Card Idioms, Playing Card Sayings, and Poker Phrases in Everyday Life

As you may be aware, gambling and card games have been popular pastimes for generations. They were adored by ancient civilizations as well. As a result, it is not surprising that many regularly used expressions and idioms derive from card-playing habits. Not only that, but there are also several amusing gambling jokes that we might hear in our daily lives. Meanwhile, if you’re curious about the top ten card and poker idioms, stick around and read our post. The most often used gambling figures of speech are mentioned below. If, on the other hand, you feel like playing a few hands, you may read our assessments of the top online casino sites in the UK and the finest UK poker sites!

#10 To Deal a Bad Hand

One of the most common playing card idioms is to deal (someone) a terrible hand. If someone is handed a terrible hand during a game, the cards will not enable them to construct a game-winning combination. However, in its symbolic meaning, the popular expression refers to instances in which one becomes a victim of unjust circumstances over which he has no control.

For instance: Jack was fired from his job. He was dealt a bad hand.

#9 To Have a Card Up One’s Sleeve

In a game, having a card up one’s sleeve implies having a card that is powerful enough to affect the course of the game. The term derives from certain dishonest players’ habit of physically putting cards up their sleeves and using them when needed. However, the card phrase is now more often used as a figure of speech to signify having a hidden strategy that may be deployed when required.

Example: John may have lost the trade, but he still possesses a trump card.

#8 Trump Card

The expression “trump card” refers to holding a card up one’s sleeve. However, we must emphasize that the term has nothing to do with US President Donald Trump. The English term trump stems from the Italian card game trionfi, which dates back to the 15th century. Its name is derived from the Latin word triumphus, meaning victory or triumph. Considering all of the above facts, the term means “a winning card.” When taken literally, the playing card phrase refers to having a higher-ranking card ready to use strategically to win the game. Though the term may still be used when playing cards, “trump card” is now more often used metaphorically. It refers to having an edge that others are unaware of that makes you more likely to succeed than them.

For example, Jane used her trump card. The apartment could not get sold without her signature.

#7 To Show One’s Hand

As you would expect, the expression “show your hands” comes from the habit of card players displaying their cards throughout a game, typically at the conclusion. Showing one’s hands as a figure of speech exposes one’s previously hidden plans or intentions to others. This card idiom is now often used in everyday discussions.

We couldn’t bargain with the company’s owner if we didn’t show our hand.

#6 To Shuffle the Cards/Decks

The expression “shuffle the cards” comes from the dealer’s habit of reshuffling the deck before each new card game. Changing the order of the cards is an essential aspect of any fair game. The phrase’s symbolic meaning is derived from its literal meaning. To shuffle the cards is a figure of speech that denotes rearranging, adjusting, or reorganizing anything previously established, such as an organization, a policy, or a routine.

Example: Because no one in the organization functioned effectively, the new Vice President arrived ready to reshuffle the deck and rearrange everything.

#5 Play One’s Cards Right

This phrase is simple, and its literal and metaphorical interpretations are almost identical. Suppose playing your cards correctly in poker results in a favorable outcome, and playing your cards correctly in life results in a reasonable conclusion. So it indeed implies that you make the most of your opportunity or manage to bargain well and end up with the most satisfactory potential outcomes.

She was in a pickle at work, but she played her cards well. So, instead of being dismissed for ineptitude, she was given a paid vacation to the Bahamas.

#4 Wild Card

A wild card in a game may represent any card chosen by the player. Similarly, in computers, the phrase substitutes an unknown character, which is often represented by an asterisk. On the other hand, its metaphorical definition dates from the mid-nineteenth century and relates to an unexpected person or occurrence. If something is a wild card, you should not rely on it; in a sense, all bets are off.

For instance, don’t depend on Mandy to attend the workplace party. She’s a wild card.

#3 Raise the stakes

House of Cards and Other English Phrases While it is pretty straightforward to comprehend what this word implies in poker, it is not so clear in ordinary discourse. According to the Free Dictionary, there are two alternative interpretations. On the one hand, it signifies “to become more important or dangerous.” It is, however, identical to the expression “to enhance one’s dedication or engagement.” In any case, increasing the stake involves both the possibility of winning more and of losing more. “Raise the ante” and “increase the ante” are related expressions.

For example, she had planned a peaceful romantic evening with her boyfriend, but he raised the stakes by bringing her to her favorite restaurant and proposing.

#2 Follow Suit

Originally, “to follow suit” meant to play the same suit as the previous player. However, the term has evolved much since then and now has a broader connotation. It is used when someone imitates, follows the same pattern, or follows someone else’s example and performs what the others have just done.

Example: The youngster leaped out the window, and a few other pupils followed suit as two instructors stood helplessly by.

#1 House of Cards

This phrase refers to a strategy or organization with a precarious structure that is readily dismantled. According to some etymology authorities, it was initially employed in a symbolic meaning by John Milton in the 1640s. It is quite famous nowadays, and you may have seen or heard of the blockbuster TV show with the same name that deals with political drama. Without even reading the series’s narrative, one may have an unmistakable sense of what it will be about simply by looking at the title.

For example, the boss had no idea that the house of cards he called a corporation may collapse in days.

Honorable Mentions

Though the following did not make our top ten list of most common poker idioms, we feel it would be interesting to look at them and consider where they come from in daily English. These are also fairly prevalent, albeit not as common as the previous ones. We’ve arranged the idioms in descending order this time, beginning with the most common and progressing to the least popular.

Within an Ace Of – To be within an ace of doing something is to be incredibly near to something or very close to doing something. The expression is said to have originated in the 18th century, and the connection to card-playing is evident.

raw deal is a scenario in which one is treated unjustly or otherwise poorly. This one is pretty popular, maybe because of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. Ironically, the film was deemed a flop by reviewers.

Poker Face: If you have your poker face on, it signifies you have no feelings, i.e., you have a perfectly neutral facial expression with no emotions. If you search for this word, you’ll come across (too) many instances of Lady Gaga’s blockbuster song, which popularized the term among non-native speakers all over the globe.

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