Gambling has been around as long as anyone can remember, so it seems fitting that there should be songs out there exploring the theme of gambling. These are 10 of the best songs about gambling ever written, songs that continue to be popular and relevant to this day.
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
First released back in 1978, The Gambler is one of the best casino songs ever written and is considered one of the seminal country songs about gambling. Considered Rogers’ signature tune, the song tells the story of a late-night train conversation between an unknown narrator and a down-on-his-luck gambler discussing wagering, a losing hand, and advice on life and death. Containing themes of addiction, freedom, mortality, acceptance, and loss, the song continues to be popular to this day. Expertly crafted, and with something to say, there are not many songs like The Gambler out there.
Poker Face – Lady Gaga
Though this is a song dripping with innuendo and double entendre, there is most certainly a gambling element to the lyrics. In fact, Gaga herself has admitted that the song was not just inspired by her sexual relationships, but, also, by gambling itself. One of the leading poker songs, the pop hit references cards, poker, risks, Russian Roulette, aces, and more. The pop song was a huge success and helped cement Gaga’s status as a pop giant.
Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley
The King’s ode to Las Vegas, its gamblers, and casino culture is one of the enduring songs about casinos. Considered a classic pop song, the tune was the theme for the 1964 movie of the same name, which also starred Presley. The song celebrates the bright lights, the thrill and the opportunity that comes with betting, Vegas, casinos, slots and more. Elvis’s tragic relationship with Vegas would come to be his undoing, but this remains one of the greatest songs ever recorded about gambling.
The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
Okay, so this one doesn’t technically focus on gambling precisely, but here it uses gambling as a metaphor. The song was allegedly written by Bjorn Ulvaeus about his divorce to fellow band member Agnetha Faltskog. The term “the winner takes it all” is no doubt a reference to divorce proceedings, in particular where money is involved, and how one party always emerges as the loser, whilst the other, the winner, takes everything.
Shape of My Heart – Sting
A wonderful song, and one of the best-ever songs about card games. Shape of My Heart is about a gambler who plays the card game Poker to try to understand the mystery of luck and fate. As the lyrics reveal, “He doesn’t play for the money he wins/He doesn’t play for respect/He deals the cards to find an answer…” As songs about card games go, this is one of the most introspective and intriguing ones, and is perfectly fitting in its use in the movie Leon (The Professional).
Ace of Spades – Motörhead
Metal legends Motörhead are well-known for many songs, but there’s little doubt Ace of Spades is one of their most famous. The song was inspired by lead singer Lemmy’s time playing slots in London pubs, and contains many different gambling metaphors. This has got to be one of the best slot machine songs ever written, if not the best, and continues to be a classic of the genre to this day.
Countin – 2 Chainz
Moving away from rock n’ roll for a moment, rapper 2 Chainz is no stranger to gambling, and the Georgia native uses Countin to make reference to sports betting, playing the odds, and the experiences of losing big when betting. One of the lesser-known numbers on this list, Countin is no less relevant and impressive as a song that explores betting and gambling.
Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones
Written during Mick Jagger’s bout of writer’s block, and following a conversation with his housekeeper about the details of the game Craps. The song revolves around gambling, and the dice and craps motifs are a large component. Originally named Good Time Woman, Jagger came up with the new title to reflect the gambling theme of the song. It remains one of the enduring songs written about gambling and became a global hit for the band.
Desperado – Eagles
One of the greatest songs of the 1970s, and one of the stand out hits in the Eagles’ back catalog, the song is packed full of metaphors and references to gambling, particularly cards. The lyrics are highly recognisable, and tell the story of a lonely prisoner, with such lines as “Don’t you play the Queen of Diamonds boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able.” One of the enduring rock and blues songs ever written about gambling, this is a classic of ‘70s rock.
Loser – Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead were one of the most experimental and engaging bands of their time, and the song Loser is a great testament to their musical and lyrical brilliance. The song content focuses on the fact that gamblers so often lose, but this is seldom enough to put them off doing it again. It remains one of the best songs about gambling addiction to be written and is just as engaging and brilliant as when it was first written.
These are 10 of the best songs ever written that touch on gambling and addiction. Music is such a great medium to explore life and issues, and these represent some of the best-ever songs about gambling.