Card games have fascinated us ever since they first appeared in Europe in the late 14th century. The idea of simple but exciting games based on a deck of cards has reached into every corner of popular culture, so it is no surprise to see that there are some famous songs about being dealt some cards.
Shape of My Heart – Sting
Sting’s 1993 track from the Ten Summoner’s Tales album takes an unusual approach to the world of card games, as it tells us all about a player who takes part “as a meditation” rather than to try and win money or for respect. Each of the different suits means something different to him as he looks for the “hidden law of a probable outcome” in them. Shape of My Heart never reached a particularly high placing on the charts, but it has come to be seen as one of Sting’s signature songs.
It currently has over 134 million online plays on the Spotify streaming platform. Meanwhile, internet card games have also grown more popular, as we can see by the versions of online blackjack at Betfair. Live dealer variants include Infinite Blackjack and Free Bets Blackjack, with a human dealer streamed onto the screen. Other games here can be played using computer-generated cards that are randomly dealt using complex algorithms to provide the “sacred geometry of chance” and a fair outcome every time. This just shows the enduring popularity.
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
The genius of this country classic is that it uses poker as a metaphor for the challenges and triumphs that we all need to deal with in life at one time or another. It begins with the narrator meeting a mysterious stranger on a late-night train “bound for nowhere” and receiving advice that is as suitable for everyday life as it is for creating a poker strategy. “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” remains one of the greatest lyrics in a genre that is renowned for memorable lines.
This song was written by Don Schlitz and was apparently turned down by Willie Nelson because he already had a really long song in his repertoire and thought that he didn’t need another of this length. The Gambler took a few years to finally take off, when Rogers’ drawling delivery made it a number one country hit and a crossover success on the pop charts in 1978.
Ace of Spades – Motörhead
This hard rock song came out in 1980, and while it lacks the clever gambling metaphors of The Gambler, it makes up for it in raw energy and speed. Ace of Spades is regularly placed high on lists of the best rock and guitar songs off all time, making it to the tenth spot in the VH1 list of hard rock songs, for example.
Bassist and songwriter Lemmy said that he was more of a fan of slots machines in real life, but pointed out that “you can’t really sing about spinning fruit”. So, he added as many gambling references as he could, allegedly writing the lyrics in the back of a Transit van as it raced down the motorway. The song was initially a modest commercial success but has gone on to become an iconic track for lovers of hard rock.
Poker Face – Lady Gaga
This was the best-selling single of 2009 and with over 14 million units sold, it is one of the most commercially successful songs in history. It takes the concept of maintaining an impassive expression to fool other players and translates it to a romantic setting, adding in some gambling phrases to provide some extra atmosphere.
Lady Gaga has provided a series of different interpretations of her lyrics over the years, so the true meaning remains somewhat ambiguous. However, there is no doubt that pretty much everyone who hears it understands the basic message of using a poker face to bluff in one way or another, so it could be seen as a continuation of The Gambler’s concept of using card skills to help in other aspects of life.
The huge appeal of these famous songs means that they will continue to be loved by millions of people, regardless of whether or not they like to play card games.