The Gambler chords by Kenny Rogers


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The Gambler | Chords + Lyrics (capo 1 + 2)


Intro (capo 1)

||: Dadd4 Dsus2/4 G :||

Verse 1

| D5 | G5 D5 |
On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for nowhere.
| D5 | D A7 |
I met up with a gambler, we were both too tired to sleep.
| D5 | G D5 |
So we took turns a-starin’, out the window at the darkness.
| G D5 | A7 Dadd9 |
The boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

Verse 2

| D5 | G D5 |
He said, “Son, I’ve made a life, out of readin’ people’s faces.
| D5 | D A7 |
And knowin’ what the cards were by the way they held their eyes.
| D5 | G D5 |
So if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.
| G D5 | A7 DD5 | 2/4 D5 |
For a taste of your whiskey, I’ll give you some advice.”

Verse 3

| D5 (D5/A) | G D5 |
So I handed him my bottle, and he drank down my last swallow.
| D5 (D5/A) | D5 A7 |
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
| D5 (D5/A) | G D5 |
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
| G D5 | A7 D5 |
Said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, you gotta learn to play it right.

Chorus 1

| D5 (D5/A) | G D5 |
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
| G D5 | D5 A7 |
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.
| D5 (D5/A) | G D5 |
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table.
| G D5 | D5 A7 | D5 (D5/A) |2/4 D5 |
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealing’s done.

Verse 4 (key change, move capo up to fret 2)

| D5 | G D5 |
Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’.
| D5 | D5 A7 |
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.
| D5 | G D5 |
‘Cause every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser,
| G D5 | A7 D5 |
And the best that you can hope for, is to die in your sleep.

Verse 5

| D5 | G D5 |
And when he finished speakin’, he turned back toward the window.
| D5 | D5 A7 |
Crushed out his cigarette, and faded off to sleep.
| D5 (hold) | G D5 (hold) |
And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even.
| G D5 (hold) | A7 D (hold) |
And in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep.

Chorus 2

| D5 | G D5 |
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
| G D | D A7 |
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.
| D5 | G5 D |
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table.
| D5 | A7 D5 |
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealing’s done.

Chorus 3 (breakdown)

| D5 | G D5 |
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
| G D5 | D5 A7 |
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.
| D5 | G D5 |
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table.
| D5 | A7 D5 |
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealing’s done.

Chorus 4

| D5 | G D5 |
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
| G D5 | D5 A7 |
Know when to walk away, and know when to run.
| D5 | G D5 |
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table.
| D5 | A7 D5 |
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealing’s done.



The Gambler Chords: Learn the progressions


The Gambler guitar lesson + TAB T

Using only I – IV – V chords, The Gambler starts in the awkward key of Eb.

You could ease the pain by placing a capo on fret 1 and thinking in the key of D.

The problem with this approach is that after the first chorus, we go up a semitone and now you’ll be in trouble!

The only way to solve this is to use a Glider capo.

I did experiment with playing in the key of Eb, using a C shape, then when the key change appeared, switched to an open position E chord. I felt very clever having come up with this.

However, doing this means it doesn’t sound like the song anymore, only by playing as if in the key of D does it feel and sound right.

My suggestion is therefore that you either use the Glider capo or don’t change the key. You could play the entire song in D, no capo, or on fret 1 or 2. As it’s only one guitar, you’ll be fine.

Should you play in a band, you could stop for that half bar, shift the capo up manually so to speak, it’ll be fine.

Anyway, shall we look at some TAB? Here’s the intro.

The Gambler chords and TAB intro.

There are two guitars on the original recording but this feels like the main one.

Members get TAB for all other sections as well, the picking patterns change for all verses to simulate how the band builds the arrangement, and the chords are pretty much the same, here’s the verse:

| D5 (I) | G5 (IV) D5 (I) | D5 | D A7 (V) |
| D5 | G D5 | G D5 | A7 D5 |

The Gambler’s chorus chords are also simple, they use a different picking pattern than the verses (members get TAB!).

| D5 | G D5 | G D | D A7 |
| D5 | G5 D | D5 | A7 D5 |

Notice how incredibly similar The Gambler’s verse and chorus chord progressions are.

You don’t have to play D5 chords if you’re in a band, the full triad works as well, it just sounds better if you’re on your own to use a power chord.

Here’s a link to the complete lesson: The Gambler – Guitar Lesson with TAB.



Kenny Rogers didn’t write The Gambler!

It wasn’t Kenny who wrote his signature song, The Gambler. It wasn’t Johnny Cash either, although Johnny released it two days before Kenny, in November 1978.

The writer was Don Schlitz, who, after having Bobby Bare unsuccessfully released it in April of ‘78, gave it a go himself (also in November), meaning they put all chips on the table that month!

Kenny’s version caught on and went #1, and two years later won the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal.

Following the success, several TV movies were released based on the song, with Kenny in the lead role.

Here’s a list of these TV movies:

  • Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (1980)
  • Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (1983)
  • Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (1987)
  • The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991)
  • Gambler V: Playing for Keeps (1994)

If that’s not milking an idea, I don’t know what is!



The Gambler Chords | Related Pages


Intermediate Acoustic

There are many more Intermediate Acoustic Songs with chords similar to The Gambler.

Most intermediate acoustic tunes can’t be played using just basic open-position chords. We have to move up the fretboard and play CAGED barre chords as well.

We incorporate bass lines, add licks, extend chords, and play vocal melodies. Most importantly, we’ll invent second guitar parts and play these songs together.


Five similar tunes with chords and lyrics

When you can play The Gambler's chords, try these five tunes from the songbook.


Johnny Cash tunes

Johnny Cash covered The Gambler.

Johnny Cash recording career started in 1955 on Sun Records (the same label as Elvis) and ended in 2002 with a masterpiece produced by Rick Rubin.

His best tunes include Ring of Fire, A Boy Named Sue, Hurt, Man in Black, Folsom Prison Blues, Get Rhythm, Personal Jesus, and I Walk The Line.


Johnny Cash on the web

Listen to Johnny Cash on Spotify.


Kenny Rogers tunes

Kenny Rogers covered The Gambler.

Starting out already in the 50s, Kenny Rogers became one of the most beloved country storytellers, by mainly singing covers.

His best tunes include The Gambler, Islands In The Stream, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), and She Rides Wild Horses.


Kenny Rogers on the web

Listen to Kenny Rogers on Spotify.


Country & Folk

When you can play The Gambler, check out these Country and Folk tunes as well.

In the primarily acoustic genres of Country & Folk, you must acquire what matters the most: A repertoire. Nothing else will give you the gig.

Learn tunes by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, America, Don McLean, and many more.


About me | Dan Lundholm

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson about The Gambler chords.

This was a guitar lesson about The Gambler chords, by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and learn guitar with Spytunes.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.



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