What’s on Your Poker Playlist?

Katy Perry’s hit single Waking Up in Vegas music video has more than 90 million views on Youtube. Released in 2009, it cracked the top ten in eight countries, peaking at number nine in the United States, and solidified her as an international superstar. It’s a pop track about an underage couple getting drunk and blowing their bankroll in Las Vegas, and pays homage to the phrase, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” We all know that story, but did you know one of the greatest poker players ever made a cameo appearance in the official video? And, he’s Canadian.

At the one-minute-18-second mark, Daniel Negreanu is seen at the poker table folding his hand and raising his arms in disgust, as if he just lost a massive pot. The camera then pans left to Perry, who is raking in all the chips. It’s the kind of scene right out of Hollywood. Negreanu is ranked third on poker’s all-time money list, with more than $42 million won playing tournaments, and is usually on the right side of big pots like that. All in the name of music, right?

The Toronto-native has always had an affinity for good music, and chances are many Katy Perry songs are on his playlist. His tastes aren’t limited to just pop rock though, he’s a Reggae fan as well.

“If you don’t like Bob Marley, chances are, I won’t like you,” he once tweeted @RealKidPoker. “Never met anyone who’s ever said, ‘I hate Bob Marley music,’ he’s a true legend.”

What’s on Your Playlist?

A huge fan of the Rocky films, Negreanu has often referred to one of its theme songs, Eye of the Tiger, as excellent mood music before big events. It fires him up and motivates him to play his best. “It’s amazing how music can affect your mood,” reads another one of his tweets. “Except country, that does nothing for me.”

Based on that last sentence, you’re likely to find more Usher on Negreanu’s iPod, an artist he once described on social media as an “amazing talent” with “slick dance moves,” and less Shania Twain. How about you?

Country Music

Doyle Brunson’s a fan of country music. The two-time world champion and poker legend lists Johnny Cash and Garth Brooks among his favorites. He also enjoys Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Tina Turner, Nat King Cole and The Diamonds. “So good,” @TexDolly once tweeted. “Today’s music, blah.”

Traditionally, country music has been a tear in your beer kind of venture, with songs about heartbreak and despair. Where everything good in your life leaves you. This is not ideal at the poker table. Too much negative reinforcement, and you may soon find your chips leaving you too. Fortunately, modern country music offers a wide-array of pop-like alternatives. Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryant are good choices, and sure to keep your toes tapping during those stretches when you find yourself card dead and getting bored. Negreanu may not like country, but you might.

Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler is a must listen. Those famous lyrics provide a great reminder when playing, that “you’ve got to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em.” Garth Brooks’ Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House and Clint Black’s Good Run of Bad Luck are also quality choices.

Classic Rock

AC/DC knows the score, and outlined it beautifully in their 1975 hit single It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Want to Rock ’n’ Roll. Just as music is a grind, so too is poker. There is perhaps no better classic rock band for the poker table than AC/DC. The Jack includes a number of poker and gambling references, and the phenomenal guitar work of Angus Young will help keep you sharp and on top of your game. How could you not be wide awake and ready for your opponents with his extraordinary riffs in songs like Highway to Hell, Shook Me All Night Long and Thunderstruck.

ACDC Music Cover

Pearl Jam, Guns and Roses, and The Who are other good choices. When you are Under Pressure at the table, you may want to load up some Queen. Although you might want to save We Are the Champions for after you’ve cashed out a winner.

Heavy Metal

You have to guard against getting too amplified though, something that can lead to an untimely bluff, check raise, or other mistakes that cost you money. With that in mind, try to avoid heavy metal music, but don’t tell that to fans of Motorhead. Its legendary hit Ace of Spades is widely considered to be one of the greatest poker related songs ever recorded. It’s about a die-hard gambler living on the edge, and is guaranteed to get your juices flowing.

Pro Tip: Always turn up the volume for the Ace of Spades. It’s the most powerful card in the deck.

Pop

Lady Gaga’s decision to incorporate one of the game’s most important elements, the stare down, into the title of one of her song’s proved to be a very profitable. Like betting big with a flush when you know your opponent has a flush. She struck gold in 2009 with the release of Poker Face. Her second number one single, it sold close to 10 million copies that year and reached the top of the charts in more than 20 countries, including Canada, the UK and Australia.

Lady Gaga Poker Face Music Cover

It’s important to note, the only correlation between the song and the game is the song’s title. Poker Face received worldwide acclaim and praise for its robotic beat, hook and chorus. But it tells the story of bisexuality, not Texas Hold’em. Are you ready for this? The video has more than 714 million views on Youtube.

Flashback: Juice Newton’s Queen of Hearts dominated the airwaves in the 1980’s and reached number two on both the American pop and country charts. Lyrically, the singer wears her heart on her sleeve by “playing with the queen of hearts, knowing it ain’t really smart.”

Rap Music

A lot of the younger players today enjoy rap music in their ears, and that includes Prahlad Freidman and Jeff Madsen. In 2006, at the height of the poker boom, Friedman finished 20th in the World Series of Poker’s main event. Not a bad run, right? Well, it was overshadowed by his freestyle rap performance on ESPN when he busted out these lines:

Poker is fun, for everyone, except my opponent, they shoulda practiced avoidance.

Madsen, also an aspiring freestyle rapper, was given the same opportunity a few years later, and although his bust-a-rhymes session was not quite as memorable, he has had great success at the table. The 35-year old has won four gold bracelets and was named WSOP ‘Player of the Year’ in 2006.

Soul Music

If you haven’t noticed already, most elite pros play with heart and soul, and therefore you cannot go wrong with Otis Redding, James Brown, Etta James or The Temptations. If you want some respect at the table pop in some Aretha Franklin, and change the mood immediately. Are you on tilt? Relax with some Ray Charles and his voice from the heavens. Searching for some soulful inspiration is never a bad thing. If you’re lucky, the poker Gods will enter the equation.

Fun Fact: In 1953, a year after signing with Atlantic Records, Ray Charles recorded the song Losing Hand. It opened with the line, “I gambled on your love and got a losing hand.”

The Ultimate Mix

You may prefer the stylings of Frank Sinatra, America’s first teen idol and definitive saloon singer. His Luck Be a Lady helped make the musical Guys and Dolls the Hollywood classic it is today. Bob Dylan (Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts), Leonard Cohen (The Stranger Song), Tom Waits (On the Nickel) and Stevie Nicks (The Dealer) have all written and performed gambling-themed songs.

It might be punk rock, jazz or classical music, styles of music vary as much as the styles of playing poker. Negreanu believes music can change your mood, and he’s won millions, so follow suit and sing along.

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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