Poems and gambling

Many people have read Dostoevsky’s poem The Gambler. It’s clear that there has always been a link between gambling and poetry. In fact gambling has been a source of inspiration for a number of novels and poems. There are many examples when gambling is used as a metaphor for life. Other times a writer will literally transport you straight to the casino table.

There are many tragic stories about gambling addiction. There have been people who have gambled away their entire fortune and ended up in poverty. At the other extreme, there have been reports of people winning large sums of money through gambling. Here are a few poems that deal with the often dramatic stories that accompany experiences of gambling.

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A poem about Roulette

Not all poems about gambling have a sad ending. Robert William Service, a British-Canadian poet, wrote a poem about gambling called Roulette. Initially, the poem depicts a fairly bleak situation; the heroine of the story is anxious because she is afraid of losing everything.

She decides to stake all of her ten thousand francs and hopes for the best. She makes up her mind that if she loses she will commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. It takes the intervention of compassionate people around her to bring her to her senses.

They tell her that betting on red may be a risk as it has already appeared ten times. She decides that enough is enough and she will never take such risks ever again.

A poem about Casinos

Joyce Sutphen wrote a metaphorical poem about the cut and thrust of gambling called, simply, Casino. While not referencing anything you would recognise in any casino you might visit it describes the excitement of taking a risk. It talks of bearded men, of cats, of workhorses and trees blowing in the wind. Conjuring up the feelings she experiences in her mind as she asks the dealer to deal the cards.

Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

Perhaps the most famous prose about gambling and casinos is not a poem but a song.

Don Schlitz, who was 23 at the time, penned this song in August 1976. Bobby Bare included the song on his album Bare two years later. It failed to chart and was never launched as a single so Schlitz recorded it himself. This didn’t have any success either, however. Other artists saw its potential however and did their own covers. Among those was Johnny Cash, who included it on his album Gone Girl.

Kenny Rogers, on the other hand, achieved huge success with his rendition of it. It was a country number one hit and even made the pop charts. This was at a time when country music rarely achieved this level of popularity.

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