In the 1960s, the charts were dominated by the poppy and groovy tunes of bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Monkees, but by the time the middle of the decade rolled around and the countercultural scene that popped up in the wake of the start of the Vietnam War formed, a new group of musical acts burst onto the scene.
In 1965, Bob Dyland released “Like A Rolling Stone”—arguably the defining song of the movement—and that same year, a group called the Grateful Dead made its grand debut at one of Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests and introduced the world to a style of music that had never really been heard before.
You’d be hardpressed to find a music scholar who wouldn’t label the Dead the pioneers of the jam band movement, and while other bands like the Allman Brothers and Phish would eventually take inspiration from a signature style that was defined by esoteric lyrics and rambling instrumentals, the genre arguably crescendoed in the 1990s when a myriad of new performers burst onto the scene.
By the time the mid-90s rolled around, Dave Matthews Band had burst into the mainstream, and around the same time, other acts that would also ride the new jam band wave—including Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, and the Disco Biscuits—formed as a new era officially dawned.
In 1996, a group of high schoolers from Maryland joined forces to form Of a Revolution (better known as O.A.R)., and a year later, they’d record their first album, The Wanderer, before taking their talents to THE Ohio State University, where they showcased their tunes at frat parties and sorority houses as they began to rise to prominence.
O.A.R. spent a long time grinding before they finally attracted the attention of the general public with the release of Stories of a Stranger in 2005, and a year later, they earned the right to say they’d officially arrived when they performed a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden.
Stories of a Stranger was O.A.R.’s fifth album but their rapidly expanding fanbase quickly began to devour the rest of their discography—including The Wanderer, an album that’s home to “That Was A Crazy Game of Poker,” which may be their defining song.
As the title suggests, the track tells the story of a man who takes part in a supposedly “crazy” game of cards. Lead singer Marc Roberge says it’s supposed to be a metaphor for resisting the temptation of Satan or something but I’m less concerned with its underlying meaning than I am with one question that’s seemingly gone unanswered: Just how crazy was the poker game in question?
In the opening verse, the song’s narrator—who eventually sees his net worth drop to a grand sum of zero after a trio of bad games—bemoans falling victim to an incredibly bad beat after his full house (consisting of “three jacks and a pair of nines”) is bested by another guy at the table named Johnny, who managed to score a royal flush.
So just how unlucky was he? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
According to a calculator I found, the odds of losing any hand when you have a full house comprised of three jacks and two nines is just around .1142%. For comparison, there is around a one-in-650,000 chance a player will achieve a royal flush during any given hand (if you’re more of a percentage person, this amounts to a 0.000154% probability).
I will fully admit I lack the mathematical acumen required to determine the odds of two players obtaining both of these hands in a single round of poker and was unable to find any statistically gifted experts able to provide me with an answer after a cursory search (if anyone reading this can actually calculate the probability I’ll happily update this article with your findings).
So, was this game of poker indeed as crazy as the title claims? I think it’s safe to say it was. With that said, I’d argue it comes nowhere close to being the most insane part of a song where the events that follow the game in question involve Johnny hitting the guy he beat with a face in the bat only to have a gun pulled on him by that man, who then decides to start some sort of revolution.
Crazy shit indeed.