The Gambler (song)

Infobox Single
Name = The Gambler
Artist = Kenny Rogers
from Album = The Gambler
Released = November 15, 1978
Format = Vinyl
Recorded =
Genre = Country
Length = 3:32
Writer = Don Schlitz
Label = United Artists
Producer = Larry Butler

"The Gambler" is the title track to Kenny Rogers' 1978 album. The song was written by Don Schlitz (who had recorded it previously, and had charted at #65 on the country charts with it) and was one of five consecutive songs by Rogers to hit #1 on the Billboard country music charts at the time. On the pop chart, the song made #16 in early 1979. It is also the theme song used for Rogers long running movie and TV serial of the same name, in which he stars as a fictional professional poker player called Brady Hawkes. It was used in Episode 2 of BBC] series, Blackpool.


The song itself tells the story of a late-night meeting on a train between Rogers (as narrator) and an unnamed old man who is the gambler. The gambler tells Rogers that he can tell Rogers is down on his luck ("out of aces") by the look in his eyes and offers him advice in exchange for the last swallow of whiskey Rogers has. After the gambler takes the drink (and a cigarette), he gives the following advice:

cquote|You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.
You never count your money, when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin', when the dealin's done.

The gambler then mentions that the "secret to survivin' is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep" and that "the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep". At this point, the gambler puts out the cigarette and goes to sleep.

At the end of the song we are told that "somewhere in the darkness the gambler he broke even", and that the narrator finds "an ace that I could keep" in his final words. Some have interpreted this as the Gambler actually dying, but this has never been confirmed or denied.


The song is often characterized as a metaphor for life in that you need to know when to stand your ground (when to hold 'em) and when to retreat (when to fold 'em). The gambler has learned that the trick to life isn't the cards you've been dealt, but how to play them (every hand being a "winner" or a "loser" depending on how they are played). The "ace" that Rogers refers to in the end is this advice.


When Rogers appeared on "The Muppet Show" (episode 410, available on volume 11 of "The Best of The Muppet Show" home video series), "The Gambler" was brought to life, with Rogers performing in a mock-up of a passenger train interior, alongside a semi-realistic Muppet of an elderly man in the role of the Gambler. In this performance, the Gambler Muppet sang the first chorus, depicting the Gambler dispensing his advice to Rogers. In the finale, the Gambler reappeared as a ghost to join Rogers for the final sing along.

The song was also performed on the TV sitcom, "Perfect Strangers".

This song was also covered by Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans. It does not appear on any of their albums but is played live from time to time. The song is also covered by Wyclef Jean, although with revised chorus, the song features Kenny Rogers himself.

Professional wrestler The Rock sang a rendition on "Raw" in November 2001 in response to Stone Cold Steve Austin's rendition of "Delta Dawn", as did Trevor Murdoch in 2008 at the behest of his tag team partner Lance Cade, before he attacked him and broke up the group. [cite web |url= |title=May 12, 2008 |accessdate=2008-10-10 |work=Raw Results |publisher=Online World of Wrestling ]

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