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Published on September 26th, 2019 | by Jerry Doby

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Hip Hop’s Pro Poker Connections

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that poker and hip-hop have a relationship going all the way back to the latter’s birth, with card games being a regular fixture at parties as far back as those being played by DJ Kool Herc.

This relationship has persevered over the years, with the hard-working and hustling ethics of the two worlds overlapping and complementing one another. Poker imagery is rife in hip-hop art and culture, with videos regularly featuring MCs sat at card tables, holding large amounts of cash and reaping the rewards of their gambles. In fact, it’s most likely the parallels of hard work and chance-taking that have cemented hip-hop and poker as bedfellows: Work hard, take risks and win big.

Music has always been a big part of poker as this article shows. So, with that in mind, which of hip-hop’s (and the genre’s descendant styles’) sons have been most successful when it comes to cards? Read on below.

Ghostface Killah

Dennis Coles, better known by his stage name Ghostface Killah, is a well-known hip-hop artist who most people will know of from his role in Wu-Tang Clan and subsequent solo work. But, beyond his artistic references to the game (e.g. Pokerface), did you know he’s also a successful, part-time poker player?

Back in 2007, Ghostface Killah actually launched a hip-hop specific, online poker site – GFK Poker – However, the site has since folded.

Ghostface continues to enjoy poker at a more personal level though, telling Bluff Europe that he started playing around 2012 and hasn’t looked back.

Nelly

Cornell Haynes – Nelly – has enjoyed a music career spanning almost two decades, starting with his debut solo album Country Grammar in 2000, which sold over eight million copies in North America alone.

The 44-year-old has shown that he’s as at home at a card table as he is on a stage or in a studio and he’s competed in a number of major tournaments, which have included:

  • Several World Series of Poker events
  • PokerStars Carribean Adventure
  • PokerStars European Tour
  • Rolling Stone’s celebrity poker tournament

Coolio

Artis Leon Ivey Jr., AKA Coolio, started playing poker at a very young age and was reputedly an already competent player by the time he was just thirteen years old.

Coolio has featured in the charity event, Celebrity Poker Showdown, going head to head with the likes of Shannon Elizabeth, Ron Livingston, Paul Rudd, Sarah Silverman and, pro poker player, Phil Gordon. He’s also played at numerous other tournaments, including the LG All-Star Poker Showdown.

Rulah Divine

Rulah Divine is an individual who has put as much energy into hip-hop as he has into poker, reportedly grinding away at both until he got a break in either.

In May 2019, the Albuquerque native released his new single Eye of the Grinder – A song for which he claims inspiration came from his experiences and adventures in the world of poker. Divine told pokernews.com:

Nobody has really created a great poker song since Kenny dropped ‘The Gambler’ all those years ago. If anything, I feel like I’ve created the second-best poker song ever made out of respect for the legend. As a poker community we needed an anthem and I was more than happy to fulfill this need. Poker and hip-hop music are my two biggest passions and it was great to be able to merge them both together.”

Let’s see if Divine’s music career can match his success in poker, where the WSOP gold bracelet holder won the 2017 WSOP Event #63: $1,000 NLH.

Prahlad Friedman

Until this point, our list has focused on those who have started in hip-hop and moved into poker, but what about those that make the journey in reverse?

Los Angelean poker pro, Prahlad Friedman, released a rap single in 2016 called, Hazy Eyez. You can find the track on YouTube and Apple Music – We’ll let you decide whether his music skills match up to his poker skills.


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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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