Best Music Videos Featuring Poker
What makes a good music video?
It is a question that has dogged artists ever since MTV started dropping videos in the late eighties. It’s no longer sufficient to have a good track; you need excellent visuals, something that delivers your sound to a new digital audience, hungry to see the action as well as hear it.
A video needs to be striking but doesn’t need to be directly related to the song. Some videos explore themes hinted at in the songs; other tracks feature visuals that bear little relation to the subject matter. Some videos depict urban life, making a statement about the artist’s background, whilst others are standalone pieces of work powerful in their own right. Who can forget the eighties video for Take On Me by A-Ha? It was innovative and has helped keep the song popular 36 years later, harnessing more than a billion hits on YouTube.
The hunt for an interesting theme for a video often leads artists down some weird and wonderful pathways, with poker one such avenue some take. There is something risky about a poker game, something gritty and primal, which often makes for an excellent backdrop for a video. Of course, big money and high stakes fit perfectly with some modern rap themes, too. Plenty of artists have tried to use poker as part of their visual impact, but did they succeed? We’ll let you decide with our top five.
Rich Gang – We Been On
The Rich Gang were a ‘supergroup’ of sorts, a collection of artists under the banner Young Money and Cash Money making a self-titled album. Birdman, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Mack Maine, Limp Bizkit, Bow Wow, Ace Hood, Jae Millz, Cory Gunz, Gudda Gudda, Caskey, Detail, Busta Rhymes and Mystikal all featured. Still, this particular video has just two artists in – Birdman and Lil Wayne. To demonstrate how wealthy they are, they depicted a high stakes poker game in the video, just in case you missed the subtle message.
TLC – Red Light Special
In the 90s, TLC were everywhere, No Scrubs and Waterfalls being their two most popular hits. Red Light Special wasn’t the biggest, but they included a poker game in the video. The slow and steady ballad shows the band and two unnamed male associates playing poker and generally frolicking in that smooth, soulful style the 90s were partly famous for. Given how the chips are laid around the table, though, we’re not sure the game was all that serious, and they might have needed a few pointers on how to play.
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
One very serious card player, in his music video at least, was Kenny Rogers. His 1978 hit The Gambler came at the height of his popularity and is probably the first instance of poker being used in a music video. In the song, the protagonist is given a few tips to live his life by, taken from an old professional who clearly understands all the poker rules, both official and unofficial. In the video, Rogers is alone around a table used for a game, looking back on the older man’s advice about when to hold, fold, and leg it. The fact he is alone is probably more reflective of how low budget videos were back in the day, rather than trying to make a big statement.
Dropkick Murphys – Rose Tattoo
The Boston-based Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys have been recording and releasing records for 25 years now, and with so many videos to make, there’s little surprise they eventually turned to poker. Their 2012 hit Rose Tattoo is perhaps the song they are best known for, and the video sees the band sat around an amateur game in what appears to be a closed bar, playing a few hands. There are plenty of visual references to their beloved Boston too, but by the end of the video, the game is over, and all you can see are the chips jumping as they tap the beat out on the table.
Katy Perry – Waking Up In Vegas
When a song mentions Vegas, it is almost sure to have some poker in it, and Katy Perry doesn’t disappoint. Her videos are usually colorful and vibrant, and although this was one of her lesser-successful hits, the video is true to type. She’s seen playing poker, roulette and the slot machines, and with a real pop twist, there’s also explosions, fast cars, and Katy Perry being bowled down a ten pin bowling alley.