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Lady Gaga — Poker Face

One of the biggest poker news stories of the twenty-first century took place far from any poker table or casino or online poker site. This gigantic poker news story was the release of the great Lady Gaga song “Poker Face,” an event that took the poker world, the music world — in fact the whole entire world — by a storm as it introduced poker customs and poker lingo into the top echelon of contemporary popular culture.

The Incomparable Lady Gaga

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, in New York City, where she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart School and New York University. After leaving NYU and establishing herself as a fixture in the New York downtown club scene, Stefani Joanne metamorphosed into Lady Gaga. The world has not been the same since.

Playing Poker with Lady Gaga

The first verse of “Poker Face” is:

“I wanna hold ’em like they do in Texas, please
Fold ’em, let ’em hit me, raise it, baby, stay with me (I love it)
Love game intuition, play the cards with Spades to start
And after he’s been hooked I'll play the one that’s on his heart”

The first line is obviously a reference to our favorite poker game, Texas Hold ’Em, followed by references to the various actions one can take in a poker game (fold, raise, “hit me” in draw poker), to the suits in a poker deck (spades, hearts), and so on. The song continues with more cleverly placed poker references in succeeding verses, and the amazing thing is that, thanks to Lady Gaga’s impeccable phrasing, each one seems to carry some kind of sexual innuendo as well. That’s Lady Gaga.

The Importance of Keeping a Poker Face

To be a successful poker player, you must prevent your opponents from knowing what you have in your hand. If you smile when you have a good hand, and frown at a bad one, your opponents will quickly figure you out and play you accordingly.

It is therefore important at all times when playing poker to maintain a neutral impassive affect, regardless of what you are feeling inside. Even if you play poker online, where facial expression is irrelevant, you must guard against inadvertently providing too much information to your opponents. And that neutral impassive affect has become known as a “Poker Face.”

The concept of the Poker Face has been applied to other contexts outside of poker. In business negotiations, for example, it can be important to maintain a Poker Face to prevent adversaries from exploiting your eagerness to make a deal. And the genius of Lady Gaga is that she has taken the Poker Face into the realm of romance.

“Can't read my,
Can't read my,
No he can't read my poker face.
(She’s got me like nobody)”

That is the chorus and the crux of “Poker Face.” When you are in a romantic situation with a person, and you wish you were with a different person, it is best to keep an unreadable poker face so he won’t know what you are wishing. And particularly when you are with a person of a particular gender and you wish you were with a person of a different gender, absolutely put on that poker face.

The “Poker Face” Phenomenon

“Poker Face” appears on Lady Gaga’s first album, “The Fame,” and was also released as a single. It was the best-selling single of the year and it won the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. Lady Gaga has sung “Poker Face” to millions of adoring fans at concerts and festivals around the world and even at halftime of the Super Bowl. The music video of “Poker Face”—including scenes of Lady Gaga at the poker table that segue into a spirited game of strip poker—has been acclaimed as an artistic masterpiece in its own right. In short, “Poker Face,” like Lady Gaga, is a phenomenon.