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Metal’s Poker Playing Mavericks

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It’s no surprise that poker would find a place in the fast-lane lifestyles of rock and roll musicians. Both the game and musical genre share a reputation for mavericks who don’t necessarily fit within society’s supposed norms, instead choosing less certain ways of earning a wage and living in the moment.

Ask anyone to describe a game of poker and they’ll probably envisage gritty oddballs from the fringes. They probably imagine smoky rooms, bottles of bourbon, late nights and big money; in fact, ask anyone to describe the lifestyle of your average rockstar and they’ll probably envisage much the same!

However, those in the know when it comes to poker, rock and roll, or both, will probably tell you that both worlds are occupied by a variety of people from all walks of life with room for everyone. In fact, poker is a calculated and exacting game and this guide gives a better insight into its inner workings. 

Let’s look at some of rock’s best known musicians who like to alternate between whammy bars and decks of cards.

Steve Albini (Shellac)

We start with a relatively low-profile member of the rock world, whose name probably wouldn’t stick out to anyone without an in-depth knowledge of what happens behind the scenes in recording studios. However, Steve has been instrumental in a plethora of tracks and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve heard something he’s had a hand in.

The founder of Chicago’s Electrical Audio studio, he’s engineered albums for a huge range of acts including Nirvana and The Pixies.

As with sound production, Steve is a serious and dedicated poker player. He has appeared in several high-profile poker tournaments, winning a Las Vegas Seven Card Stud tournament in the spring of 2018 and taking home a gold bracelet along with $106,000.

Away from the high-rolling action of Las Vegas, Steve holds a regular Tuesday game that’s frequented by other Chicago musicians and sound engineers, including (on occasion) Kim Deal. 

Scott Ian (Anthrax)

Scott Ian of Anthrax is possibly the most successful rock and roller to turn high roller. Although he’s not been on the professional scene for long, he’s rapidly proven he can hold his own among the game’s most seasoned pros. He’s cashed in a World Series of Poker main event and won UB’s Sunday $200K Guaranteed.

Scott’s poker career started with an appearance on VH1’s Rock & Roll Celebrity Tournament in 2006, where he saw off Sully Erna (Godsmack), Ace Frehley (Kiss),  Dusty Hill (ZZ Top), Vinnie Paul (Hellyeah/Pantera) and four online qualifiers to take the win. At the end of that event he was approached by Phil Hellmuth (fifteen-time bracelet winner) and told that if he ever wanted to get serious, he should give him a call.

Scott did get serious and now juggles music and poker to bring home a comfortable living.

Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)

Jerry has appeared on numerous televised poker events and while his poker appearances are sporadic, he’s shown that he can hold his own when he takes a seat at the table.

There’s even a link between this rock icon and Scott Ian. Together they opened a bar in Las Vegas called Dead Man’s Hand (named after the poker hand that Wild Bill Hickock was supposedly holding when he was killed). Unfortunately, the bar has since closed but we hope that this will leave both Jerry and Scott with more time to pump out metal!

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive and there are plenty of other well-known rockers who have been known to pull a chair up to a felted table. Who are your gambling musicians of note?

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