Music and poker are like steak and potatoes. Not only does music help some people concentrate while they’re playing but poker can also influence music. From Mötorhead’s Ace of Spades to The Eagles’ Desperado, bands have been writing songs about this legendary card game for decades. So, what is it about poker that makes it so appealing to musicians, especially heavy metal ones?
Perhaps it’s something to do with the high stakes, the thrill of revealing the winning hand or the ability to remain as cool as a cucumber as the tension mounts. These are all skills that heavy-metal musicians encounter each time they play a gig, so it is no surprise that they like to replicate the feeling by playing a few rounds of cards. Let’s look at some of the bigger players to come out of the world of metal.
Sully Erna – Godsmack
It’s no secret that Godsmack vocalist Sully Erna’s favorite side gig is playing poker. When the band took a year-long break in 2013, Erna used it as an opportunity to both pursue his solo career as well as return to compete in poker tournaments. He competed in the 2006 and 2007 World Series of Poker competitions, winning $17,730 and $45,422, respectively, and followed this up with a win of $307,325 in the 2007 Five-Diamond World Poker Classic. He also showcased his skills in the VH1 Charity Celebrity Rock ‘n’ Roll Tournament in 2007 but took a break from poker after this to concentrate on the band.
Jerry Cantrell – Alice in Chains
The Alice in Chains vocalist and guitarist recently took part in a Rock Royalty evening on CBSSports in which he and Scott Ian of Anthrax took on a host of celebrities in a game of high stakes. They also opened a bar together named Dead Man’s Hand with a logo of a skeleton’s hand holding the dead man’s poker hand atop a flaming ace of spades.
Steve Albini – Shellac
While Steve Albini is mostly known for his insane recording engineer skills, he is also a guitarist for experimental band Shellac. His influence on music has been vast, with his engineering skills featured on over 1,000 albums, including everyone from Nirvana to Robert Plant. He also is a massive fan of poker and managed to rank 12th in the 2013 World Series of Poker Championship. Since then, he competed a few more times, playing both no-limit hold ‘em and seven-card stud.
Scott Ian – Anthrax
As we already mentioned, Scott Ian is a massive poker player. After taking part in small-time poker matches while on tour, he found himself winning VH1’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Celebrity Tournament in 2006. He beat Ace Frehley (Kiss), Dusty Hill (ZZ Top) and Vinnie Paul (Pantera), all amazing players, to the top spot. Then he started taking it seriously. Professional player Phil Hellmuth noticed Ian’s patience and natural ability with the cards and offered to train him. The rest, as they say, is history.
Lemmy – Motorhead
In his heyday, Mötorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister loved nothing more than playing a few rounds on the felt of Texas Hold’em. Usually found at his favorite restaurant Rainbow Bar & Grill on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, Lemmy’s favorite video poker machine became a place for fans to pay their respects after he passed away in 2016. Before he died, bar owner Mario Mikael Maglieri moved the machine to his home so that he could continue playing. Now back in its rightful place, the seat next to it is permanently reserved for him.
Something tells us that the bond between poker and heavy metal will continue to be a super strong one!