It doesn’t matter what kind of media you’re looking into, you’ll find plenty of instances of gambling. It is ingrained in almost every aspect of culture and seen in both very positive and very negative lights. When it comes to music, sometimes the imagery of gambling goes even deeper than a simple plot device or narrative (though it can be those). Oftentimes, you’ll hear it as a metaphor for conflicting emotions, especially love. One of the genres most frequently associated with gambling imagery or stories is country music but gambling shows up with some regularity across almost all genres of music. Though this is far from an exhaustive list of songs about gambling, it will give you some ideas about what to put on your Spotify playlist for your next trip to the casino. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band This is a quintessential gambling song. Off of the 1979 album Million Mile Reflections, it’s a simple, straightforward country song about a man named Johnny who makes a bet with The Devil. If he wins, he gets a golden fiddle. If he loses, The Devil gets his soul. Although it has a lot of the famous tropes of roots country music storytelling (such as selling or betting your soul, see: Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson), this is one of the most spot-on retellings of a classic story of a man, his soul, and musical supremacy. “The Gambler” – Kenny Rogers This is easily Kenny Rogers’ best known song. The song is another simple country story about a down-on-his-luck man meeting up with a broken down gambling man who gives him some advice for a swig of whiskey. That advice takes the form of the famous lines “You gotta know when to hold ‘em/Know when to fold ‘em.” All told, it’s not bad advice. This 1978 classic is so well known and respected that samples of the song (and the man himself) even show up with rappers Wyclef Jean and Pharoahe Monch’s 2000 track “Kenny Rogers – Pharoahe Monch Dub Plate” as well as Coolio’s 2002 song “Hustler.” “Ace of Spades” – Motörhead Another song with arguably as much influence as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “The Gambler” is Motörhead’s 1980 smash hit “Ace of Spades.” Rather than being a quaint ballad of good advice or triumphing over adversity, it’s a fast and hard song about a man who doesn’t care about winning or losing, he just cares about playing the game. Like Rogers’ “The Gambler,” it peeks its head out across all genre barriers, being covered by British trip-hop artist Tricky, mainstay psychobilly band The Reverent Horton Heat, and all-around weird guys, Ween. On the video game DJ Hero it can even be heard mixed with “Groundhog” by Dutch electronic trio, Noisia. “House of the Rising Sun” Several essays could be written about this song by itself. Its mysterious past, whether The House of the Rising Sun is a real place or metaphorical, and its metamorphosis throughout history. This folk song of unknown origin deals with a man who is inexorably tied to the titular House of the Rising Sun, following in the ruinous path of his “gambling man” father. The earliest known recording was done by Appalachian folk singers Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster in 1941. After being covered and tweaked by big names like Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Bob Dylan, and Nina Simone, The Animals made it their own in 1964. The song has survived, crossing musical barriers and being performed or sampled by the English prog-rock band Muse in 2002, Canadian punk rockers, Ripcordz in ’07, rapper Crooked I in 2009, and alt-country singer Lauren O’Connell in 2012. The latter version became well known from the trailer for American Horror Story’s third season, “Coven.” “Three Card Cheat” and “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” – The Clash Not much can be said about The Clash that hasn’t already been said. After all, these two songs are off of 1979’s seminal second-wave punk album London Calling. “Three Card Cheat” has three distinct parts, each of them approaching gambling in different ways. The first is about a man who is nearing the end of his life and running down his list of regrets. It’s then asked “With a card up his sleeve/What would he achieve?” meaning, even if he could cheat death or find a way to remedy his regrets, what would that do for him because he’d likely just waste his time again. Another verse is about a literal card game with a cheat who is shot for having a card up his sleeve. The third is a politically charged verse about soldiers who The Clash saw as gambling their lives in the British military. The second gambling song on London Calling, “Wrong ‘Em Boyo,” was originally performed by Jamaican reggae band The Rulers but adapted into a much larger, genre-bending song by The Clash. The song is a simple story about two men, Stagger and Billy, playing dice. When Stagger wins, Billy becomes furious and tries to kill Stagger. Unfortunately for Billy, Stagger has a gun and shoots Billy dead. These songs are just a taste of the musical history of gambling which is extremely expansive, varied, and interesting.