The Best Poker Song

No, it is not The Gambler. My personal favorite poker song is The Card Cheat by The Clash

From their seminal album London Calling, this song is a great example of what a great band The Clash was. They were as punk as any british street kid but weren’t confined by the standards of the genre; there is only one chord strummed on a guitar in the entire song.

This song tells the tale of a card player who pulled his last trick at the table. After, I suspect, conning his way into an upper class game of poker, the cheat is caught by a dealer and immediate gambler’s justice is visited upon him. He’s shot on the spot.  The song focuses on the seconds before his death as he lay dying. His loneliness and the futility of the life he led confronts the listener as it does the subject of the song.

The end of the song is very confusing but I believe that it is trying to draw parallels between the above situation of the lonely, senseless death of a con man and a similar way of looking at the deaths of those who lost their lives in armed conflict for ideals they weren’t really aware of. As strummer puts it, “in the service of the king.” The crashing horns add to this motif. But the gambler is portrayed as an almost honorable figure whose life nonetheless ends in futility. It seems he wants us to look at a soldier in the same way. That he should be honored and respected while still recognizing that the reasons for their deaths leaves a only, “a solitary man crying hold me.”

My interpretation may be all wrong but it seems supportable enough. Even without all that, it’s just a great song to listen to.

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