedom”, featuring Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne, will be a great addition to your gambling songs playlist.
“I’m So Paid” will make you feel like a hustler, getting and counting money in the most lavish settings and with true style.
Ye, Yeezus, Yeezy, Konman, The Luis Vuitton Don – all monikers given to one endlessly fascinating (and infamous) rap legend and a good candidate for the GOAT, Kanye West.
Truth be told, being a fan of and listening to Kanye, both his music and often off and offensive off-stage and off-track antics, are a gamble in themselves. However, no one can stand here and deny his cultural significance, sheer talent, and importance to the culture.
This is why we’re delving into two handpicked songs about gambling or ideal for the activity, with all the risks involved.
You must add at least one song by Ye, and the hit “Power” will give you the impression of unbeatability and, well, power.
Naturally, infallibility is not the best state of mind when gambling. However, as long as you understand the limitations of the activity and differences between the fantasy of this single off “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, “Power” will turn into your anthem in no time.
Don’t forget the iconic visualiser
Cash to Burn
Here is a song from off Kanye’s leaked and later scrapped project “Yandhi” that references casino life directly. However, it does so through a reference to the famous 1995 Scorsese classic: “Feel like DeNiro on Casino / Where they got the sun up on for the C-note.”
Note that this is from the original leak version. There’s also another track version featuring famous saxophonist Kenny G and Ant Clemons. The reference is still present, but the lyrics are slightly altered (and are sung by Ant Clemons rather than Kanye West.)
Second song version
Metal and hard rock casino songs
Here are the heaviest songs about gambling that you should add to your playlist. Naturally, hard rock stars have also historically had the most personal ties to gambling. We’ll explore some examples.
Motörhead – Ace of Spades
British heavy metal Motörhead delivered one of the best gambling songs in rock history via “Ace of Spades”, the title track and lead single off their fifth studio album.
The intro is simply unforgettable, with heavy guitar riffs starting to reverberate, then machine gun-like drums “upping the ante” to introduce Lemmy’s raspy voice. “If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man / You win some, lose some, all the same to me.”
Yes, Lemmy won’t care how your rounds end, but he will surely make you enjoy your time either way.
Beyond his odd obsession with Nazi memorabilia, Lemmy was also incredibly passionate about slot machines, even keeping one in his dressing room while on tour. You don’t need to take our word, here’s photographic evidence.
What types of slots did Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmeister like? German made. We somehow are not surprised at all.
Molly Hatchet – Beatin’ the Odds
Molly Hatchet’s classic pub rock track is a classic among poker songs that aim to make you feel like a winner.
Now, if you actually listen to the tone and direction of the lyrics, “beating the odds” may be more of a euphemism for the you-know-what. Nevertheless, the song is great for the casino environment.
We can all safely say that, as far as heavy music and thrash are concerned, Megadeth is one pioneer that constantly innovated and brought hits to fans.
We will cover two great tracks that, beyond their quality, double as songs about gambling.
My Last Words
“Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying” is a great album, acting as a great introduction to the band’s discography as a whole.
And “My Last Words” goes a long way in presenting the dramatic, verbose, and oft poetic style that Megadeth became known for, beyond their heavy sound. The track is not like the previous titles. Appropriately for the album concept and the darker tone specific to Megadeth, this is one of the only Russian roulette songs in existence.
We won’t expect you to listen to “My Last Words” while performing the same activity. Whether for its unusual topic, or its fierce force, you should add the title to your listening rotation.
Train of Consequences
The first single from Megadeth’s sixth studio album, “Youthanasia”, is a wild ride, if we’re allowed to say so.
Everything from the heavy sound to the surreal music video will capture your attention and keep you glued to your preferred listening/viewing device.
Megadeth opted to record the song live in the studio instead of recording multiple tracks and then putting them together. It took them 42 takes.
More than drawing your eyes and ears, “Train of Consequences” will tell you about the dangers of its subject, being among the few songs about gambling addiction.
Megadeth is for the connoisseur. Iron Maiden is a must for any metal band. Everything from their musical style to their memorable mascot exudes heavy metal vibes.
While we could dedicate a list composed entirely of Iron Maiden songs, we’ll only cover two tracks that, in turn, cover gambling.
The Angel and the Gambler
Here is one of the best craps and roulette songs in existence. Naturally, Iron Maiden turns these two games into the general image of uncertainty and chance in one’s life.
Iron Maiden’s song does not end on this note, with lyrics like “Best make decisions / Before it’s too late / Take all your chances / Take hold of the reins / And roll the dice / Ahead of the game again”, urging you to play in spite of all risks.
A thoughtful meditation on life and chance, “The Angel and the Gambler” is a song imbued with an existential tinge, hence “But what do you care? / You’re gonna go in the end.” The religious reference to The Angel is also subverted, the narrator opting to “suffer [his] craving”, as his “soul’s not worth saving.”
One of the best hits from Iron Maiden starts with an excerpt from Churchill’s famous wartime speech.
A homage to the “aces” of the British Royal Air Force, “Aces High” has the force worthy of the subject. It’s a classic, and while not overtly similar to other poker songs, you can’t miss it.
Punk, post-punk, new wave
We’re slowly reaching the end of our listing of songs about gambling. We could not miss adding some essential punk, post-punk, and new wave gambling songs.
The Jam – Pretty Green
English punk rock and mod revivalists, The Jam of “Town Called Malice”, “That’s Entertainment”, and “Beat Surrender” fame released “Pretty Green” on November 28, 1980.
The song describes the narrator’s plans for his “pocket of pretty green.” The first track from “Sound Affects” is also remarkable for using a particular type of slot machine terminology, “fruit machine.” You don’t need to appeal to the dictionary; fruit machine just refers to classic slots cabinets.
Morphine – Have a Lucky Day
All songs from Morphine have a slick and smooth sound to them. “Have a Lucky Day”, from the legendary “Good Album”, is no exception.
Another gambling track fixating on Atlantic City, “Have A Lucky Day”, tells the story of a gambler that sits at a blackjack table handled by a dealer called Mabel. The gambler takes an interest in her, but his luck soon changes for the worse. Nevertheless, he sticks it out and continues hopefully, as a voice in his head instructs him that “Players win and winners play.”
There is no better tune to make you feel like you will have a lucky day than Morphine’s. The whole album is worth listening to.
Cure for Pain
Now, it is good to consider yourself lucky, but problem play is no tune you should play by. You should know how to stop gambling addiction in time. To quote another classic from Morphine, “I propose a toast / To my self-control.”
The Clash put its stamp on many genres and waves, starting from punk rock to new wave, post-punk and whatever followed.
And the boys of “The Only Band That Matters” did it in only ten years of activity. Forming during punk’s vanguard years and taking their rebellious onward to the less radical if not necessarily less turbulent eighties, The Clash have remained a legend in the genre, with most of their discography ageing very well.
The Clash deserves a lot more praise, but here is our drop in the bucket – three great songs about gambling.
Extra: Spanish Bombs
As a bonus, there is also “Spanish Bombs”, from the same album, that once references “Spanish weeks in my disco casino”, but only to ironise our forgetfulness of war atrocities in places like Francoist Spain or Independence war and Troubles-era Ireland.
The Card Cheat
We’ll start with the final track from the iconic “London Calling”, a little tragic tune called “The Card Cheat.”
Here, Mick Jones constructs a tale of a gambler, with a king of spades up his sleeve, that is unfortunately caught cheating. He goes on to muse about the tremendous human loss of war waged in honour of monarchs. Yes, there are anti-war militant gambling songs.
Add to this that the hit launched right before the territorial conflict with Argentina heated up and resulted in the Falklands War. The troubles were still waging on in Ireland. You may understand how it struck a chord with a broader public than gamblers.
Wrong ‘Em Boyo
“Wong ‘Em Boyo” tells the famous story of Stagger Lee. For the uninitiated, “Stag” Lee Shelton was the perpetrator of the infamous murder of Billy Lyons in St. Louis, Missouri, at Christmas 1895.
The event sparked the interest of many artists, with folk songs titled “Stagger Lee” or “Stack-o-Lee” gaining considerable popularity.
A famous rendition by Lloy Price
Stagger Lee by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds remains our favourite
The playfully gruesome rendition by Nick Cave and the Bad Seed is perhaps most memorable for its imagery, narrative force, and sheer obscenity.
Memorable it is, and it would have earned a spot on our official list. Still, its references to casino play are minimal. Mentioning a deck of cards doesn’t make poker songs what they are. (Nonetheless, you must listen to “Murder Ballads” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.)
Three Card Trick
Returning to The Clash, we have “Three Card Trick” for our third and last entry. The title refers to a famous trick where observers are cheated out of their cash by sleight of hand.
The song naturally refers to the privileged higher classes that “own the pack”, while the rest of society is merely relegated to observing artifice, spectacle, and a costly one at that.
Who doesn’t feel cheated, especially when gambling? The Clash will empathise and stand in solidarity. The Clash managed to foment class consciousness through gambling songs.
The Fall is a legendary band in certain groups and subcultures. It did provide its listeners with the most experimental and avant-garde post-punk music in British history.
Simon Reynolds put it best when describing the style of The Fall as “a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn.” That’s a mouthful. We agree.
Mark E. Smith shouts about being the dice man. He then rambles on in a shouted manner about musicians’ lack of social conscience, showbusiness, and God knows what else.
“Throw the bones and the poison dice / No time for small moralists / Cos I am the dice man.” This is only a sample of the madness that is this song. Try it out. It isn’t for everyone.
Stripped down, repetitive, experimental, explosive, erratic. “Bingo Master” from the “Bingo Master’s Breakout” is all of these and more.
Mark E. Smith fixates his misanthropic gaze upon the regular British bingo player, with all ills and cliches conceivable. A tragically mundane figure that ends “his life with wine and pills”, the bingo master is nothing to accede to.
Nonetheless, we cannot take “Bingo Master’s Breakout” to be incredibly self-serious, instead being fuelled by Mark E. Smith’s irony and vitriol. Who said that gambling songs must be positive and nonexperimental?
Here’s the full Bingo Master’s Breakout EP
One noteworthy mention
We have covered all the essential songs about gambling, from country folk classics to pop anthems to heavier casino songs.
However, we will end on a more interesting note. There is one band whose members had a personal tie to casino play, the legendary glam rock band Kiss.
Kiss – Sure Know Something
“Sure Know Something” is the one single where Kiss addressed the activity directly. The track was released on September 30 1979, with “Dirty Living” as its B-Side.
Few fans know that Paul Daniel “Ace” Frehley, founding member of the band, was a passionate fan of poker. He even managed to participate in a tournament in which Scott Ian, a member of Anthrax, took part. Since his exclusion from the band, The Spaceman relocated to Las Vegas and maintains an ongoing interest in gambling and poker especially.
Space Ace isn’t the only rockstar gambler, but he may be the most prolific.