Circle Doubles Down On ‘The Gambler’

Know when to hold ’em / know when to fold ’em / know when to walk away / and know when to run.

Circle TV bets big on The Gambler film series. Every Monday night in February and March, Circle is airing this string of movies, starring Country music legend Kenny Rogers. We wanted to give you a little bit of the backstory on Kenny’s signature hit that inspired The Gambler and the movie sequels that followed. 

Kenny Rogers’ 1978 song “The Gambler” seems to be alluding to the advice of an avid poker player. In reality, the meaning behind the lyrics actually relate more to life itself than gambling. These famous lyrics have been referenced in pop culture by Coach Lasso in Season 1 of the TV show Ted Lasso, and Hank Hill of the animated series, King Of The Hill

Before it was Kenny’s signature hit, it was written by 23-year-old Don Schlitz in 1976 and recorded by several other artists including Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash. The difference was that Kenny made the song his own, adding a unique musical spin on the tension and drama. 

Don Schlitz told Circle exclusively “It was the first song of mine that anyone ever recorded. Kenny totally kicked down the door for me. The success of his record allowed me to write whatever I wanted to write…and I am forever grateful.” 

Don was not a gambler. He was struggling to get his foot in the door of the songwriting world. This single changed his life. With Kenny’s recording, the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart, and won a Grammy and a CMA Award. The Gambler album also earned a Grammy nod in the same year for Album of the Year. Don went on to write other career songs for Randy Travis, The Judds, Reba, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley (and Alison Krauss), and others. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017. He continues to be a regular guest on the Grand Ole Opry, where he still gets to play that song he wrote when he was only 23!

As Kenny sings, the listener is transported into the story, as if they are actually riding on a train car in the dead of the night, meeting fellow passengers and talking about poker. Because of its defining character and entrancing narrative, this song became the inspiration behind the string of movies titled The Gambler, starring Kenny Rogers, actress Linda Evans of Dynasty TV series fame, Wynonna & Naomi Judd of the country duo The Judds, and country music powerhouse Reba McEntire.

The plot of the movie closely reflects the song as it portrays strangers who, in simplest terms, meet on a train and talk poker. But there is so much more to this fictional Old West collection. Once Kenny’s character meets Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner), a professional poker player, they embark on their journeys together, making mistakes, meeting new people and fighting off villains along the way. 

The first movie of this franchise aired on CBS in 1980. Because of the great success and high ratings, the movie spawned four sequels, resulting in several Emmy nominations. Kenny’s legacy will be remembered throughout the months of February and March as each of the movies are aired Monday nights on Circle TV at 8/7 p.m. CT.

Full Schedule here: 

Mon., Feb. 7 The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (Part 1)

Mon., Feb. 14The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (Part 2) 

Mon., Feb. 21 The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues (Part 1) 

Mon., Feb. 28 The Gambler Part III: The Legend Continues (Part 2) 

Mon., Mar. 7 – The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (Part 1) 

Mon., Mar. 14 – The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (Part 2) 

Mon., Mar. 21 – Gambler 5: Playing for Keeps (Part 1)

Mon., Mar. 28 – Gambler 5: Playing for Keeps (Part 2)

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