Headphones at the Felt: What do poker players listen to?

Featured in this article:

  • What Negreanu listens to at the poker table
  • Phil Hellmuth’s favorite music to play
  • Mike Sexton’s poker songs of choice

It’s a familiar scene—a poker player, maybe wearing as hoodie or some other poker website branded-garb, with sunglasses on, and a headphone stuck in their ear at the felt table. While the amount of players listening to music tends to be split during televised poker events like the WSOP, many players opt for some sort of sound during play.

But what are poker players listening to at the table? We take a look—not at lists that countdown gambling-themed songs, but what poker players actually listen to while they play.

Let’s take a look at what poker players listen to while they play.

Daniel Negreanu’s Nature Sounds

Daniel Negreanu’s choice of song isn’t a song, per se—the Canadian player loves to listen to ambient sounds. Like the type of music you might hear when you get a massage, or use to fall asleep at night. You’ll find neutral and natural sounds like water running, whale noises, a summer forest (yes, you might be surprised to learn an entire forest does have a sound), or sounds from a mountain region, to name a few.

Negreanu at the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas, 2015.

This type of non-lyrical music could certainly help calm a player’s nerves and help them to relax while drowning out outside noise—but be careful, don’t fall asleep.

This Music ‘Starts Phil Hellmuth Up’

phil hellmuth playing poker and wearing headphones

Phil Hellmuth rocking headphones at the poker table in 2011.

Phil Hellmuth prefers to listen to rock songs from the 1970’s, 80’s and ‘90’s — he likes to tap his foot to the beat while playing.

Some of the songs you can probably find on Hellmuth’s playlist include anything from Led Zeppelin, Livin’ on a Prayer, Don’t Stop Believin’, or Losing my Religion, to name a few hits from those decades.

Wonder if that foot-tapping is intimidating?

Mike Sexton

The poker world (and world at large) lost a poker legend in 2020, but luckily, the famed poker player and commentator left us with a big legacy to remember him by.

We did promise that this list didn’t include poker-themed songs, but Mike Sexton preferred them. Sexton preferred music inspired by poker greats, or that related to the game. His favorite? Unsurprisingly, ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rogers is one of his favorites—however, the legend had a great time singing ‘Do you dare make a bet with Amarillo Slim?’ during Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker in the 80’s.

Maria Ho Prefers Pop Royalty who can Dance

maria ho playing poker in 2018

Maria Ho at the felt, 2018.

Did you know Maria Ho was once on American Idol? In addition to being a savvy poker professional, Ho is a talented musician and skilled songstress. She made it to the ‘Hollywood Week’ round of auditioning on the popular reality show, and although she says she auditioned to support her sister, she comes from a musical family and enjoys to sing.

While Maria Ho doesn’t necessarily listen to the King of Pop or Queen Bey at the poker table (maybe we just wanted to mention her Idol run, okay?) in an interview for PokerNews Ho said they are the artists she’d most like to dance back-up for.

While the jury’s out on how helpful music is at the poker table — most studies suggest that music, especially with lyrics tends to contribute to reduce focus and add distractions, there’s no doubt that outside chatter can ultimately be more distracting, and headphones at the poker table are here to stay.

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