The Music of Poker Culture: From Marginalized to Mainstreamed



From Marginalized to Mainstreamed

Jack Black and Kyle Gass; Scott Ian of Anthrax; Sully Erna of Godsmack; Ja Rule, Nelly, and Jay-Z; Gene Simmons; Metallica’s Kirk Hammett; Pantera’s Vinnie Paul; Slash; Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains; The Electric Daisy Carnival; The Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival. Aside from the obvious, what else do they have in common? The answer is poker.

Yes, musicians playing poker is already ancient news, but because of the massive publicity and global attention that poker has been able to generate for itself for the past ten years, celebrities entering the poker arena just continue to feed the media circus with ever-evolving ways to put a spin on the subject. With more celebrities getting into poker either as casual players or aspiring pros, even the online and mobile platforms have shown increased attention and development. Major industry player, Bwin, for example, has come up with a partypoker android app that tries to enhance the online experience by integrating social networking features into the gaming mechanics – and then, had it promoted by media celebrity and poker player, Kara Scott. As celebrity mystique continues to lend itself to game diversification, the commercial perks for both parties continue to manifest as well.

Poker never used to enjoy the kind of elevated stature it does nowadays, but ever since it went global, its ties to music haven’t been limited to celebrity advocates. A curious array of social events that would otherwise be thought of as having no discernable ties to poker have seen fit to integrate the game into their respective programs of events; sometimes as side activities for social relaxation or, at times, as co-main events sharing equal billing in something that used to focus on only one, exclusive activity.

As such, we now have poker-music festivals of different scales, scopes, and sizes. Not all of these poker-music fests are high-profile in nature as more actually get held at the local community level. One thing is certain, though: The addition of poker-related activities in music collaborations have opened such events to larger audiences. Poker-music fests have proven themselves to be effective community-building events, apart from being the showcase venues they are for music artists and their craft.

Of course, poker and music would still be dominating the landscape even if they existed as mutually exclusive entities. The combination has naturally been more potent, though, and as the dynamic aspects of both fields continue to capitalize on each other’s strengths, it’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll be seeing even deeper integration between the two in the years to come. How long the relationship will last, however, is another matter altogether.

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