When they’re not busy making chart-topping records or touring around the world, musicians like to kick back and enjoy their hobbies. And one pastime that countless artists across generations have loved – is poker. A classic card game of luck and strategy, poker is played in all corners of the world by almost 200 million people. A
staple in so many parts of the globe, it’s no wonder that poker has attracted many musicians, too. Although not every poker-playing hit-maker talks about their love for the game, here are four famous figures who are known to be card sharks, too.
Recently, Nelly has been making headlines due to his country-influenced album called Heartland. Considered a follow-up to his 2000 album Country Grammar, this foray is the first musical project the rapper has produced in quite some time. But between this current project and his last one, Nelly has been keeping busy with his businesses, non-profit activity, and poker. Known as a poker fan whose bankroll goes up to half a million dollars, Nelly has even taken part in some of the world’s most respected poker tournaments. Though he didn’t make it to the final table, his card skills were enough to get him into the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and PokerStars Europe.
Although he was rumored to have lost almost $500,000 in an ill-fated poker match in the early 2000s, JAY-Z has since upped his poker mastery. He may not have entered the game with natural talent, but he’s consistently practiced a top poker strategy that many pros like to apply: networking with other players. Indeed, many experienced poker players share that although poker is a solo game, making connections with peers can improve your ability. From earning invites to better tables to getting strategic pointers, networking is a crucial but underreported poker practice. And in the past few years, we know that JAY-Z has played with poker players like Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Hart. Both celebrities are talented poker players themselves, with the comedian even having racked up millions in cash wins. We can only assume that some of the skill has a rubbed off on JAY-Z, who has since begun hosting his own poker charity events.
Drake is a big-time sports fan who just last September even curated music for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. However, another game that the Grammy-winning artist loves is poker. In 2021, Drake greeted the New Year by playing poker in the Bahamas with Lil Baby and Meek Mill. Though no exact amounts were reported, eyewitnesses said the "Certified Lover Boy" was “betting like a millionaire." A few months later, Drake also took a selfie with poker star Phil Hellmuth –– arguably one of the best players of all time. The two Canadians have a bond of sorts in that they’re both connected to the headphone brand MuzikConnect. So, while we don’t know if they play cards together, we can safely assume they’ve swapped war stories privately.
Joni Mitchell is not the first musician to have used poker as inspiration for music (let's not forget Kenny Rogers and “The Gambler”). But she is one of the best at it! In her 1974 track “Help Me," Mitchell described her lover as a “rambler and a gambler.” In “Song for Sharon," she uses poker as a means to describe just how her significant other can unravel her composure; she says that she can keep her cool at the poker table, but not with her heart. In other words, she can avoid playing on a tilt in poker, but not with her love life. Though Mitchell hasn’t performed in a while, the songstress was recently awarded at the 44th Kennedy Center Honors for her lyrical contributions. Credited as one of the most iconic singer-songwriters of our time, Mitchell definitely tapped into her regular poker habit to create some of her most memorable lyrics.
Whether it be to find inspiration or just to relax, many musicians are avid poker players. Though we don’t expect them to use poker to pad their already sizable fortunes, it’s safe to say that for musicians looking for a stimulating outlet, the game is a winning hobby.