Bobby Bare - Gambler Lyrics

On the warm summer's evening on a train bound for nowhere
I met up with a gambler we were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a starin' out window at the darkness
Till boredom overtook us and he commenced to speak.

He said, "Son I made a life out of readin' people's faces
And knowin' what the cards were by the way they held their eyes
So if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey I would give you some advice."

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow
Then he'd bummed a cigarette then he bummed a light
And the night got deathly quiet and his face lost all expression
He said, "If you gonna play the game boy you gotta learn to play it right."

"You, you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, 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' is done."

"Now, every gambler knows that the secret to survival
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner just like every hand's a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."

So when he finished speaking he turned back toward the window
Crushed out his cigarette, faded off to sleep
Somewhere in the darkness the gambler he broke even
In his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, 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' is done.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, 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' is done.

There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin' is done...

Other Lyrics by Artist

Rand Lyrics

Bobby Bare Gambler Comments
  1. Aurelio Peregrina

    The better versión of this song is this

  2. Jason Bowen

    Gotta respect that he was the first man to record this song. If he didn't people would have never heard it.

  3. MadTheDJ

    Not bad. Maybe I'm so used to Kenny's version that the different inflictions here sound wrong. I know Bare's was first, but in my opinion Kenny's creates an atmosphere such that I feel like I'm in the dark, lantern-lit train car watching these two men have this conversation (and even though it's not mentioned, I always picture the gambler dealing a hand to between then as he talks, illustrating his metaphor about life). As good as this is, it doesn't conjure up the same imagery, or anything nearly as powerful. Kenny was the right fit for this song.

  4. RealityBites

    Bobby recorded this song before Kenny, several singers released this son before Kenny.

    Hammerschlägen M

    And several released it before Bare

  5. Dwayne Hylton

    Good voice but I prefer Kenny version

  6. Mario Bernal

    The Gambler," Kenny Rogers (1978)
    Schlitz was a young night-shift computer operator at Vanderbilt University in 1976, writing songs and shopping them around on Music Row in Nashville on the side, when he came up with "The Gambler," a haunting story about a mysterious card player and a metaphor for navigating life's ever-changing stakes. Recorded and released by Bobby Bare to little attention in spring 1978, the song was later recorded by Johnny Cash, whose career was at a low point because of his struggles with drugs. Rogers, however, hit the jackpot with the song, the centerpiece of the accompanying album. As a former pop star with the group First Edition who had come into his own as a solo country artist, Rogers was well-positioned to bring the song to fame. Placing high on both the country and pop charts that year, "The Gambler" spawned a telefilm featuring Rogers and even a duet between him and one of the Muppets in 1979.

  7. hraith

    Everyone grew up with Kenny's version so it's difficult to compare.  But I'll say Bare's beats Cash's, and it's a fundamentally good sound he put together.


    I honestly think Cash's version of the Gambler is the best one just because it is so different from the others that were done up until Kenny did it. After that, everyone based their covers on the Kenny Rogers version, which was based on this arrangement.

    Johnny plays it more like someone telling a story than singing a ballad, and it has a heavy gospel sound influence in the chorus when it picks up. It's incredibly distinctive and the song fits his style of performing extremely well.

  8. flinkinblipable

    Used to have this on tape, listened to it driving around Europe with my ol' man when I was about twelve years old. We had this and Paul Simon' Graceland on pretty much constantly. That was nearly thirty years ago and I still remember every word, from both albums! lol. Anyone know the name of the female vocalist who comes in near the end?

  9. Holdington

    Actually it wasn't written by Kenny Rogers. It was written by a guy called Don Schlitz. This was the first version recorded, even before Kenny Rogers version.

  10. jaime ibañez

    hola a todos, yo pienso que cada quien tiene su propio estilo, ninguno es mejor que el otro, ya ahí depende del gusto de cada persona, si te gusta mas la versión de Kenny, Bobby, Johnny, o Elvis. Yo primero conocí a Kenny, pero cuando escuché "The Gambler" de Bobby Bare, en realidad me gustó mucho, y de hecho recuerdo que fue muy agradable para mí, tanto escucharla, como saber que alguien mas interpretaba con un estilo diferente esta bonita canción, se me hizo muy "country". Bueno, esa es mi humilde opinión, gracias a quien lea mi comentario.

  11. Zak Zak

    bobby didnt do a version of rogers' song ... Bobby was the first singer to sing it; Kenny's version is CRAP but it made the charts because it's SHOWBIZ ... not art

    even Cash sang it before Rogers

    Zak Zak

    I found your video because I was looking for this song, I had it on tape 20 years ago but didnt know who was the singer ... Youtube search found Rogers' version and it was crap, then I found cash and it was silly too and then I did some research and found Bare and Schiltz, Schiltz wasn't as good as this one but better than Rogers and cash

    Hot Dog

    This version is boring, non melodic, and forgettable as shit. It's trash. I can see why it was stillborn and went nowhere.

  12. Paul London

    Kenny Rogers will always be the best!

  13. Tedi-And-Sissy Peterson

    Kenny, definitely ;)

  14. chadergeist82

    Kenny Rogers, for sure!

  15. Jon Ticknor

    This one is definitely the better of the two.  I believe it was recorded first too.

    Joshua Eden

    @Jon Ticknor It was recorded first.


    @Joshua Eden Not by much. Bare's version was released earlier in the year, but the same year that Kenny Rogers did his.

    Paul London

    +gryphon202 Kenny Rogers will always be the Gambler. His version will never be beaten!

    Martin Skogsberg

    gryphon202 kenny rogers released his version in 1978 and bobby bare in 1976

  16. DocLeeSan

    I love both versions. However, Bobby Bare’s version is more expressive with more emotion. Kenny Rogers has a real good hoarse and powerful voice that suits this song very well. The song was written by Don Schlitz. Bobby Bare first recorded this song and in his Bare album. Kenny Rogers also used the same arrangement as Bobby Bare’s version. I was surprised that Kenny Rogers never mention that Bobby Bare was the first to record this song. Bobby Bare always gave credit to others who first recorded the song he recorded and made him popular such as his Grammy award song Detroit City & 500 Miles Away From Home.

    Paul London

    Kenny gave credit to the writer Don Schlitz. It's impossible to give a list of everyone who touched the song before him but Kenny always gave credit where it was due and as a result Rogers version of the song turned Schlitz from an unknown into one of country music's most respected songwriters and was the first of over 20 #1 singles to Don's name, whears Bare never ever planned to release it as a single, and if he had done it would not have been the global smash it was by Kenny Rogers. The guitar intro is not the same  on the Rogers recording as it is here and that's just the tip of the iceberg, the Rogers version is very different to this. Schlitz himself said Rogers and Butler added greatly to the song and that having Kenny Rogers record one of his songs was his career ambition. As for "more emotion", the song works much better when sung as a "matter of fact" statement like Rogers sings it. It's main point is to be advice on life, not a weepy farewell!

    Chad Zigler

    Johnny Cash sanged it after Bobby Bare and before Kenny Rogers

  17. Glen

    I think its Kenny's big song, so I like his version better.  He has a lot of practice at it, after all.. but I love Bobby singing almost anything...I think much as I love Bob's singing, Kenny's is a bit better.....

  18. Ward Tex

    Bare is MUCH better but since he is my friend I am biased. (No face lifts here. Just a replaced hip.}

  19. Matlactliomei Ehecatl Cuahutlatoa


  20. Laurel Ferguson

    So interesting to hear, by Bobby Bare. Sounds fine even though this is another version of an original.

  21. BarbecueBobFan

    Bobby's version is much better, he doesn't have that pop feel Kenny Rogers had' his is pure country as it should be.

  22. Randall Smith

    Does not compare to Kenny Rogers version.


    Randall: Your right, it doesn't compare to Rodgers johnny come lately version. Bobby's song is sooo much better don't ya think.

  23. Craig Campbell

    Awesome song everyone

  24. Topcat

    This one is better than Johnny Cash's version but Kenny Rogers version is better
    People please do not hate on my judgement, They are all great singers and have there particular talent but this song was best by Kenny Rogers.

    Chad Zigler

    Original singer: Bobby Bare, Covered by Johnny Cash, recovered by Kenny Rogers. Johnny Cash tells it like it's a story

  25. gryphon202

    @thundereye92 Hear hear. Two different gentlemen, two different styles. But for the love of God, don't make me pick.

    Chad Zigler

    Johnny Cash is the 2nd one that sang it before Kenny

  26. ussenterprisenxo1

    @elCHAPOfehr oh realy this is better

  27. Chapo Feherty

    kenny rogers version is the best, Great song


    To some one with a tin ear I guess.

    Chad Zigler

    Bobby Bare original is better

    Johnny Cash's version tells a story

  28. dannytworockets

    This is one of the best versions I've heard. Kenny Rogers version is great, so is Johnny Cash's, its just a great song, hey even I sound awesome singing it in the shower... so you gotta give credit to the guy who wrote it, Don Schlitz.

  29. skye smith


  30. MrAbcabccbacba

    johnny cash recorded this song too and if you like johnny cash you'd love it

    Alex Paulsen

    I used to love Johnny Cash, but the plagiarism he was guilty of on numerous occasions soured my love for him.

    I now call him the world's greatest cover artist.

  31. theVERYmerryO

    of course both versions are great. but i like bobby's way better!! ;)

  32. Pieter Domburg

    There's only one Bare and that's no doubt about it always the best!!

    Hammerschlägen M

    You look like the Skipper on Gilligan's Island...(Alan Hale Jr I think). The aged and asshole looking version.

  33. Pieter Domburg

    There's only one Bare and that's no doubt about it always the best!!

  34. Marc Linsmaier

    Bobby Bear made this song his own. And to me it sounds great. He is for sure the better singer and puts more spirit into this song.

    Hammerschlägen M

    It's "Bare" you dipshit.... not like you didn't have nine years to correct it.

  35. Roger Ricafort

    nice version, for the cowboyz..

  36. Alejandra Rojas

    Kenny is way better...

  37. John Last

    Kenny Rogers made this song his—for another artist to do it he has to make it his own—Bobby Bare is great but this is still a Rogers song

  38. thundereye92

    I don't think that you've got to compare Kenny's and Bobby's version of The Gambler - As a "judge" I say that they're both great! :P

    Chad Zigler

    listen to Johnny Cash's version that tells a story of The Gambler

  39. Rhodri Reed

    I have to disagree heskleg, I know what your saying Rogers is fantastic but as the first its great. this is one of the first country songs i ever heard and i was hooked. the first ever country album was "Miles of country" Dolly Parton-White Limozeen
    Dr. Hook-Silvia's Mother, Charlie Daniels Band-The Devil Went Down To Georgia, Bobby Bare-The Gambler, Tammy Wynette-D.I.V.O.R.C.E, Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler-There'll Be Some Changes Made, Johnny Cash-Boy Named Sue. 1 of my fav play lists

  40. Lee YS

    Bobby Bare is the first to record this song in his LP "Bare". It was once reviewed in a Country & Western magazine as technically a better version than Kenny Rogers. However, i do agree that Kenny's deep raspy voice did suit the song well and really made an impact. Kenny Rogers tried out another song which Bare has recorded called "Sleeptight Goodnight Man" but did not repeat his triumph!

    Chad Zigler

    you forgot Johnny Cash, he sanged it before Kenny Rogers

  41. heskleg

    Both Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash recorded The Gambler before Kenny Rogers did, but Kenny's version is the definitive version, hell he IS THE GAMBLER! He knocks out all other versions in the opening line with his raspy voice, perfect for the story and melody!