Hip-Hop & Poker Share The Fire (editorial)

Casino Chip in Fire vector illustration

There was an era when poker was so mainstream that a bunch hip-hop artists got together for the poker television show, Hip-Hop Hold ‘Em? The show only lasted one season (2006-2007), but it left an interesting footprint in the enterprising tracks of hip-hop culture. Hosted by hip-hop personality Ed Lover, Hip-Hop Hold ‘Em’s featured players became a weekly motley of hip-hop characters: Consequence, Remy Martin, Lil Fizz, Biz Markie, Dana Dane, Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, Dave Chappelle, and Rubben Studdard.

The show was aired on ESPN’s late-night programming, but was met with harsh criticism from poker experts because of the players’ amateurism. Hip-hop enthusiasts, on the other hand, had a different concern, which was trying to make the connection between hip-hop and poker. What do the two have in common, except for the fact that some professional poker players love hip-hop culture?

But, lets say that a show like Hip-Hop Hold ‘Em re-aired. How would it pass for a show that folks took seriously? Well, for one, the players’ could certainly benefit from a tutorial in Bet Fair’s section on how to play so that they know what the they’re doing. Then, let’s make sure we know how poker truly ties in with hip hop. The show’s opening should include a sequence that matches some of pokers characteristics to hip-hop’s characteristics.

Here are a few similarities that an updated show like Hip-Hop Hold ‘Em could play on:

1. Chicago emcee and actor, Common, did it best on the second verse of his “Play Your Card Rights” single from the Smokin’ Aces soundtrack. Aside from the song title being a token of encouragement straight out of the poker jargon dictionary, in that verse, he devotes every line to a poker metaphor. “I’m taxin’ marks/ I got more heart than clubs/ the black spade/ given ’em darker love. There, he uses the card suits (one of which happens to be a racial epithet) as ways to shine a positive light on hip-hops relationship with an otherwise vengeful game. A hip-hop poker show should portray rap personalities as fellow players, not hustlers, which is how they’re frequently viewed.

2. Most of the women you’ll find at poker games are the beautiful “behind the scenes” girls who mostly serve as the hospitality specialists and a way to soften up the often-tense environment. Women don’t even come close to making up 10% of live poker players. The same is true for women in hip hop. There are very few female emcees—my guess is less than 5%. So, whoever is the Kara Scott or Vanessa Rousso of the hip-hop world (Jean Grae or Rapsody) should sharpen up their card-playing skills and be one of the faces of the show.

3. Finally, diss songs. When poker enthusiast, Thomas “SrslySirius” Keeling decided that he needed to give 4-time poker champion and accused Ponzi-schemer Howard Lederer a public scolding, he remade the Eminem song, “Without Me,” and then, released this video. As it’s said in hip-hop, Keeling pulled Lederer’s card. Of course, Keeling learned this behavior from listening to hip-hop, which isn’t to say that a little bit of friendly competition is bad. It just can’t get as defamatory as Keeling’s video. I’d like a show like Hip-Hop Hold ‘Em create a (non-violent) storyline between two hip-hop rivals and, well, let the poker chips fall where they may.

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