Starting a music career is not just a sure way to disappoint your parents: it’s a huge risk. Naturally, many people who do decide to dedicate their lives to pursuing a career in music are risk-takers. The exact type of people who you’d find in a casino.
It’s no wonder that plenty of influential people in the metal and rock scene are avid gamblers. So if you too are a fan of reading a Playamo review and spending the evening trying to win big, here are the eight rockstars that enjoyed taking a few bets in a casino.
Lemmy is probably the first person in metal you think about when it comes to gambling. After all, the man is known for authoring the greatest gambling song of all time, “Ace of Spades.” If you’ve always suspected this, you were right! It’s been rumored that Lemmy hung around slot machines in the venues Motorhead played at, and he was known to sit for hours in front of the same at the infamous Rainbow Bar & Grill in Los Angeles.
Documentaries that talk about his life and career claim Lemmy wasn’t big on card games, preferring to bet on one-armed bandits. We suspect the legend was also quite pumped on booze while he did that and remind readers that it’s not a good idea to follow in his footsteps in such a way.
Some claim that Ian’s nickname even came from his hobby. Lemmy was supposed to stand for “lend me a fiver.” Even though he denied knowing about the origin of the name and that could just be rumors, the legend did go as far in his passion as to own his own slot. He kept one where he would get the coins out of it and start betting again, saying that it was “just another device to keep the boredom off.”
Even though he didn’t plan to, Anthrax’s Scott Ian became a poker star for a couple of years. He explains this story in one of the podcasts he did to promote his book. Scott wasn’t previously a gambler and didn’t even play poker before the life of a rockstar took him on a ride.
Ian took part in a celebrity Texas Hold’em tournament on VH1, and, to quote the man himself, won it “by total fluke.” It’s not clear whether it was his nature as a risk-taker or the financial interest that took off, but he jumped on the bandwagon to play poker soon after. The online gambling company that sponsored the tournament saw potential in teaming up with the rockstar and offered a partnership deal that included training. Scott did not refuse.
After taking lessons with professional gamblers, Scott admitted to going “head-first” into the poker scene and taking it seriously. Scott even took part in a tournament in 2009, the Annual World Series of Poker. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t topple the pros, walking out with a 600-something place ranking and $20,000 in cash. As far as we know, that was the end of Scott’s gambling career.
Godsmack’s Sully Erna is a man of multiple talents. Apart from starring in many cameo roles, Sully took a break from his music career to play poker professionally. He first joined the scene in 2006 when poker was gaining prominence in mainstream culture. After taking part in a public tournament full of celebrities and walking out with $17,000 in cash, Sully set his mind on it.
The rockstar continued his career well into the 2010s, although his biggest cashout came in 2007. He took part in a World Poker Classic tournament with a buy-in of $5,000 and walked out of that tournament with a second place ranking and $300,000 in his bank account.
After some time, he returned to music to the content of his fans.
The Spaceman from Kiss appears to be a fan of poker as well. The extent to which he loves his hobby is mostly in the realm of fan speculation, however. What we do know is that he attended a celebrity poker tournament back in 2006, the same one that Scott Ian went to.
However, unlike Scott, Ace walked out of the tournament empty-handed. Perhaps this is why he’s never made gambling a big topic in his interviews ever since.
It appears Pantera’s Rex Brown was really big on gambling back in the day. He even goes as far as saying that gambling while on the road with the band was “a big part of Pantera’s deal” in a book on the band’s history, Official Truth.
Rex and Vinnie would often hit up casinos together, and one time in the late ’90s it went wrong in every possible way. After a booze-filled night in a Vegas casino, Rex recalls in the book, he woke up hungover and received a $20,000 gambling bill. Obviously, he didn’t have that much cash on him, so all he could do is win that money back.
Rex did just that. He teamed up with the bus driver and executive assistant to play blackjack in every casino that they passed on the tour. They played it very safe and even created cheat sheets that told them what to do in any situation (the bus driver was an experienced player). Thanks to that strategy, at least one of them managed to win something most nights. By the end, Rex had $27,000 on his hands — enough to pay back his debt and get a brand new bike!
Vinnie was a bombastic, lovable man. He wasn’t the type of guy who enjoyed spending his evenings alone in front of a TV; partying was his cup of tea. And since he lived in Las Vegas for quite a long period of time, it’s safe to say gambling was too.
Vinnie took part in the same poker tournament in 2006 as many other rock and metal celebs, but unlike Scott Ian, who hadn’t played before, Vinnie had plenty of experience, as he and both Rex Brown and Sully Erna would often go out to play blackjack together whenever they were in Vegas. It probably was even more surprising for him to see Scott win that tournament.
Another contender of that 2006 poker tournament (who didn’t play there?), ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill also appears to have been an avid gambler. However, it’s safe to assume he wasn’t let down by his defeat in poker. The man’s passion was, to quote one of the band’s songs, “drinking whiskey and throwing dice.”
Tom Stephen recalls in his 2018 book, Best Seat in the House, that Dusty would often barge through a casino, puffing at a huge cigar sticking out from his enormous beard, to throw dice at every table. Later on, he asked Jeff Healy to throw the dice for him, though Tom doesn’t mention whether that was a gesture of friendship and trust or Dusty just had too much whiskey in him.
The irony, in Tom’s eyes, was that he previously spotted ZZ Top members making their way to economy seats on a flight, mocking him for wasting money on business class.
While the gambling habit did little bad to the other rockstars mentioned on this list, it appears to have really hurt this one. At first, despite basically writing promotional songs for Las Vegas, Elvis refused to gamble, saying it was against his beliefs. That was despite casinos giving him huge sums for free just to join the table.
But the tide finally turned against him. Life took Elvis for a ride, and when it started to crash, he had a long way to fall. Being deeply depressed in Vegas with a lot of money and fame turned out to be a recipe for disaster.
Instead of handling his problems, he started getting his hands on every vice in the book. Drug abuse, gambling, gluttony, you name it. Granted, he didn’t die due to a bad poker hand or an unlucky roulette bet, but it’s hard to say his gambling habit was a healthy one.
So take it as a cautionary tale — gambling isn’t always about fun touring stories from Rex and Vinnie with huge cashouts. Sometimes it’s a toxic way to ruin yourself, just like other vices we enjoy. If you ever find yourself in that kind of situation, remember Elvis’s example and get some help before it’s too late.