Which Rockers Love To
Show Off Their Poker Face?

Rock music and gambling have always been two industries rather naturally drawn to each other. The association arguably reached its zenith when Motörhead famously ensured we will forever associate them with gambling and poker by writing the song Ace of Spades. While Motörhead clearly remain the headliners when thinking about who in the world of rock and roll has made a big mark in the world of gambling, they certainly are not alone. Poker in particular seems to be an activity with a strong appeal amongst rockers, with entire forums on the internet discussing the names of stars like Scott Ian of Anthrax fame, Slash, and Jerry Cantrell in relation to their involvement with the poker scene.

Scott Ian has actually taken part in WSOP events, competitively playing Texas Hold'em against the pros, which begs the question: what draws rockers like him to the game and to the gambling scene in general?

Cultivating The Right Image

Rock stars might be very careful to try to appear as scruffy and unkempt as possible, but let’s not pretend: rock and roll is a very image-conscious world. In this respect, rock stars tend to pay a great deal of attention to which extra curricular activities and hobbies fit the brand they want to portray. Poker tournaments tick the box of wanting to be seen doing something on-trend and an activity that demands as much intelligence and strategy as it does the means to enter.


Slash

Slash is a strong example of this. Clearly very keen to be involved in the poker landscape, Slash is a man who lives the ultimate rock and roll lifestyle (as evidenced by the latest property he has bought). It would appear the crossover between rock and poker, for him, is all part and parcel of cultivating the right image. After all, a man who has made himself appear like a cool man of mystery and a legend on the rock scene despite all of the changes to the lineup of Guns N' Roses over the years knows what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

When it comes to poker and rock stars, it appears that the crossover appeals to the carpe diem attitude that inspires rock and roll stars. Seizing the day and living life to the full while taking on chance are all integral parts of the lifestyle that goes with making money from gigging, and also with playing poker, where it is possible to reap the rewards from the risk involved in a single poker hand. Even if we look back again at the “Ace of Spades,” Motörhead’s song about the rock and roll lifestyle cleverly uses poker as its metaphor. Even though the song was written several decades ago, it is still pertinent for showing why the worlds of rock and poker are so naturally linked.

Not Just About Ace Of Spades

“Ace of Spades” is perhaps the most well-known song featuring lyrics about poker, but it certainly isn't the only one. Lady Gaga wouldn’t be too happy to be overlooked, with her 2008 "Poker Face" song a classic pop hit, but while pop music does have a hold over gambling-related lyrics to an extent, the tie-in that rock has is undoubtedly much stronger.

As far back as the era of Elvis (the king of rock and roll), the song “Viva Las Vegas” talked about how "Oh, there's blackjack and poker and the roulette wheel, a fortune won and lost on every deal. All you need's a strong heart and a nerve of steel". In more recent times, we’ve had songs from bands like AC/DC, who wrote "The Jack" in 1976, which again uses poker as one of its key subject matters and pop culture reference points.

Indeed, while the rock and roll landscape has changed in many ways since the turn of the millennium, pulling away from some of the more anarchic elements that bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Motorhead and even Guns N' Roses held true to their hearts, it is still of note that the status of gambling, and in particular poker, is still highly regarded. Let’s not forget, after all, that Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighers (and Nirvana, once upon a time) honored Lemmy by getting an ace of spades tattoo to remember the former Motörhead frontman.

Not Just A Pursuit Of Pleasure

“Ace of Spades” is perhaps the most well-known song featuring lyrics about poker, but it certainly isn't the only one. Lady Gaga wouldn’t be too happy to be overlooked, with her 2008 "Poker Face" song a classic pop hit, but while pop music does have a hold over gambling-related lyrics to an extent, the tie-in that rock has is undoubtedly much stronger.


Scott Ian

It is, therefore, no particular shock that rock stars like Scott Ian have competed at World Series Of Poker events, and why rumors continue to circulate that rock stars are big players in the world of online poker. With offline and online poker tournaments easier and easier to take part in for players of all levels, with events for different numbers of participants and different skill levels like heads-up poker tournaments that see intense player-versus-player match-ups or Sit & Gos that see up to 360 players competing, it has never been simpler for rockers and pros from other professions to find a life away from their main skill set in a complementary industry that suits their existing interests and personality traits. Ultimately, the ease with which poker is offered online nowadays and the variety in the level of involvement and stakes - which range from multi-table and multi-hand tournaments reminiscent of big rock festivals to poker satellites, low buy-in events which allow for entrance to more prestigious tournaments - means that anyone even with a slight interest in poker, such as Slash and Scott Ian, not only have the opportunity to play online but also take part in tournaments that match their skills and mood in their downtime, without the need to visit a land-based poker room.

Viva Las Vegas?

Poker and rock and roll are likely to continue to be linked in this sort of manner, even as both scenes become more and more advanced and more sophisticated, and impacted upon by new technology and new, diverse trends.

Whether it’s to cultivate a certain look to the outside world, to enjoy the pure thrill of the gamble, or to experience intense competition in a slightly different environment, there are many reasons why these two worlds will continue to be so closely aligned. Ultimately, one thing is clear: we may have moved chronologically away from Elvis and his "Viva Las Vegas" song, but thematically, we really haven’t moved beyond the link, and for very good reason.

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