When it comes to celebrities in poker, it’s usually the A-list, household names that dominate the attention. Hollywood standouts tend to get first billing, for instance –– from table regulars like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (the latter of whom helped to popularize poker through his role in Rounders), to the famous figures behind the story of Molly’s Game (like Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio). Needless to say, when bona fide movie stars like these show up at poker tournaments –– or host their own events for charitable purposes –– they’re easy to notice.
Aside from the Hollywood elite, there are also quite a few athletes known for their association with the game, with a round-up at Poker.org citing Olympic legend Michael Phelps, soccer phenom Cristiano Ronaldo, and former baseball star Alex Rodriguez (part of the Molly’s Game circle himself) as some of the well-known regulars. The likes of tennis great Rafael Nadal and Michael Jordan himself are also fans of the game –– and, like the Hollywood standouts mentioned above, tend to draw attention when they’re at the tables.
While it’s the actors and athletes who draw the spotlight though, some of the strongest celebrity poker connections have come from the world of music, and rock in particular. For whatever reason, rock stars across decades seem to have been drawn to the game –– with the following five representing some of the most interesting examples.
1. Sully Erna
Godsmack vocalist Sully Erna used a break in 2013 to compete in poker tournaments, and has played in a few World Series Of Poker events specifically. Erna even has a poker-themed tattoo on his back: a set of aces engulfed in flames with the words “No Justice” below. While it doesn’t seem like he’s currently playing poker (at least in the public eye), we’re willing to bet he still plays now and then in his downtime. We have to assume one reason so many rockers take up poker is that it’s such an easy game to play on the road, after all
2. Lemmy Kilmister
Best known, of course, as the founder, lead vocalist, and bassist for Motörhead, Lemmy tragically left us in 2015. In his time as one of the most influential figures in rock, however, he was known to play a bit of poker with friends and bandmates. That said, he was also once famously quoted saying, “I’m not a poker player; I play slot machines.” Either way, he knew how to live life and enjoy every bit of it along the way, and it’s clear that in his book that meant the occasional gamble.
3. Scott Ian
Scott Ian, the rhythm guitarist and co-founder of Anthrax, actually plays poker pretty damn well. He’s even played with Phil Hellmuth –– one of the most successful pro poker players alive, who said he was impressed by Ian’s patience and natural ability. This was after Ian won more than $21,000 in the 2009 WSOP main event. Apparently, Ian even got the chance to train with Hellmuth thereafter, in order to up his poker game to a pro level. Indeed, the guitarist has since described himself as a professional poker player, and by this point has quite the reputation at the tables.
4. Steve Albini
Legendary producer Steve Albini (a current member of the progressive rock band Shellac) is right in Scott Ian’s league, in that he can legitimately lay claim to being a poker pro on the side. Albini actually has a WSOP bracelet (part of a $106,000 win) to his name. He still plays poker when he has time, and even offered some advice to beginners in an interview at RollingStone.com: “Don’t get into a bigger game than you’re comfortable with, because people make poor decisions if they’re stressed out about money.” That may sound obvious, but it’s a good tip to remember when you’re actually facing the tables.
5. Jerry Cantrell
Jerry Cantrell is best known as the founder, co-lead vocalist, and lead guitarist for Alice In Chains (an underrated group, if we may say so). In his free time, however, he too frequents the poker tables –– albeit not for any serious money (that we know of). Cantrell participated in Rock Royalty on CBS Sports together with Scott Ian –– with whom he also opened a bar, incidentally, called Dead Man’s Hand. Incidentally, the bar’s logo features a skeleton’s hand holding the dead man’s poker hand with a flaming ace of spades.
When you lead a life of rock n’ roll, you need some time to relax – and poker’s the perfect way to do that. These rockstars know when you live fast, and when to sit back and relax while enjoying a round of poker (or a whole tournament).