Lessons in Lyrics

Jim Heath, also known as the Reverend Horton Heat, has thrown his hat in the ring as a writer of songs about Vegas.

His new tune, " 'Oh God!' Doesn't Work in Vegas," mocks people who pray in vain for God to help them at the gambling tables:

"They say, 'Oh God, I need a king, oh God I need a queen, please let me roll a 7.' Not a thing against you, but there's nothin' he will do, from his office up in heaven. ...

"'Oh God' doesn't work in Vegas. It doesn't work in Tahoe or Macau. ... Even if you win, it's probably a sin, and you'll pay a hefty price."

In real life, Heath, 50, may have prayed for help at blackjack tables and slot machines.

"I've probably said that, but believe it? No. I don't believe God will come down," he says and laughs.

"I believe in God. I believe he'll help you out if you genuinely have something to offer and you're willing to do your share."

Heath learned the hard way that the Almighty won't deliver casino miracles. Back in 1994 or so, when his band was making much less money than now, they played Tahoe, where he started doubling down on blackjack after every loss.

At first, he bet $5 and lost. Then he bet $10, figuring he'd win that $5 back. After that loss, he bet $30, then $60, and on and on.

He thought: "There's no way I can lose six or seven hands in a row."

"Well, wrong.

"I had the band fund money in my pocket, and I sat there and lost $600 or $800," he says. "I was out of money, and they were telling me, 'Sir, you better leave.' "

The next day, a band member asked Heath for money to pay rent.

"I said, 'Well, I've been meaning to tell you guys about something ...' "

That little episode led to Heath's writing and singing this next part of " 'Oh God' Doesn't Work in Vegas":

"I'm sittin' at the blackjack table, and each hand I double down, trying to win my money back, and I'm losin' every round. I say, 'Please God give me a 9, and turn this 12 into 21.' The dealer throws a 10, I'm busted again, put a fork in me I'm done."

After all that, Heath instituted a rule for his band:

"I'd go, 'OK, guys -- if anybody needs an advance, you better get it now, because once we're in Vegas, nobody's getting an advance.' "

Sure enough, band mates would still ask him in Vegas, 'Hey, can I get another $200 advance?' "

"I learned my lesson about gambling," he says.

Then again, he's lost less by gambling than betting the stock market.

"It's not near as big as I've lost in investments. Wall Street is as bad or worse!"

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.