COVID-19 has laid waste to all our best plans over the course of the last year, shuttering shops and restaurants and depriving us of seeing our friends. But there are a few pastimes we’ve still been able to find solace in — activities that not even the most virulent of contagions has been able to put a stop to. One is listening to music, playing our favourite records and revisiting lists of the greatest songs and performers of all time. Another is online gaming — hooking up with friends on cross-platform games like Fortnite or trying our hand at a little online poker before the physical casinos reopen their doors.
So, with that in mind, we’ve come up with a fun list that brings together these two pillars of lockdown entertainment — the greatest popstar gamblers; singers who know — or knew — how to perform at the tables as well as onstage.
Arguably the most influential singer of the 20th century, Sinatra remains an icon of American culture and rivals Elvis, The Beatles and Michael Jackson as perhaps the greatest act in the history of popular music. But not only was Frank one of the highest-selling musicians of all time, he was also a member of the Rat Pack and a businessman in the gambling industry. Indeed, Sinatra bought the Cal Neva Lodge & Casino with Dean Martin — a casino hotel located by Lake Tahoe and straddling the states of California and Nevada. It attracted Sinatra’s celebrity friends such as Marilyn Monroe and gave him plenty of opportunities to brush up on his card skills.
It’s true, Sinatra’s gambling license was temporarily revoked by the Nevada Gaming Control Board in 1963, but his gaming license was eventually restored and, given that he’s a legend of casino history, it feels appropriate to pop him on our list.
Or Shawn Corey Carter, to those who know him personally. Born in Brooklyn, New York on December 4th, 1969, Jay-Z is not only perhaps the greatest American rapper songwriter of all time, but he’s also a businessman, record producer and married to that ‘little-known’ pop sensation Beyonce.
Unsurprisingly, given this portfolio, Jay-Z also has the cash to dedicate to innumerable past times. This is perhaps why a few stories are circulating online about his penchant for high-stakes poker games —allegedly, he once even lost $500,000 in a Texas Hold’em game played in Las Vegas. We hear he also enjoys blackjack, online poker, and sports betting, particularly on boxing.
Steve Albini might not be as famous as our first two entrants on the list, but what if we told you he’d worked on more than 1,500 albums, including the production of classics like Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’.
Albini is a musician in his own right, a guitarist and vocalist in bands such as Shellac, an American indie rock group from Chicago. But he’s also a producer, music journalist, audio engineer and general generator of prodigious amounts of work for other artists. What’s more, he was ranked 12th place at the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP). So, he certainly has some formidable skills in the gambling world too. When he competed in the 2018 WSOP, Albini took home six figures in prize money.
How he manages to accomplish all this, when he’s basically only human and capable of working the same number of hours in any given day as the rest of us, is anyone’s guess. Either way, he leaves us feeling rather lazy.
This 46-year-old rapper has done it all — performed during the halftime of the Super Bowl, released worldwide hits like ‘Hot in Herre’ and ‘Country Grammar’. Who could forget his duet, ‘Dilemma’, with the pop star and former Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland? That was a song that was played constantly on the radio back in the summer of 2002.
Well, it turns out Nelly is also a dab hand at poker and has appeared at several major tournaments such as the 2007 World Series of Poker and PokerStars European Poker Tour.
In a slightly more unedifying moment in his gambling career, he was recently caught on camera in an altercation with another player at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Apparently, this gambler made a comment Nelly took umbrage at. But we’ll forgive him that small indiscretion and retain his place on our list.
Homme is a vocalist, guitarist and founder of Queens of the Stone Age — the American rock band formed in California and famous for having a certain Mr Dave Grohl play the drums for them.
This band was at its height during the noughties. The driving guitar riffs of songs like ‘No One Knows’ made Homme and his band one of the biggest names in indie rock around that time.
Well, it turns out he enjoys a bit of poker in his spare time and is said to have won some pretty decent hands in the past. Card skills and guitar skills in equal measure — quite the combination.
So, there you have it, our list of music and poker stars who are seemingly able to bring their attitude to the stage and the betting tables.
Of course, the chance of ever being given the opportunity to play cards against any of them — or take cash off them as a result — is pretty remote. But that certainly shouldn’t stop us from dreaming.