15+ Top Card Game Idioms and Meanings

Date:2023-03-20 Category: Games
Top 15 Card Game Idioms

English has many idioms that originated from card games. Similarly, typical English words may have different meanings when used at the poker or other table games! This article helps you better understand English idioms related to card games. So, the next time you hear the expression “follow suit,” it won’t sound Chinese!! Remember to read it carefully because there is a quiz at the end to test your poker and card games idiom knowledge!


1. Shuffle the Deck

dealer shuffling cards at casino

You may be surprised that shuffling the deck has an idiomatic meaning. Literally, shuffling a deck means to mix-up a set of playing cards to randomize the order they appear. In he meantime, the phrase also means to change a policy. For example, if a government or an organization avoids shuffling the deck, it means they avoid changing their policy regarding a specific issue.

It is not the end yet. The phrase can be used as a relationship advice, also!


When you have a king, don’t reshuffle the deck.


The king symbolizes the best. The above expression means that when you have a king as your partner, you should not break up and start dating again.

Disclaimer: I am not a relationship expert. Never settle for less than you deserve just because you “think” or “feel” your partner is a King.


2. Ace in The Hole

Ace of Hearts card game in a hole

If you have ever played poker, you know “hole” cards are those dealt facedown and will not be shown until the end,i.e., the showdown. As you may know, an ace is the highest rank card of any suit. For this reason, if you have an ace held there, you will have a decisive advantage over other players. The idiom comes from this concept. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Ace in the hole” refers to a compelling and decisive argument or resource held in reserve. The expression sometimes is treated the same as an ace up one’s sleeve. The latter refers to an asset held in reserve. However, in poker, especially in tournaments, it is illegal to expose your cards before the showdown. Hence, an ace up one’s sleeve suggests an asset held in reserve, which is come upon by dishonest means.


3. Hold All The Aces

Hold All The Aces

This is another famous card-playing phrase that suggests ultimate power! Ace is the strongest card in poker. So, if you are dealt a couple of aces, you will have the upper hand in the game. For example, in the game of Texas Hold’em, if you are dealt two aces, you will get a substantial advantage over your opponents. Similarly, in the game of Five Card Draw, getting four aces makes your hand unbeatable! That said, when you are holding all the aces, you are in a position where nothing can beat you!


4. Follow Suit

Whist card game layout representing Jack in follow suit

This is primarily a trick used in the game of Whist. This card game is played by two players, scoring points according to the number of tricks won. To follow suit in the game of Whist means you play a card that is the same suit as the card dealt before to lead the trick. Today, the expression Follow Suit means copying what someone before you did, to do whatever everyone else does.


5. Trump Card

Trump face on playing cards

NO, NO, NO! This expression has nothing to do with the narcissist Donald Trump! This phrase originated from poker game. It refers to a situation where a player is dealt a card that is the best on the table. For example, if the dealer deals an ace as the river card and it completes your flush, the ace is referred to as the trump card! This poker idiom is used in our daily lives to describe anything that is the best in a given situation. Whatever it is, if it offers an unbeatable advantage over your opponents, that is your trump card.


6. Aboveboard


In the old days, the noun board used to mean table. It was used to refer to the exposed hands in a game of stud poker or the dummy’s exposed hand in a game of bridge. In such games, playing “above board” refers to playing while keeping your hands above the level of the playing table to avoid suspicion of cheating. Today, the word refers to everything done legally and fairly. If no tricks or cheats are involved in making a deal or signing a contract, it has been done aboveboard!


7. Showdown


Yes, this is a poker word referring to the end of the game, where players expose their cards to determine the winner. In everyday life, when you refer to a situation as a showdown, you mean the position is a decisive confrontation or contest.


8. “Spades” Sayings and Phrases

Young Black guy displaying his large ring with spades symbol

1. In Spades

In Contract Bridge, or simply Bridge game, Spades(cards in the Spades suit) have the highest value. This means the more Spades you hold, the higher your advantage is over the opponents. In our daily lives, this simple poker phrase can describe having something in a vast amount or doing something to an extreme degree. For example, if you are looking for excitement, Betonline casino offers it in spades!


2. Call a Spade a Spade

This expression of “to call a spade a spade” is one of the most commonly used sayings derived from card games. It means to speak frankly and directly about something, even if it’s unpleasant or uncomfortable.


3. King of Spades

The King of Spades is well known in Taroot readings and conveys strong messages. In Taroot reading, King of Spades is the King of Swords and is known as the master of logical thinking and reasoning. So, if you get a King of Spades in your today’s Taroot reading, it suggests that you are in a position of power or authority. The card wants to say to you that you possess the wisdom and experience needed to navigate challenging situations.

In most card games, most notably Bridge and Spades, where the Spades suit is the highest-ranking suit, the King of Spades is the most powerful card in the deck. KOS meaning in card games, is one of power, authority, wisdom, and strategic thinking. It suggests that players must carefully play this card to maximize its impact.

King of Spades also has negative connotations and is used to describe someone who is annoyingly proud and boastful. For example, when you say that someone is as cocky as a King of Spades, it means they are overly proud to the extent that it can be a sign of them being narcissistic!

So, be careful. Although the card is a sign and symbol of wisdom and power, people may see you as cocky as a King of Spades if you do not practice your power correctly.


9. Left in the Lurch

Left in the Lurch

This phrase originates from a Rummy-like card game known as Cribbage. The game is played with two to four players, and the objective is to play until the value of one player reaches exactly 15 or 31. Lurch in the game of Cribbage refers to a situation where you defeat an opponent by double their scores. For example, if you defeat your opponent by 62 pegs when they have 31, you have left the poor opponent in the lurch!

In Backgammon, a French word, lourche, is used to describe the same kind of one-sided defeat. That said, if you are left in the lurch, you are in a weak and vulnerable position or have been defeated badly!


10. Stack the Deck

Stack the Deck

In a word, the phrase means to cheat! In playing card games, if you stack the deck or the cards, you arrange the deck of cards in a way to keep game-winning cards for yourself and deal the rest to other players. In everyday life, if someone stacks the deck, they arranged something in a dishonest way to achieve the result they wanted. So, this phrase suggest something you should avoid in your life😉.


11. Put Your Cards on The Table

Put Your Cards on The Table

Does this ring a bell? It should be because we use this phrase a lot. When you ask someone to put their cards on the table, you want them to be honest and not hide anything from you. If you have been hiding something from someone, when you put your cards on the table, you are being completely honest and not hiding anymore. In poker, putting your cards on the table means exposing your cards to show you have the winning hand.


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12. Hold All The Cards

Hold All The Cards

This expression is a synonym for holding all the aces. When you hold all the cards, you hold all the valuable cards that make your hand unbeatable. In real life, when you hold all the cards, you are in a position where you have all the power and means to control the situation, and nobody can beat you.


13. When The Chips Are Down

When The Chips Are Down

When playing poker, you should place your bets by putting your poker chips down on the table. This is an inevitable and irreversible move. In other words, once you put down your chips, there is nothing else you can do; wait for fate to determine the outcome! In real life, when we say the chips are down, we mean we are in a weak or disadvantageous position where nothing else can be done except to wait!


14. Play Your Cards Right

Play Your Cards Right

This phrase is needless to be explained. In the game of poker, you should play your cards wisely. Similarly, in life, you should play your cards right. In other words, you should move or behave in a way to guarantee your success or advantage.


15. Play Your Cards Close To Your Chest

This phrase is inspired by a poker rule stating you should keep your cards a secret. Nobody should see what cards you hold but you. Similarly, when we say you should play your cards close to your chest, we mean you must be secretive about your thoughts and intentions so other people cannot take advantage of your thoughts or plans.


16. According to Hoyle

Edmond Hoyle is a famous author of Hoyle’s Games book, which he elaborately describes every rule of every card game and other games played by Americans. The book contains all the rules, descriptions, and technicalities and became the go-to guide for playing games. The expression is inspired by Hoyle’s work, meaning to stick to the rules or do something exactly according to the rules.


Poker Idioms Mini-Quiz

Time put your card game knowledge into practice! Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets or the one that best describes the phrases in the brackets.

1. Antonio Esfandiari (made the best of his opportunities) and won the bracelet.
a. shuffled the deck
b. played his cards right
c. called their bluff
d. showed his hand

2. I am (honest about my intentions) and hope you would not get angry with me.
a. playing my cards close to my chest
b. according to Hoyle
c. put my cards on the table
d. had an ace up my sleeve

3. The team (unfairly arranged things), and he was easily chosen for the final game.
a. put its cards on the table
b. stacked the deck
c. upped the ante
d. showed their hand

4. (When you are in a difficult situation) you can be patient and deal with the situation
a. when the chips are down
b. when you play your cards right
c. when you hold all the cards
d. when you put your cards on the table

5. We are having (very serious money problems)
a. in spades
b. upped the ante
c. showed their hand
d. stack the deck

Poker Idioms Mini-Quiz Correct Answers
1 b
2 c
3 b
4 a
5 a


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