Card Playing Idioms
- honest, not secret (originally players showed their honesty by keeping their hands above the board/table when playing a game of cards)The real estate agent was always above board when dealing with people who were trying to buy a house.
according to Hoyle
- according to the rules (Hoyle wrote a well-known book about card games)According to Hoyle, we were not permitted to enter the convention center early but in reality we were able to enter at almost any time.
ace in the hole
- something important that is held in reserve, something that other people are not aware of and that can be used to your advantage when the time is right (in stud poker a player gets several cards with one of the cards placed face down - the hole card - and if this card is an ace then the player has a hidden advantage)The football team had an ace in the hole. It was their star goalkeeper who they were planning to use.
- to produce or pay a necessary amount of money for something (an ante is the amount of money that you put on the table before beginning a card game)Everybody had to ante up in order to collect enough money to buy a present for our boss.
as cocky as the king of spades
- boastful, overly proudMy friend is as cocky as the king of spades. He thinks that he can do anything.
call a spade a spade
- to describe something as it really is, to speak plainlyI decided to call a spade a spade and tell our supervisor what I think is wrong with our workplace.
call (someone's) bluff
- to force someone to prove that what they are saying is true, to make someone prove that they will really do what they say they will do - usually because you do not believe them (in a card game you try to force someone to show you the cards that they have)My girlfriend always said that she did not want to get married so I called her bluff and asked her to marry me. She said yes.
cash in one's chips
- to die, to pass awayAfter an honorable and fruitful career the judge cashed in his chips at the age of ninety years old.
cash in one's chips
- to take one's gambling chips to a teller in a casino for money, to sell something for a profitIt was getting late so I decided to cash in my chips and go home.
My Internet stock had done very well so I decided to cash in my chips and take the money.
come up trumps
- to complete something well or successfully, to have a better performance or outcome than is expected (trumps are playing cards that are chosen to be ranked higher than the other cards)We entered the contest with little hope of success but our performance came up trumps which was a big surprise to everyone.
come within an ace of (doing something)
- to almost succeed in doing what you are trying to doWe came within an ace of buying the new car but finally we decided not to buy it.
deal (someone) in
- to include someoneI hope that my friend will deal me in on his new computer business.
deal (someone) a bad hand
- to give someone bad cards in a card game, to give someone a disadvantage in somethingThe card dealer never deals someone a bad hand on purpose.
The company dealt the man a bad hand when he got his bad schedule.
be dealt a bad hand
- to receive bad cards in a card game, to receive disadvantages in somethingThe boy was dealt a bad hand when he was a child and was always at a disadvantage in his life.
The man was dealt a very bad hand in the card game.
a few cards short of a deck
- not smart, a little crazy, simple-mindedThe man often does very strange things. He is a few cards short of a deck.
- to play a card of the same suit, to follow the example or actions of someone elseThe small university followed suit with the other universities and decided to raise their tuition fees.
force (someone's) hand
- to make someone do something that they do not want to do at that timeThe man threatened to quit his job so the company decided to force his hand and make him either continue or quit.
have a card up one's sleeve
- to have a reserve plan or a secret advantageThe man had a card up his sleeve when he went to the bank to ask for more money for his business.
have an ace up one's sleeve
- to have something that you can use to gain an advantage (in a card game the ace is often the most valuable card and a cheater could have an ace up his or her sleeve to use against an opponent)The football players were ready to go on strike but the team owners had an ace their sleeve and offered more money and stopped the strike.
have the cards stacked against you
- to have things arranged unfairly against you so that you have an unfair disadvantageI had the cards stacked against me when I went to the job interview.
hold all the aces
- to have all the advantages (the ace is the most valuable card in many card games)The company held all the aces when it began to negotiate with the small union.
hold all the cards
- to be in a strong or advantageous position (like a winning hand of cards in a card game)The company held all the cards when the union members decided to go on strike to achieve their goals.
hold all the trumps
- to have the best chance of winning, to have all the advantagesThe coach holds all the trumps and should be able to continue to coach the team.
house of cards
- a poorly thought about plan, something that is badly put together and can be easily knocked overThe large company is like a house of cards and when there are financial problems in one area the whole business is hurt.
- as much or more than you could want (spades are the highest ranking cards in the game of bridge)The sick child received get well cards in spades when the radio station talked about his illness.
in the cards
- possible or likely (the same as if you are using playing cards or tarot cards to predict the future)The airport expansion was in the cards but nobody knew exactly when it would begin.
joker in the pack
- someone or something that is likely to change a situation in an unexpected way (the joker is one of the cards in a deck of cards that can be used as any card that you want in some games)The small company was almost bankrupt. However, their new product was the joker in the pack that could save their business.
lay one's cards on the table
- to be open and honest about one's intentions or resourcesOur manager laid his cards on the table during the meeting.
load the dice
- to make an outcome highly probable, to predetermine a result, to put someone at a disadvantage through some prior actionsThe large company seemed to load the dice against the small contracting firm.
lost in the shuffle
- to be overlooked in a confused or crowded situationWhen we moved to a new office all of our sales receipts were lost in the shuffle during the move.
- no, certainly not (this expression is used as a refusal to a request)"No dice. I will not lend you any money."
not playing with a full deck
- to be mentally deficient (like a deck of playing cards with one or more cards missing)The man's stories about his life were very unlikely which made us believe that he was not playing with a full deck.
one card short of a deck
- not smart, a little crazy, simple-mindedMy neighbor seems to be one card short of a deck.
overplay one's hand
- to overestimate the value or strength of one's positionMy friend overplayed his hand when he said that he will quit his company. They do not need him.
play one's ace
- to use one's best resources (the ace is the most powerful card in a deck of cards)The lawyer played his ace when he showed the judge the new evidence.
play one's cards close to one's chest
- to be extremely secretive and cautious about something (to hold playing cards close to your chest so the other players cannot see them)My boss always plays his cards close to his chest when he is negotiating with another company.
play one's cards right
- to make the best use of one's opportunities in order to be successful, to behave in the right way in order to be successfulI told my friend that if he plays his cards right he will probably get a promotion at work.
play one's last card
- to make a final effort to do or achieve somethingI played my last card in my effort to change my friend's mind about quitting his job.
- a face with no expression (this is done in the game of poker so that nobody knows if you have good cards or not)The politician had a poker face when he tried to defend himself against the scandal.
put one's cards on the table
- to be open and honest about one's intentions or resourcesI put my cards on the table and told my boss about my plans to change jobs.
raise the ante
- to increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflict (an ante is the amount of money that you put on the table before beginning a card game)The government raised the ante when they decided to cancel the contract of the health care workers.
show one's hand
- to reveal one's plansI did not want to show my hand but I was forced to tell my family about my plans to go overseas to study.
shuffle the cards/deck
- to change policyThe government was in the middle of an economic crisis so they did not want to shuffle the deck and cause any more uncertainity.
stack the cards against (someone)
- to unfairly arrange things against someone so that he or she has an unfair disadvantageThe company stacked the cards against the man and he could not get the job that he wanted.
stack the deck
- to unfairly arrange things for or against someone so that he or she has an unfair advantage or disadvantageThe city stacked the deck against the small contractor that wanted the building contract.
(one's) strong suit
- something that one is good at or knows a lot about (in cards your strong suit is the suit that you have the most of in your hand)The strong suit of my boss is his knowledge of computers.
- something that you hold back to use to win success if nothing else works (trumps are playing cards that are chosen to be ranked higher than the other cards)The boxer was going to lose his boxing license but his trump card was his great popularity with the fans.
turn up trumps
- to complete something well or successfully, to have a better performance or outcome than is expected (trumps are playing cards which are chosen to be ranked higher than the other cards)I turned up trumps and did very well in the picture drawing contest.
up the ante
- to increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflict (an ante is the amount of money that you put on the table before beginning a card game)The actor upped the ante in his dispute with the movie studio when he refused to appear for the news conference about the movie.
when the chips are down
- when one is in a difficult or serious situation (chips are used in gambling), when the winner or loser of a card game or a bet is decidedThe man is a good manager and when the chips are down he is always able to overcome his difficulties.
- a person or thing whose influence is unpredictable or whose qualities are uncertain (a playing card that can have any value/suit/color in a card game)The financial problems of the company are a wild card in their effort to get the new contract.