Songs About Gambling | Top 51 List

Abba – The Winner Takes It All

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 2015
  • Label: Polar

Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All” is a story about love filled with gambling analogies that will definitely remind you of your favorite game of cards. In the song, Abba tells us that they have “played all my cards” and caution that “the winner takes it all, the loser’s standing small.” This truth is plain enough for anyone to understand but the feeling of a loss is not one that can be shaken off easily. The song’s pacey rhythms and Abba’s own signature style music is what adds to the tune’s worth and makes it one of our top songs about gambling, even though the topic is indirectly touched upon here. 

AC/DC – The Jack

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics 
  • Released: 1975
  • Label: Albert Productions

You don’t have to be a gambler to have heard about AC/DC’s “The Jack”. The song is naturally dedicated to a lady who has dealt the singer the Queen and King and over-charged with innuendo. The dealing is a pretext for flirtation, as are most of AC/DC’s songs that are often very explicit. “Her deuce was wild but my ace was high,” the lyrics run to confirm that this is not just about a game of poker. In fact, over the years, the band has decided to remove many of the references about poker whatsoever and the live renditions are actually quite saucy and suggesting all sorts of carnal pleasures. 

Aerosmith – Deuces Are Wild

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1994
  • Label: Geffen

Aerosmith’s “Deuces Are Wild” is inspired by semi-reference to Deuces Wild Poker, but mostly from lead singer Steven Tyler’s desire to impress a girl. As is the case with rock stars, they are love struck quite often and in Tyler’s situation, he’s convinced that “you and me is two of a kind,” as in two cards meant to be. In the game, deuces are actually wilds and they can turn into anything you want them to be, complementing your hand and helping you win more. Here, the song uses the metaphor to say that these two wild deuces are meant to be, but whether this is the case with Tyler will perhaps depend on whether he gets any deuces in the first place! 

Amy Whitehouse – Love Is a Losing Game

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 2007
  • Label: Island

Amy Whitehouse’s story is one that will move you to tears. The singer achieved great musical fame but slipped in her personal life and eventually OD’ing in a hotel room. Yet, her music lives on and tragic as her life was, there is much beauty in it. In “Love Is a Losing Game” Amy tells her suitor that “he’s a gambling man,” but alas, “love is a losing hand.” She continues to paint a dark picture of true love, calling it “fate resigned, over futile odds, and laughed at by the gods.” Sure, “love is a losing game,” but Amy never says whether the man stuck around, so for those of you who love a gamble, Amy’s sobering realism shouldn’t stop you from at least trying. 

April Wine – Roller

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics 
  • Released: 1978
  • Label: Capitol

“Gambling day and night yeah” is the cheerful opening to April Wine’s “Roller,” which is the pacey rock’n’roll tune that will have you on your feet in no time. Watch out there, because the singer’s baby is a roller, a high roller. They are going to leave friends back in L.A. and “gonna catch a flight to Nevada.” Sure, there is the peer pressure to deal and “people try to tell her she’s crazy, she doesn’t hear a word they say.” And, if we are being perfectly honest, the songwriter has no trouble with his baby being a roller. So much in fact that this trip to Las Vegas and the glitz of high rolling action is all that matters, with the song ending with lots of “bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye’s.”

B.B. King – Gambler’s Blues

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1967
  • Label: Ariola Extra

Whether it’s good luck or one’s partner, loss is never pleasant, and B.B King is wallowing in his sorrow trying to look all brave in “Gambler’s Blues.” The song is real blues, so you can expect B.B. King to go to his artistic lengths in delivering excellent musical performance while deploring his bad luck. Love is like the roll of the dice, about which he knows nothing, the lyrics tell us. “Some people tell us love is just a gamble,” Big B adds and goes on to say that “I don’t claim to be no gambler people” referring to the risks one must take to love someone who may just as well walk out on them and break their heart. His baby left him, but his love for “gambling” didn’t. 

Big K.R.I.T. – Life Is a Gamble

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 2013
  • Label: Cinematic Music Group

BIG K.R.I.T. gets us right into the thick of it with his “Life Is a Gamble,” a song that opens with the exact same line and rules out no possibility. “Life is a gamble, oh baby, where you win or lose, life is a gamble.” BIG charges his tune with pessimism and the inevitable ends of our loved ones and the people we know. “You betted all on a spot, I bet you crapped out,” runs another reference to Craps. 

Billy Joel – Easy Money

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1983
  • Label: Columbia

We all want the same things, love, appreciation from our peers, and easy money. In fact, Billy Joel more so than anyone else. In “Easy Money,” Joel condemns the life of someone who works too hard to make a living and instead asks for “easy money.” To get them, though, he’s looking to gamble because he “could get lucky, oh, things could go right.” It’s not even about making a big fortune, because Billy doesn’t want the hard cash, but rather just the easy money. After all, he could get lucky. 

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Go Down Gamblin’

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1971
  • Label: Columbia

The rock’n’roll tune will have you hooked from the first time you give it a listen. “Go Down Gamblin'” is the story of a man who was born a natural loser. The debt and losses keep piling on but that’s okay because the character has a plan and that plan is to go down gamblin’. He has lost at virtually any popular game, from craps to roulette, from blackjack to poker. “Honey, I am just a natural gambler but I try to do my share,” the song continues. The prospect of failure doesn’t scare our man away and just the opposite, he’s ready to stick around and play another round. 

Bob Dylan – Huck’s Tune

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 2006
  • Label: Sony/BMG Music

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize made him the first musician to have received the distinction specifically for his contributions to the American song and the intuitive narrative he invented in it. Lyrical and dynamic, Bob Dylan’s songs pull right at the heartstrings. One such song is “Huck’s Tune” written for Lucky You, starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore. The song goes on to cover various topics, but mostly the dangers of poker and how difficult it can be to mix money and relationships. Dylan’s lyrical mastery is only matched by his expertise as a musician and if you want to put a beautiful song about gambling on your Spotify list, Huck’s Tune should be there. 

Bob Dylan – Rambling, Gambling Willie

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1962
  • Label: Columbia

“Rambling, Gambling Willie” is a song Bob Dylan dedicated to the archetype of all gamblers. His hero is the greatest gambler of all and he has a story to tell. Willie is all over the place and he lives to gamble. “Wherever you are gamblin’ now, nobody really knows,” says Dylan. Our gambler will have a shot at pretty much anything. He sails down to New Orleans and tries his hand at the Jackson River Queen, he swings by Cripple Creek, a popular gambling area today, and keeps going, constantly egged on by Dylan’s  “roll, Willie, roll.”

Bread – Lay Your Money Down

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1977
  • Label: Elektra

“Lay Your Money Down” by Bread is one of those songs that will simply stick with you. The tune is quick and pleasant and the theme, once again, is a balance between the singer’s love for his baby and his genuine interest in gambling. “Put your cards on the table, gotta lay your money down,” the song opens. The gambling metaphor is used to give the young beau the confidence to call the girl’s bluff and see what she’s got. However, the girl needs to know that he’s through and she has got to lay her money down or lose him forever.

Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1993
  • Label: Columbia

“Atlantic City” is Bruce Springsteen’s shot at redemption. The song starts on a somber note describing the demise of an unknown party who was killed in what seems to be a mafia hit. It’s okay, though, as Springsteen quickly explains that “everything dies,” and while the love he shares with a lady is cold and the couple’s luck has died, they are still headed out for the place where sand turns to gold, referring to Atlantic City. Springsteen wants to meet his baby in Atlantic City “tonight” and have his shot at happiness, even though, as he points out, everything dies and the odds are stacked against the couple’s success in the first place. 

Carpenters – Solitaire

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1975
  • Label: A&M Records

Carpenters’ “Solitaire” is a reference to the game, heartache, and loss. Deeply poignant, emotional, and moving, the song opens to welcome listeners to the tragedy of the human heart. The painful scene that sets the tone of the entire song goes: “there was a man, a lonely man, who lost his love, through indifference.” The line that sings includes the word “solitaire” flatly states that “solitaire is the only game in town,” making it a play of words, but one that is easily understood by anyone who has suffered a heartache. “And every road he takes, takes him down,” but despite the love trouble, life goes on. 

Clint Black – A Good Run of Bad Luck

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1994
  • Label: RCA

Everything about “A Good Run of Bad Luck” suggests gambling. The music video features Clint Black singing under the limelight with cards strewn all over the floor. The song opens with “a high roller even when the cards are down” as a reference to the fact that some people are chance-takers by nature. Sure, the song focuses on a girl whom the main character is trying to woo, so much that he even “gambled on a third time, a fool will tell you it’s a charm.” Just like all songs about gambling so far, this one is catchy, well-written, and properly executed. Clint Black’s tune will surely have you dancing and even prompt you to see if the third time is your charm, whether there is a girl involved or a game of high-stakes poker. 

Corb Lund – All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics 
  • Released: 2005
  • Label: Stony Plain Records

Corb Lund’s “All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards” is raw and honest and it shares a man’s love about the game of poker. The Canadian classic may resonate with many locals who happen to live in one of the most liberal countries when it comes to poker laws. In the song, Lund wants to forego all day-to-day responsibilities and just enjoy the joy of playing all popular card games, from Texas Hold em, to Let It Ride, to Omaha, and Chinese Rummy. His passion for gambling is strong and undeniable and Lund struggles with his obligations to make a living and desire to revel in earthly pleasures. In fact, the only thing that can pry him away from gambling are the hot groupies waiting for his affections after a show. Or, that is what the song has us believe.

Darius Rucker – Wagon Wheel

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics 
  • Released: 2013
  • Label: Capitol Nashville

Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” is folksy and charming. If you spot a distinct lyrical quality, you have a good ear and appreciation of American music, because the song was actually co-written by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor and it talks about a person from the Southern States who tries his luck in New England but runs into quite a few issues as he loses his money on poker and has to hurry out of town. There is no turning back though, and his “old life is no more.” If you are new to the folk genre, this song will hook you with the lyrics, music, or both and you will surely want to listen through it again, and again. 

Doug Supernaw – Reno

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1993
  • Label: BNA

You will want to tune in and listen to this Doug Supernaw’s ballad about Reno, where the city is used as a metaphor about a girl he likes. “Couldn’t roll me a seven, if you gave me loaded ace, couldn’t draw a hand, if I sat here all night,” Supernaw sings as he realizes that the odds are stacked against him. Yet, what starts as a gambling song quickly transforms into regret that he can’t win his lady because “she ain’t got a heart.” In many ways, she’s like Reno, because she doesn’t care when you are down, “just like the lights of a casino, she’ll pull you in.”

Elvis Presley – Viva Las Vegas

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1963
  • Label: RCA Records

They call him a king and for a good reason. Elvis Presley is one of the most iconic faces of the 60s music scene and he has traveled to Las Vegas on more than one good occasion. He even got married a few times in Sin City and it’s only natural that he has decided to put the Nevadan desert paradise in one of his title songs. “Viva Las Vegas” echoes through the decades and is still as catchy as ever. It doesn’t glorify the city for something it isn’t, but rather goes down to the raw, base joy of having fun in Las Vegas, with the nightlife, clubs, and pretty women all on Elvis’ mind. 

Frank Sinatra – Luck Be a Lady

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1965
  • Label: Capitol

As is typically the case, Frank Sinatra’s songs are quite sensual. “Luck Be a Lady” isn’t an overt gambling song but it definitely touches on some familiar topics. Sinatra sings about luck as a lady and he asks her to go out on a date with him. As life’s challenges mount, Sinatra asks his lady to “never get out of my sight.” 

Garth Brooks – “Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House”

  • Lyrics: n/a
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: Capitol Records

“Yes, she’s my lady luck, I am her wild-card man,” sings Garth Brooks in the opening lines of “Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House”. Folk and country music have a sort of timelessness about them and they sound as new and fun today as they did decades ago. Well, Garth Brooks’ song is beautiful because it sings about love even if it uses quite a few poker similes to get the point along. For example, the “working on the full house,” possibly refers to children, but the singer is unshakable in his commitment to his “little queen of the south.”

George Strait – The Cowboy

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1984
  • Label: MCA Records

The Cowboy rides and as he does he sings about his unrequited love where he takes his chances against the fate of love, even though he knows the stakes are high right from the start. “When she dealt the cards, I bet my heart,” Strait sings as his “heart sinks like the setting sun”. The reference to poker is clear, with Strait painting the final showdown scene, a clear reference to the river in poker, and this is the moment when the cowboy rides away. Whether he has lost a hand or the love of his life that’s up for you to decide. 

Grateful Dead – Deal

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1972
  • Label: Warner Brothers

Listen, Jerry Garcia does know a thing or two about gambling. In fact, “Deal” is dedicated to the institution of taking chance and playing games for real money. Right from the start, you are introduced to gambling for what it is, “since it cost a lot to win, and even more to lose, you and me bound to spend some time, wondering what to choose.” You can tell that Jerry really means to write a proper gambling song that will let you in on some secrets and raise a few red flags for you. “It goes to show you don’t ever know, watch each card you play, and play it slow,” Jerry warns the over-zealous gamblers out there, and he has a point. Grateful Dead is worth listening through its entire discography, and we think you definitely should. 

Bob Seger – Still the Same

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1978
  • Label: Capitol Records

If Jerry cautions us not to get too trigger-happy about gambling, Bob Seger is all about confidence. In “Still the Same,” Seger not only tells us that you can be a successful gambler, but that there is no need to renounce the things you love. Yet, even Seger’s character is smart about gambling and he knows that “you should never play too long.” The gambler in the song though may seem like he’s in a good place and he’s still “too damn good.” However, after years, Seger had caught up with his character from the song, inspired by all the self-assured and arrogant people whom he has met throughout the years. Unimpressed, though Seger just “turned away and walked away.” 

Jim Croce – Bad Bad Leroy Brows

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1973
  • Label: ABC

“Bad Leroy Brows” by Jim Croce is a song about a gambler who is incidentally “the baddest man in the whole damn town” A bit of a dapper dresser Leroy seems to be an irreparable villain in the eyes of the people of his town. Leroy has an Eldorado and a 32-gun in his pocket for fun, he likes shooting dice, but then a girl shows up and Leroy is enamored. As every good story about gambling should have it, there is always a lady somewhere there. Well, Leroy’s love quickly leads him into a fight and he ends up looking like a “jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.”

Juice Newton – Queen of Hearts

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1981
  • Label: Capitol

Juice Newton uses card metaphors to describe the Queen of Hearts as a lady who has her enamored but is still teasing her. The singer feels ready to do anything to prove his love for his queen and sings that “the Joker ain’t the only fool, who’ll do anything for you,” but she does get peeved when she is denied the opportunity to consummate her love for his queen. The original song though was written by Gregg Allman who dedicated it to his second wife, Janice. Allan was quite willing to do anything for his Queen of Hearts, and as it turned out, he had no fewer than six queens over the years.

Kathy Mattea – Walking Away a Winner

  • Lyrics: Genius 
  • Released: 1974
  • Label: Mercury Records

“Any time love is on the table the stakes are high,” says Kathy Mattea. Sometimes, the only way to win is to walk away, and that is what Mattea does, as she is “walking away a winner, away from a losing game.” Unlike Strait’s Cowboy, she’s filled with hope for the future and not upset about the failed relationship. The song was written by Bob DiPiero and Tom Shapiro. 

Katy Perry – Waking Up in Vegas

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 2009
  • Label: Capitol

Katy Perry is one of the most prominent pop divas of our times and deservedly so. Her texts are playful, quick, and filled with catchy music, and not least, Perry is able to reinvent herself to fit any entertainment narrative. Her “Waking Up in Vegas” tune is a true tribute to Las Vegas and the city’s tempting if somewhat ephemeral lifestyle. The song is one of the most famous tributes to the Vegas nightlife, partying and yes, the occasional marriage that was a bit rushed after all. Well, as long as you don’t tie the knot, Vegas can still be plenty of fun and Perry surely tells us as much in her song.

2 Chainz – Countin

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 2016
  • Label: T.R.U.

2 Chainz’ “Countin” is an interesting pick here, mostly because it’s completely different as a genre from all the rest we have picked. We have seen, and heard, blues and country, folk and pop, but never rap. Now, 2 Chains doesn’t go too deeply in the whole gambling thing. Rather, he recounts a quick wager he placed which he lost: “Bet a hundred thou with the Falcons.” That’s okay, though, because in his self-assured outpourings, 2 Chainz is quite convinced that “I’mma get it back cause I’m natural, I put my X at the end like Malcolm.” The song doesn’t tell us whether he has succeeded but rather to his own self-praise. 

Kelsea Ballerini – Fun and Games

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 2017
  • Label: Black River Entertainment

“Fun and Games” by Kelsea Ballerini is a song about breaking up and heartache brimming with gambling allegories and references. Kelsea starts on an upbeat note, telling her beau that “hey, it’s cool, I know, I’ll see you around.” But as the lovers part, Kelsea has changed her mind and she now thinks that one of them should “come over.” It’s all poker face, though, and as she tries to find what’s right for her, and she is struggling to “tell the joker from the queen of hearts or the queen of spades.” In the end, the same doubt seems to punchline the song, with Kelsea assuring us that it’s all okay, and we will see our loved ones around. 

Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1978
  • Label: Capitol Nashville

“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers is a proper song about gambling that will focus on the life of a man who knows “what to keep, and what to throw away.” Written by Don Schlitz, this enthralling classic will have you going right from the start. Outside of its catchy tune, the lyrics are deeply meaningful. The character of the song professes that he has “made a life, out of readin’ people’s faces,” and it has worked for him. Every gambler knows the secret, sings Rogers that you “got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold them.” If you are looking for a song about gambling like no other, this one should be on your list. 

Lady Gaga – Poker Face

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 2008
  • Label: Streamline Records

Scandalously witty and clever, Lady Gaga is one of the most impressive singers of our time. She’s quick with the lyrics, has a charmingly beautiful personality, and let’s face it, her lyrics are top-notch. Is poker face about the game itself or more of an expression derived from poker? This is up for you to decide. The song is more about the pacey beat that makes you dance and a few allusions to gambling itself with “luck and intuition plays the cards with spades to start.” Yet, when Lady Gaga sings “I wanna hold’em like they do in Texas,” she really just means toying with men who can’t divine what’s behind her own poker face and feel drawn to her, time and again. 

Leonard Cohen – The Stranger Song

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1967
  • Label: Columbia

Leonard Cohen is more than just a musician. He’s a teller of stories, and his inspiration is life itself. Cohen has supercharged his songs with raw emotion and truthfulness about himself and how he perceives others. There is no stopping his lyrical and musical genius and in “The Stranger Song,” you will also pick the late poet-slash-musician’s thoughts on gambling. Make no mistake, for the lyrics are all pointing to a game of poker, although there is a warning left in there as well. “Then sweeping up the joker that he left behind, you find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter,” Cohen cautions, so watch out for gambling is fun but there are some pitfalls, too. 

John Fornham – Playing to Win

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: Capitol Records

In “Playing to Win” John Fornham has but one wish – to win, and win big. “Cause I am playin’ to win this time,” Fornham tells us as early as the full verse. His goal is clearly set and his tune will build up into the occasional big win. Yet, just like most gambling metaphors in the majority of songs out there, Fornham is most likely singing about love, and he informs the unnamed object of his affection that when they “make your move, I won’t hesitate.” In fact, he makes an open invitation to the anonymous someone and sings “if you want me, come and get me.”

Motörhead – Ace of Spades

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics 
  • Released: 1980
  • Label: Bronze

Lemmy was one of a kind. His untimely passing has left a hole in many of us, but thankfully his songs still live on and guide us through the bad days of our lives. “Ace of Spades” invites you directly in the shoes of a gambler, with the opening line striking close to home: “if you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man, you win some, lose some, all the same to me.” For Lemmy, it’s really all the thrill of the chase and not the win because, as he sings, “I don’t wanna live forever.” Who does anyway? He didn’t, but his life has been filled with artistic creativity which has seeped into his songwriting and music and lives on through us.

Ray Charles – Losing Hand

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1957
  • Label: Atlantic

Ray Charles is one of the most significant musicians of modern music and his songs are memorable as they are powerful. In “Losing Hand,” written by Charles E. Calhoun, Ray ruminates on his long-lost love and his missed chance with a lady of his heart. “I gambled on your love baby and got a losing hand,” the lyrics read. The lady apparently cheated on Ray, but this did not crush his love for her nor has it stopped him from immortalizing her in the lyrics of one of his best songs, and definitely one of the best songs about gambling. Fate may have dealt Ray a difficult had, but he has beaten some long odds without letting go of his goodness and love. 

Steve Nicks – The Dealer

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 2014
  • Label: Warner Brothers

Steve Nicks took a few decades to release “The Dealer,” a song that takes a closer look at life itself. The song was originally written for Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” album but never saw the light of day until much later, as part of Nicks’ 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault and we believe this is a much better home for it after all. Somehow, this song would have fallen short of its potential were it part of Fleetwood Mac’s portfolio. In the song, Nicks is “the dealer and it wasn’t hard.” The song is an ode to life in which Nicks is the “mistress of my fate,” and we are the players who wait for a card to be dealt to them. 

Sting – Shape of My Heart

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1993
  • Label: A&M

“Shape of My Heart” by Sting is another tune filled with gambling innuendo and outright references. Right from the start, we are told that “he deals the cards as meditation” and “he doesn’t play for the money he wins.” Rather, the character of the song is trying to comprehend life itself where the “numbers lead a dance” bound by the “hidden law of probable outcome.” This song is perhaps the best example of a gambling song that is purely and solely focused on the meaning of life and not on the activity of taking chance in games. And, in all of this self-reflection, Sting is ultimately looking for the “shape of his heart.”

Tex Ritter – Deck of Cards

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1948
  • Label: Capital Records

Tex Ritter’s rendition of T. Texas Tyler’s original, “Deck of Cards”, turned in a quick hit in the middle of the 20th century, climbing to one of the most listened to songs at the time. The gambling theme was not too popular in the 50s and Tex Ritter was broaching fairly controversial topics. Yet, the song isn’t about arrogance or being dismissive of social mores. Rather, it serves as a reminder that we all need a way to unwind from the hardships of our daily lives. In this case, the song follows a group of soldiers who came to this town called “Cassino” on a Sunday and visited the church where they started playing cards. Their sergeant caught them in the act and demanded that the soldiers put away the cards, but one of the soldiers argued that “when I look at the ace in my deck of cards, it reminds me that there is but one God.”

The Clash – The Card Cheat

  • Lyrics: Genius 
  • Released: 1979
  • Label: CBS/Epic

“The Card Cheat” is a song that will sweep you off your feet in the typical pacey and rhythmic signature style of any of The Clash’s tunes. The lyrics are unmistakable and while they may serve as social critique, they translate into believable, relatable characters. The card cheat is anyone who tries to get ahead in life through unfair means. Yet, The Clash knows what to ask as they sing “with a card up his sleeve, what would he achieve?” Not just that, but “the dealer knows.” Yes, the universe probably keeps scores.

The Dubliners – The Galway Races

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1967
  • Label: TIM

Granted, you may not be Irish (or perhaps you are!) but The Dubliners are hard to resist. The Galway Races is a song named after the eponymous album and it extols the horse race festival by the same name. Yes, the Irish are big on horse races and it’s a good tradition that allows people to set aside their differences and come together over something they love. There are not many gambling references in this song, and the focus is rather on the community spirit that horse racing festivals inspire, with The Dubliners singing “there was half a million people there, of all denominations, of the Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, the Presbyterian, yet there was no animosity.”

The Eagles – Desperado

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1973
  • Label: Asylum

Here comes another beautiful ballad by the Eagles, written by both Glenn Frey and Don Henley who created the character of “Desperado,” an outcast who has struggled with the human condition. The song is filled with all sorts of gambling and poker references, and happiness, it seems, comes down to the “luck of the draw.” Sure, the Eagles are quick to offer some hope, too, but it’s conditional. “Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able, the queen of hearts is always your best bet.” Yet, there are no promises that you will ever draw a queen of hearts, and therein is the despair so many people can relate to. 

Tim McGraw – Last Dollar Away

  • Genius: Genius
  • Released: 2006
  • Label: Curb

We are all afraid of loss, but not having anything in the world to worry about is a tempting prospect, and Tim McGraw knows as much. With nothing to lose, the singer admits that he is down to his last dollar and that’s okay. At once it serves as a reminder of the “hell that he has gone through” and on the other it’s a promise to the future that lies ahead. “Look at me so free,” says McGraw in the song, “nothing holding me down.” We all seem to be so scared about losing it all, but the truth is, there is freedom.

Tom Waits – On the Nickel

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1980
  • Label: Asylum Records

Tom Waits has always stood up for his downtrodden brethren and just like them, he has the occasional taste for a good drink and perhaps excessive gambling. Nevertheless, Waits is a happy family man so this is all in the past. Yet, Songs such as “On the Nickel” pay homage to an alternative lifestyle that could as well been Waits’ own life. In the song, Waits talks about 5th street in Los Angeles, but as those more prescient among you have already guessed, he actually means the River, which is the final flip of the cards in a game of poker! 

Townes van Zandt – Mr Mudd And Mr Gold

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics
  • Released: 1971
  • Label: Poppy

In “Mr Mudd and Mr Gold,” Townes van Zandt sings about the change of fortune in a man’s life. The song is about a lucky man, the wicked king of clubs, who wakes up to his queen. They both know that the king must participate in a game of poker, as the sun shines upon a gambling day. Luck doesn’t seem to favor the wicked king who starts calling himself Mr Mudd for his good fortune is running thin. A heated game ensues in which Mr Mudd eventually pulls a diamond ace that settles the game in his favor. And what’s the moral of the story? “If you feel like mud, you’ll end up gold/so amigo, lay them raises down!”

Train – Lottery

  • Lyrics: Azlyrics 
  • Released: 2017
  • Label: Columbia

Would you be surprised if we told you that Train’s “Lottery” is about love? The singer goes on to compare his baby to a “winning number,” and continues that “it’s like I won the lottery.” From there on in, Train will spare his baby no compliment nor earthly pleasure as the pair is moving uptown, and it’s all okay because apparently, they have the golden ticket. This is not the most gambling-heavy song, but either way, life is a gamble, and finding your special someone is a matter of unimaginable chance, plain and simple. 

Tyler Shaw – House of Cards

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 2015
  • Label: Tyler Ip

Another moving ballad about love, Tyler Shaw’s “House of Cards,” refers to gambling terms to express his love for his special someone. He has built himself a “house of cards,” but something is missing and that is “the queen of my hearts.” It’s a song not so much about gambling at Las Vegas’ tables so much as it is gambling in life and the pursuit of love. If you are more of the traditional type of listener who prefers the raw, old tunes loaded with bitterness and triumph, you may not like “House of Cards,” too much, but it’s still worth listening to. 

Van Morrison – On Raglan Road

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: Mercury

This song by Van Morrison is a poignant tale of love that never was. We have all fallen in and out of love in our lives. “On Raglan Road” was inspired by the eponymous poem which briefly mentions “the queen of heart still baking tarts,” a reference to the repetitiveness of life and our inclination to get stuck in ruts. When playing cards, though, we can expect another hand to open and present us with a new opportunity to change our fate. On Raglan Road ends up on a downbeat note, and it’s perhaps not the most cheerful song to listen to when playing poker or blackjack, but still one well worthwhile. 

Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns and Money

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1978
  • Label: Asylum

“I was gambling in Havana,” says Warren Zevon in his “Lawyers, Guns and Money” folksy, piano tune. Stuck between a “rock and a hard place,” the singer is down on his luck and a desperate man, the lyrics tell us. While Zevon’s song may seem a little unfocused it’s the semi-optimistic confession of a man who is down on his luck and expects people to send him lawyers, guns, and money. His Havana adventures may have ended up on a bad foot, but that’s okay, because he is now hiding in Honduras and he’s happy to be lying low there, or so it seems. The song ends on a testy “send lawyers, guns and money.” 

Wilco – Casino Queen

  • Lyrics: Genius
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: Reprise Records

“Casino Queen” is part of Wilco’s debut album, A.M., released back in 1995 and it follows the breakup of Uncle Tupelo whose members went in different directions. While debates swirled whether Son Volt, Tupelo’s lead singer’s new band, would be better than Wilco, we are pretty sure Wilco has done a pretty amazing job and Casino Queen is just one of the examples why. The song takes us to a casino where the singer meets his wife whom he has just met, and “she’s looking a wreck.” Yet, the song seems to be much bigger and Wilco continues to add “my lord, you’re mean, I’ve been gambling like a fiend, on your tables so green,” It all ends with the dealer joking and taking the singer’s last token. 

Wishbone Ash – Diamond Jack

  • Lyrics: Genius 
  • Released: 1977
  • Label: MCA

Diamond Jack by Wishbone Ash is precisely the type of song you would like to hear when seated at a high-stakes game of poker. In fact, the song is all about that. With its catchy pace, lightsome theme, and clever writing, “Diamond Jack” is the type of song that sticks with you. You will hear the singer evoke the “ace of hearts” and mention the “black magical lady luck,” referring to the jack. The words are an appellation to good fortune and luck and if gambling is all about luck, Wishbone Ash is quite confident in the ability to translate this luck into a win. Whether you gamble or just want to listen to a great song about gambling, Diamond Jack is definitely a great choice.

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