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A great thing about music is no topic is off limits for the lyrics. You can find references to just about anything, including gambling references in music from a variety of genres over the decades.
You may not find someone singing about the time the Jets crushed their 6-leg parlay, but references to card games, poker, and gambling, in general, have been common in music. When it comes down to it, falling in love is often a gamble, and some songwriters have expertly gotten that point across as well.
We wanted to highlight some of the better songs that have gambling references in their lyrics in case you want something to jam along to while playing at the top offshore sportsbooks.
Heaven Or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins
The title track to their incredible 1990 album, Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins should be playing at the airport when you get off the plane in Las Vegas. It instantly connects with the feeling of walking on the Vegas strip with the lights popping everywhere.
Am I just in heaven or Las Vegas
That’s why it is more brighter than the sun is to me
Reaching this itch in my soul
That’s like any old playing card
It must be why I’m thinking of Las Vegas
Why it’s more brighter than the sun is to me
Many songs by the Cocteau Twins have vocals that are hard to decipher, but this is one of their clearest and best songs.
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – Bob Seger
You can never go wrong with Bob Seger’s first top 20 hit, released in 1968. In just over 2 minutes in length, he tells us the story of how he’s always been a ramblin’ gamblin’ man.
‘Cause I was born lonely down by the riverside
Learned to spin fortune wheels, and throw dice
The song has been used in the movies Joe Dirt and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
This is one of those classic songs where even if you might say you’ve never heard it before, trust me, you have heard this one. Just let it get to the chorus, the most familiar chorus in history about poker and gambling:
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done
It became Kenny Rogers’ signature song, but you might be surprised to learn he did not write it. A 23-year-old songwriter named Don Schlitz wrote it, and most surprisingly, superstar Johnny Cash recorded it before Rogers and it still did not catch on big.
But when Rogers released his version of The Gambler in 1978, it became a No. 1 country hit and the song he is best known for.
Gambling Man – The Overtones
The Overtones’ first single from 2010 sounds like something from the 1960s, but this is due to the doo-wop sound this UK-based pop group built their debut album around. Gambling Man is an original song that clearly refers to someone ready to take the gamble on loving a woman.
My odds are stacked
I’ve never been a gambling man
I’ve never had the winning hand
But for you I’d lose it all
We’ve all been there before.
Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley
If Vegas was going to play a song at the airport for arriving gamblers, they probably would go with a classic that celebrates Vegas like Elvis’ 1964 Viva Las Vegas instead of our brilliant idea of using the Cocteau Twins. But different strokes for different folks.
Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel
A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal
All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas
The song was a big hit and was used in the Elvis motion picture Viva Las Vegas, which is considered one of his best movies with Ann-Margret.
House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals
It just may be the most famous folk-rock song of all time. After Beatlesmania swept the United States in the 1960s, other British groups looked to cash in. One of the better bands was The Animals, and while they were far from the first to record House of the Rising Sun, their version is by far the most popular.
My father was a gamblin’ man
Down in New Orleans
Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk
The song tells the story of falling into vices in New Orleans, including trips to a brothel, gambling, and drinking. Not sure how many brothels in New Orleans the British boys in The Animals ever visited, but they performed the song to perfection.
The Card Cheat – The Clash
The Clash released their masterpiece album London Calling in 1979. The Card Cheat is one of the standout tracks as it has multiple references to a gambler down on his luck playing card games with a dealer.
The gambler’s face cracks into a grin
As he lays down the king of spades
But the dealer just stares
“There’s something wrong here”, he thinks
The gambler is seized and forced to his knees
And shot dead
Moral of the story: Don’t cheat unless you want to be shot.
Poker Face – Lady Gaga
Has it really been 15 years since Lady Gaga had one of her earliest hits with Poker Face on her debut album in 2008? It has since sold over 14 million copies, and it continues to be popular in TikTok videos and other social media platforms.
Just like a chick in the casino
Take your bank before I pay you out
I promise this, promise this
Check this hand ’cause I’m marvelous
The song is loaded with poker references, and the chorus (can’t read my, can’t read my) is still catchy to this day. A song that’s just as much about sex as gambling, the lyrics also clearly back up Gaga’s confirmation that the song is about bisexuality as she makes references to both men and women.
The Lottery Song – Harry Nilsson
Harry Nilsson is best known for his recording of one of the saddest songs ever written in Without You. But around the same time in 1972, he wrote The Lottery Song, which is an optimistic, upbeat tune about gambling and winning the lottery.
You could do the laundry
I’ll come by on Monday
You give me the money
I will buy a ticket
On the local lottery
We could win the lottery
We could go to Vegas
And be very happy
Isn’t that nice? See, not all of our song choices are about gamblers getting shot or losing all their money.
The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
Best known for Dancing Queen, Swedish group ABBA had another big hit in 1980 with The Winner Takes It All, a song that arguably passes the test of time better.
The gods may throw the dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all (Takes it all)
The loser has to fall (Has to fall)
It’s simple and it’s plain (It seems plain)
Why should I complain? (Why complain)
The song was written about the divorce of two of the band members, so it is definitely a sad tune written from the heart where it’s hard not to feel like one side is losing.
Casino Queen – Wilco
This is a deep cut when we are going back to Wilco’s 1995 debut album A.M. and its second track, Casino Queen.
My Lord, you’re mean
I’ve been gambling like a fiend
On your tables so green
Lead singer Jeff Tweedy gave a funny interview years later about this song in that he once went to a riverboat casino with his dad, and it was his dad’s idea that he should write a song about that little experience. He basically forced him to do it, and here it is, the second track on the debut album. Such a dad move to think the most mundane thing should be a song, but his son abided by him.
Ace of Spades – Motorhead
Of course, we were not going to exclude the most popular Motorhead song ever made.
If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man,
You win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me,
The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say,
I don’t share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace Of Spades
Few songs talk about the thrill of gambling quite like this one. In a twist of irony, Motorhead has its own video slot machine game that plays this song while you gamble playing it.
It Was A Good Day – Ice Cube
Finally, to prove our list is not all rock, folk, and pop songs, here is the 1992 rap classic from Ice Cube:
Went to Short Dog’s house, they was watchin’ “Yo! MTV Raps”
What’s the haps on the craps?
Shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em
Roll ’em in a circle of [explicit] and watch me break ’em
With the 7, 7-11, 7-11, 7, even back door Little Joe
I picked up the cash flow
Then we played bones, and I’m yellin’ “Domino!”
To top it off, nobody he knew got killed in South Central L.A., so it was a very good day for Ice Cube.