Poker Pop Culture: Poker Face

Posted at 21:52 2009-01-05
It has been five years since Chris Moneymaker kicked the poker boom into full swing, but how far has poker gone mainstream?
Poker has infiltrated all aspects of everyday life from fashion, cuisine, pubs and clubs, to movies and music. From Ed Hardy clothing lines to All-In Energy Drinks to Pub Poker and Rounders spin-offs, poker and its terms are now common place.
Musician Lady GaGa’s recent release of Poker Face has reached success around the world including the number one spot on the Australian charts.  However can this be classed as a poker song or is Lady GaGa and her poker face attempting to illustrate a message by exploiting a craze that is still influencing today’s culture?
Before looking at Poker Face, let’s journey along the music timeline to see who else has taken aspects of poker straight into their music.
Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler has become a poker theme song and has given birth to the catch phrase and chorus of:
You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run. You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done.
The Gambler is a song about the story of a gambler lending advice with many poker phrases and terms such as hold’em, aces, table, dealing and poker faces.  Other musicians over time have used poker terminology to portray a message, but none have ever based their song around poker.
Money by Pink Floyd, Ace of Spades by Motorhead, Losing Hand by Ray Charles, Ace in the Hole by George Strait, Easy Money by Billy Joel and Luck be a Lady by Frank Sinatra all flirt with poker terms such as stack, cards, luck, Jacks, Queens and Kings, but none of these actually have much to do with the game of poker.  However it’s Lady GaGa’s Poker Face that is the closest we’ve had in thirty years to having an actual poker song grace our charts and fill our iPods.
Even with all the poker-related terms, Poker Face is actually not really a song about poker. With haunting beats and dance tempo Poker Face can be interpreted on many different levels - whether it be of a gold-digger or someone with false pretences.  Whichever way you look at Poker Face, there is one thing that is constant; this is not a song about poker.
Perhaps Poker Face is merely an attempt to sell records by exploiting a craze that has such a heavy influence on today’s culture.  Poker Face is an example of how poker has gone mainstream and has increased in popularity as evident by the increased numbers in poker tournaments and card rooms around the world since the poker boom of 2003.
Lady GaGa’s Poker Face is proof that poker is a powerful influence in all aspects of today’s culture, suggesting that poker isn’t just a fad.   Poker is here to stay, so you’d better keep working on your own poker face!


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