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Poker Balladeer Kenny Rogers Passes Away at 81

One of the most iconic songs related to poker is “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. There isn’t a poker player that hasn’t heard the song or regularly quoted the lyrics at some point. Sadly, the song’s creator recently passed away at the age of 81.

Kenny Rogers leaves a long legacy of music that stretches back decades. In addition to being a famed singer and performer, he was also a talented actor.

Rogers Leaves Long Legacy in Music

Kenny Rogers was born in 1938 in Houston, Texas. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Houston. He started recording back in the 1950s, but what many don’t know is that he started as a rock and roll artist. He later moved on to psychedelic rock and then pop-country. He then tried jazz and jazzy rock before moving on to the country sound that he is best known for.

Rogers is known best for songs like The Gambler, Lucille, and Coward of the County. He also had a popular duet with Dolly Parton entitled Islands in the Stream. Staying true to his cross-genre roots, he also recorded the duet “We’ve Got Tonight” with Sheena Easton.

Some also may remember that Rogers was among the numerous stars that came out to support hunger victims in Africa in 1985 with the song We Are the World. He was one of 45 artists featured in the song.

Rogers continued performing up until 2017 when he retired. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. He finished with three Grammy Awards, numerous American Music Awards, and various other honors.

Accomplished Actor

What many people may not remember is that Rogers was also an accomplished actor. He primarily played in made for TV westerns. His most popular films were in The Gambler movies where he played Brady Hawkes. He played the roll in five TV films from 1980 through 1994. He also played in two MacShayne Films as Jack MacShayne in 1994.

Many of his final appearances were in TV shows. He played a role in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman along with Touched by an Angel. He also played himself in an episode of Reno 911! in 2003. His final role was as a narrator in an episode of How I Met Your Mother in 2009.

Popularity of The Gambler in Poker Culture

Kenny Rogers is best known in the poker community for his song The Gambler. The song is the primary ballad for poker players around the world.

“You’ve got to known when to hold ‘em, know when to fold up, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

Those lyrics have been quoted by players all around the world and used as a lesson in both poker and in life.

The Gambler was used as the theme for the 1979 World Series of Poker TV broadcasts. Rogers even went to Binion’s Horseshoe to perform the song. Ironically, Rogers did not really play poker and admitted that he didn’t know when to hold ‘em.

Despite his lack of poker ability, he is still a long-standing symbol of poker. Geico even had Rogers star in a commercial where he sang his song to the annoyance of his other players.

I was never fortunate enough to meet Rogers but like many other poker players, I knew his song well. I have a couple of vintage copies of his records, including the original LP from the 70s. His voice is unmistakable and will be remembered forever as the balladeer of poker. He has now gone to perform on the big stage in the sky and to probably finally take some poker lessons from some of poker’s past all-time greats.

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