Written and first recorded by Don Schlitz (C&W #65 1978).
Also recorded by Bobby Bare (1978), Johnny Cash (1978).
Other hit version by Kenny Rogers (US #16/C&W #1 1979 |UK #81 1985 |UK #22 2007).
From the wiki: “‘The Gambler’ was written by Don Schlitz who first recorded it in 1978, and charted at #65 on the Billboard Country chart with it. Kenny Rogers released his cover version in November 1978 as the title track from his album The Gambler and would go on to win the Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980. ‘The Gambler’ was one of five consecutive songs by Rogers to hit #1 on the Billboard country music charts.
“This song had a huge impact on Schlitz’s career. He was able to quit his day job (actually a night job – he worked the graveyard shift) and become a full-time songwriter. Some of his other songs include ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter, and ‘On the Other Hand’ by Randy Travis. Schlitz wrote the song in 1976 when he was 23 years old. It took two years of shopping the song around Nashville before Bobby Bare recorded it on his album Bare at the urging of Shel Silverstein. Bare‘s version didn’t catch on and was never released as a single, but other musicians took notice and recorded the song in 1978, including Johnny Cash, who put it on his album Gone Girl.
“Before he recorded it himself, Kenny Rogers offered ‘The Gambler’ to Willie Nelson, who turned it down. Nelson recalls, ‘I was doing a song every night called ‘Red Headed Stranger’ which has 100 verses in it. I just didn’t want to do another long song, so [Kenny] said, ‘Okay, I will record it myself,’ so he did.’