The English language is rich with idiomatic expressions, vocabulary and sayings that have made their way into popular culture. Gambling has influenced the English language tremendously, with many terms people use without realizing where they originated. The list is vast, and there are hundreds of gambling-related idioms. Although British English contains the bulk of such expressions, US and Canadian English have their share of sayings. Generally speaking, many of them cross over from one variation of English to another. Here we take a look at ten of the most common gambling idioms.
1 – Ace in the Hole/Ace up your Sleeve
The ace card is the highest value card in many casino games such as Blackjack and Poker. The idiom ace in the hole means you have something hidden from others that you can bring out at a later time and use to your advantage. The Ace is the advantage card you have, and idiomatically it means you possess a hidden advantage over your competitors.
Although the term generally relates to a poker tournament, it is also commonly used in general situations. An ace up your sleeve is when you have something hidden that others are unaware of and can be a game-changer. You can bring the Ace card out later to win the game. The idiom card up your sleeve has a similar meaning whereby you have an idea or surprise plan you are keeping back until the right time to bring it out and win the game at the last moment.
2 – Go for Broke
The word ‘broke’ is a slang word that means you have no money. The idiom ‘go for broke’ means you will risk everything to win a potentially more significant prize. For instance, if you are playing poker and you gamble all your chips on one hand. You might lose all your chips or win the pot and gain a fortune. The idiom also relates to an investment, whereby you risk all your money on an investment. If it is successful, you become wealthy; if not, you lose everything and become poor.
3 – Hedge your Bets
To hedge your bets is the opposite of ‘going for broke.’ You do not risk everything on only one opportunity but keep something back for later. So if you have $100 worth of chips at a casino table, you bet $50 on a strong hand, saving the other $50 for later.
3 – Hit the Jackpot
In gambling terminology, hitting the jackpot is when you win big. The idiom is also common in general situations when you gain a windfall from an investment or strike it lucky in some other manner. It signifies a spell of good luck where your get precisely what you want.
4 – In the Cards/On the Cards
The idiom in the cards means something is bound to occur, whether good or bad. It is also commonly used with Tarot Cards, whereby the card predicts your future and something will inevitably happen. For instance, if you work hard, you can reasonably expect you will make more money. On the cards is something in the cards that is almost certain to happen.
5 – Luck of the Draw
The luck of the draw means you win something unexpectedly in a competition purely by chance, such as winning a lottery or a raffle prize. In gambling, it means the card that is drawn next wins the game for you.
6 – Not Miss a Trick
Not miss a trick is when someone takes advantage of anything that helps them or creates an opportunity. It originated on the gaming tables where the dealer sees everything so players cannot cheat or the dealer will catch him or her out.
7 – Poker Face
Poker players will be well aware of this idiom, as it means not to give any hints to your opponents about what cards you hold. It allows you to bluff more efficiently so the other players cannot predict if you have a strong it weak hand. The same goes for general situations whereby you do not give anything away to someone. It is common in business situations like negotiating a sale or deal. A poker face doesn’t show emotions or reactions, so that people cannot predict what you are feeling.
8 – Put your Cards on the Table
In Poker or Blackjack, the expression put your cards on the table means to show all. The same phrase is for making your thoughts or ideas clear so everyone can see them.
9 – Roll the Dice
When you roll the dice playing Baccarat, you wait for the roll’s outcome to see if you win or lose. It essentially means to take a chance on something. You roll the dice and wait to see what happens next.
10 – Russian Roulette
The game of Russian Roulette was immortalized in the Hollywood movie The Deer Hunter starring Robert De Niro in the harrowing scene where Vietnam prisoners of war have to put a gun containing a single to their head pull the trigger. At the same time, the Vietnamese guards take bets on who will live or die. The expression, therefore, means to undertake a dangerous or unnecessary risk.
Bonus Idiom 1 – Stack the Deck
If you stack the deck, you are arranging things to be in your favour, thereby creating an unfair advantage that stops someone from succeeding.
Bonus Idiom 2 – Sweeten the Pot
To sweeten the pot is to increase the stakes to make something more appealing and desirable. For instance, if the jackpot grows from CA$1 million to CA$3 million. That would make it much more attractive to players, provide a greater incentive to play the game, and increase your stakes.
Bonus Idiom 3 – Hit Me
Hit me is when you ask the dealer to give you another card. It is common in Blackjack, but a word of warning, don’t take it literally and punch someone in their face if they ask you to hit them!
There are many other gambling-related idioms in the English language that have made their way into the dictionary. Other notable expressions include All Bets Are Off, Behind the Eight Ball, Break the Bank, and Call a Spade a Spade. The colourful idioms can be funny and may confuse non-native English speakers, which is why you should be aware of them before visiting a casino so you won’t cause offence or misunderstand someone. Good luck beating the bank!