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The Wisdom of “The Gambler”

1,426 words

Heavy metal has always been a large part of my life and my red-pill journey. To this day, my morning routine consists of exercising while listening to some of my favorite metal bands like Manowar, Bathory, and Goatmoon. That said, every metalhead has a guilty pleasure, and my guilty pleasure is the music of Kenny Rogers. Songs like “Lucille”, “Coward of the County”, and “Through the Years” have often been stuck in my head throughout the various periods of my life. Yet Kenny Rogers will always be remembered by his legendary hit “The Gambler.” It is one of my all-time favorite songs and has given me valuable wisdom and advice on my relationships, personal goals, and overall outlook on life.

For those unfamiliar, Kenny Rogers was a country music legend. Although he started his career in the 1960s playing the popular styles of that period, he began to find success as a country artist in the early 70s, when he had numerous hits on the Billboard country chart. Rogers was also influential in the pop-country crossover genre that emerged in the late 70s and 80s, recording duets with Dolly Parton in “Islands in the Stream” and “We’ve Got Tonight” with Sheena Easton. While Rogers continued to make both pop and country albums throughout the decades, he was finally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Sadly, Kenny Rogers passed away on March 20th, 2020 at the age of 81. With over 120 hit singles and 100 million record sales, he remains to this day one of the best-selling artists of all time. And while fans will often have their own favorite songs by Rogers, “The Gambler” is the song that will forever be held in peoples’ minds when they think of him.

This song has been the soundtrack to some of the best times of my life. I remember listening to the song on a compilation CD my first girlfriend made for me. I requested the DJ play “The Gambler” at my best friend’s wedding after I gave the best man’s speech. While living in Eastern Europe, I used to have party nights with my last girlfriend where we would each pick our favorite songs to play on YouTube. I always made sure to play “The Gambler” despite her never understanding why a metalhead would like an old country song.

Written by Don Schlitz in 1976, “The Gambler” was recorded by other artists, including Johnny Cash, before being recorded by Rogers in 1978. Adding his own country style and persona, Roger’s version of “The Gambler” quickly became a hit and a cultural phenomenon. The song reached number one on the Billboard country chart and had enough popularity to land Rogers the starring role in several made-for-TV films based on the song’s main character.  He even appeared on The Muppet Show to perform the song.

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The lyrics of the song tell the story of how two strangers start a conversation on a train. One of the men introduces himself as a gambler, and in exchange for a cigarette and a sip of whiskey, the gambler tells the other man the secrets of gambling. The famous chorus is:

You have to 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 sitting at the table,
they’ll be time enough for counting, when the dealing’s done.

Near the end of the song, it is implied that the gambler passes away, and the man who listened to the gambler states:

And in his final words I found an ace that I can keep.

Along with having a catchy and memorable melody, the song tells a story that is easy to follow but difficult to grasp the intended meaning. Many people have pondered about the true meaning and possible metaphors behind the lyrics that, taken at face value, broadly explain the volatility of card games and gambling:

because every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser,
and the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

Schlitz would eventually explain that the lyrics of the song were inspired by the complicated relationship he had with his father. Nevertheless, Schlitz also noted that he wanted to keep the lyrics broad so that they could represent a host of subjects, including careers, marriage, and friendships.

If you think about it, card games, particularly poker, can stand as a metaphor for many things in life, and even life itself. My mother has often made this gambling analogy to marriage. She explained to me that even if you’ve found someone that shares your values, interests, and goals, marriage can still be a “roll of the dice.” I also have made similar comparisons to work and careers, as I have often asked myself whether a particular career path I was on was a “safe bet.”

In regards to the lyrics of the chorus, one gets the feeling that in both life and gambling, success and survival may be increased by sound judgment and experience, but they are still ultimately dependent on luck. Which, at least to me, seems like the ultimate red pill. Whether you label yourself part of the Dissident Right, a nationalist, or a white advocate, we end up here because we realize that not everyone is equal and that life can’t always be fair. Sometimes I have to remind myself that as much as I care about my white brothers around the world, not everyone is going to be successful in starting a family, having a career, or even making friends. More importantly, as we are quickly becoming minorities in our own countries, demographics are making our destiny as a race look like a losing hand.

As white people of European descent, we are expected to play a game where everyone else is allowed to cheat but we are the only ones forced to play by the rules. And what are the rules? The unspoken rules are that white people aren’t allowed to have an identity or be proud of our heritage. White people aren’t allowed to have an in-group preference or freedom of association. Furthermore, any actions or ideas that lead to white people standing up for our own lands, resources, and sovereignty will be met with slander, censorship, and even imprisonment. And let’s be honest: In most of our countries, the liberal parties have become increasingly anti-white while the conservative parties refuse to represent us as a group, let alone defend us or address our concerns.

My father often told me that we as men have to deal with the cards we are dealt in life. Yet as bad as our current hand may seem in modern times, the cards the anti-whites have are far worse, as evidenced by all their desperate attempts to shame us, silence us, and replace us. Reality is our wildcard and human nature is our ace in the hole. I wish the coronavirus never came into existence, but the reality is that this pandemic is going to change the current view on globalism, mass-immigration, and diversity. People are going to be more concerned about their safety than the feelings of non-whites. People are going to be more concerned about getting food and toilet paper than being called “racist, fascist, nazi, white supremacists.” Race is real, race is the foundation of identity, and white identity politics are necessary for the existence of our people and a future for white children. Now it’s time to call our enemies’ bluff and play our winning hand. The risks are real, but the stakes are high, as the main character in “The Gambler” reminds us:

“The secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.”

Through the years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my careers, relationships, and overall priorities in life. Despite those mistakes, the wisdom from “The Gambler” has given me many important lessons. Thanks to Don Schlitz and Kenny Rogers, I’ve learned to pick my battles, avoid incompatible women, and count my successes only after I’ve achieved them.

We on the Dissident Right can learn a lot from this song and apply its lessons to our own goals, events, and activism. We have a lot of work to do once this pandemic dies down. Until then, I hope you can enjoy some of the many great songs by Kenny Rogers, a great artist, in whose songs I always find an ace that I can keep.

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5 Comments

  1. Alex
    Posted March 24, 2020 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this thought provoking article describing how the lyrics pertain to real world decisions. Also, this is the first eulogy article I have read that references “Coward of the County”, my favorite song from The Gambler. I remember growing up in the late 70’s and being somewhat shocked by the lyrics mentioning a gang rape, if I’m not mistaken the victim was named Becky.

  2. John Wilkinson
    Posted March 24, 2020 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Cogently written and artistically weaved together.

  3. Song Saver
    Posted March 24, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Ah, well penned and inspiring! I have something which I’ve been wanting to share with the community for a while. I surveyed the wreckage after a rightist rally a few years ago and found this wafting along in the breeze, scrawled hastily on a crumpled sheet of paper. I can only guess some young patriot wrote it from the heart before being beaten down by Antifa goons. It may be absurd in some of its particulars, but it has its good points:

    Pledge to the Flag of Cascadia
    (The hoped for white republic)

    Hail fair flag of Cascadia!
    Your white shines over our new homeland!
    Not white of abashed surrender, but
    Of unsullied virtue to fight and stand!

    Our fathers fought for this wider realm.
    They forged Elysium from a wild.
    Courage and art both played a part
    In building this beacon to the world!

    Alas, they were deceived in time’s
    Perplexing maze, wishing to share,
    Whereas the Loki within sought their doom
    For the fount of their works he does not care.

    So let’s pledge us to a new flag!
    Though your form we’re yet to see.
    We salute you Cascadian flag!
    Our loyal hearts we pledge to thee!

    Our youths so strong and maidens lush,
    We’ll restore to pride of place!
    They’ll learn their true legacies, they
    Of gallant cheek and peerless face!

    Will Pharaoh let us leave his realm?
    He knows he’s nothing without us!
    The toughest road is to make the dream,
    And then we must defend it!

    We stand ready for the trials! What
    Will be our Colonel Jackson’s name?
    What Dolley Madison might save
    Greg Johnson’s portrait from the flame?

    We look both fore and back with pride—
    The mind-manacles are now shattered!
    We pledge our lives to the white flag!
    Made sisters and brothers in work that mattered.

    But if the pledge is not fulfilled,
    And vanished like smoke on the wind—
    Our honor is we kept the pact,
    With forefathers, progeny, and kin!

    Perhaps we could all pitch in and perfect it, and perhaps compose some music for it, maybe metal?

  4. Dr. Krieger
    Posted March 24, 2020 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em is the toughest thing a person can learn in life. It’s almost as tough as learning when to walk away and when to run.
    My junior high school music teacher, at Clifford H. Smart, analyzed that song with us for about 2 weeks (and then spent a solid week going over the motifs in the Superman theme, great guy). I think The Gambler is our equivalent of an Epic Poem.

  5. Razvan
    Posted March 25, 2020 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    I’ll never understand why country music is labeled as guilty pleasure. It is too sad sometimes, but it is way superior to any other kind of popular music. Almost every song has a good story behind it.
    Also there are so many styles and subgeneres, a great tradition and legends (including Kenny Rogers). Bonus so many young, beautiful, and almost unknown voices.

    A very welcome and nice homage to a legend.

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