The Gambler (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"The Gambler"
Single by Kenny Rogers
from the album The Gambler
Released November 15, 1978
Format Vinyl
Genre Country
Length 3:32
Label United Artists
Writer(s) Don Schlitz
Producer(s) Larry Butler
Kenny Rogers singles chronology
"Love or Something Like It"
"The Gambler"
"She Believes in Me"

"The Gambler" is a song written by Don Schlitz and recorded by American country music artist Kenny Rogers. It was released in November 1978 as the title track from his album The Gambler which won him the Grammy award for best male country vocal performance in 1980.[1] Bobby Bare had recorded the song earlier that same year in his album BARE CBS KC35314 (1978). The song was written by Schlitz who had recorded it previously, and had charted at #65 on the country charts with it. It was one of five consecutive songs by Rogers to hit #1 on the Billboard country music charts. On the pop chart, the song made #16 in early 1979. It's become one of Rogers's most enduring hits and a signature song. As of November 13, 2013, the digital sales of the single currently stands at 798,000 copies.[2] The song was also recorded by Johnny Cash for his 1978 album Gone Girl.


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

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. Rogers' rendition in an appearance on TV's The Muppet Show indicates the gambler actually dies in his sleep when he "broke even".

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1978-1979) Peak
Canada Adult Contemporary Tracks (RPM) 6
Canada Country Tracks (RPM) 2
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 8
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[3] 29
Spain (AFYVE)[4] 12
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[5] 22
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 16
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 3

Cover Versions[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1979, when Rogers guest-starred in a season 4 episode of The Muppet Show, he performed this song with a Muppet character. Rogers is shown seated on a train with three muppets, one of them The Gambler (portrayed by Jerry Nelson) Nelson sings most of "The Gambler's" dialog, then falls asleep just as Rogers starts singing. After he dies, The Gambler's spirit rises from his Muppet body, singing backup and dances to the song's last two choruses, and lets a deck of cards fly from his hand before fading away.
  • A caricature parody of Kenny Rogers singing the song appeared in the 1993 Pinky and the Brain short "Bubba Bo Bob Brain" (season 1, episode 34). The lyrics to this version were changed to refer to Go Fish: "You gotta know how to cut 'em, know how to shuffle, know how to deal the cards before you play fish with me."
  • Former WWF/E superstar The Rock sang a snippet of the song on an episode of RAW in November of 2001.
  • The song was alluded to in the 1999 film Muppets From Space, when Kermit, Rizzo, Clifford, and Pepe were playing a game of poker.
  • Episode 2 of the 2004 BBC miniseries Blackpool featured the recording, accompanied on screen by the singing and dancing of the characters, as part of the story.
  • On July 21, 2009, the song was released for the music game Rock Band as a playable track as part of the "Rock Band Country Track Pack" compilation disc. It was then made available via digital download on Dec 29, 2009.
  • The song was used in 2010 in season 6, episode 4, of the series Supernatural during a montage.
  • In the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets program, it serves as the official anthem of the Gunnery Trade and is sung during moments of great happiness and during chaining ceremonies.
  • A 2014 Geico television commercial features Rogers singing part of the song a cappella during a card game, to the displeasure of the other players.


  1. ^ Reader's digest almanac and yearbook, 1981, p. 274 
  2. ^ Matt Bjorke (November 13, 2013). "Country Chart News - The Top 30 Digital Singles - November 13, 2013: CMA Awards Drive Sales; Eric Church "The Outsiders" #1; Taylor Swift "Red" #3". Roughstock. 
  3. ^ " – Kenny Rogers – The Gambler". Top 40 Singles.
  4. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  5. ^ Kenny Rogers UK Charts history, The Official Charts. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
Preceded by
"On My Knees"
by Charlie Rich and Janie Fricke
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

December 16-December 30, 1978
Succeeded by
"Tulsa Time"
by Don Williams