It’s not too surprising that there’s a strong link between rock and roll and poker. Both attract those with an ability to indulge their hedonistic side but revel in the exacting execution of an activity as they do so.
Add to that a large amount of time spent on the road on tour buses or sat on planes, waiting around at venues and sitting through other bands’ sound checks and it’s not too surprising that musicians find entertainment in an easily-portable and language-transcending pack of playing cards.
Professional musicians will also often have a significant disposable income (when compared with the average person), so their ability to fund their poker and sustain any losses is greatly increased.
So, who are and have been rock music’s greatest gamblers? Do you listen to their music when you play?
Scott Ian – Anthrax
Scott Ian is possibly the most successful gambler in the world of rock. In fact, he’s so good that, although he’s not been on the professional circuit for long, he’s cashed in a World Series of Poker main event and also won UB’s Sunday $200K Guaranteed – Proving he can sit down at a table with the most experienced and skilled of players and still walk away better off!
Starting with an appearance on VH1’s Rock & Roll Celebrity Tournament in 2006, where he triumphed over Sully Erna (Godsmack), Ace Frehley (Kiss), Dusty Hill (ZZ Top), Vinnie Paul (Pantera) and four other online qualifiers to win.
After being approached by Phil Hellmuth, Scott subsequently took the decision to turn pro and blends music and poker to generate what we presume is a very comfortable income.
Jerry Cantrell – Alice in Chains
While his appearances at poker events are sporadic and unpredictable, Jerry Cantrell has proven that he can hold his own when he sits down to a game of poker.
Jerry has appeared at (and played in) several televised poker events.
Scott Ian of Anthrax (see above) and Jerry are actually linked by poker as well as music: They once owned a bar in Las Vegas called Dead Man’s Hand (a poker hand named for the cards supposedly held by “Wild” Bill Hickock when he was killed). That bar has since closed but Jerry and Scott both continue to play.
Steve Albini – Shellac
A lesser-known face is Steve Albini, who you might not be so familiar with unless you’re in the know when it comes to studios, production and session work. Steve’s actually been a key component in numerous works and it’s pretty likely you’ll have listened to something, at some point, that Steve has been involved with, including material by The Pixies and Nirvana.
Steve takes his poker as seriously as his production and has appeared in multiple poker tournaments, many high-profile in nature. In the spring of 2018, Steve won a Las Vegas Seven Card Stud tournament and took home a gold bracelet and $106,000 for his trouble.
Steve often plays with other rock and rollers, holding a regular Tuesday game that’s often attended by other well-known Chicago musicians, reputedly including Kim Deal (on occasion).
Sulla Erna – Godsmack
Regularly photographed at the table, Sully Erna is a keen poker player who also appeared on VH1’s Rock & Roll Celebrity Tournament in 2006 (losing out to Scott Ian, see above).
So committed is Erna to the game that he has the words “No Justice” and four flaming aces tattooed on his back – A reference to a lost game where he flopped four aces and a competing player went all-in with a royal flush, causing Erna to cry out, “There is no justice in poker!”.
Glenn Frey – The Eagles
Although Glenn Frey sadly left us in January 2016 after suffering from a wide range of health issues, he was a well-known poker player in the music world.
Frey and his band played so many and such long poker sessions that he actually came up with a name for it – “Eagle Poker”.
Other musicians (including Joni Mitchell) often frequented his home in Los Angeles, referring to it affectionately as the “Kirkwood Casino and Health Club”.