Poker Related Expressions in Common English

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A list of commonly used English expressions that relate directly to the game of poker

This article is part of my series 'Poker Culture, Strategy & Commentary'.

The game of poker has been the unofficial national game of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the entire English speaking world for over a hundred and fifty years. All my life I've been noticing poker mentioned in many common English expressions. So, I thought it would be fun to create a list of ten commonly used English phrases that relate directly poker.

This list is just scratching the surface as I'm sure there are many more commonly used poker influenced expressions out there. I figured the offerings below would serve well to get the ball rolling. If you can think of any other expressions that would fit well on this list please ad them in the comments below. I'll be sure to include them in a future revision of this article and give you credit. 

1- An ace in the hole

This term is used in reference to an individual with an unforeseen or secret resource.  

2- They are holding all the cards

When someone has all of the power, they are said to be 'holding all the cards'. This is a reference a poker expression which implies that the player holding the all cards can't lose, i.e. cardrack, lucksuck or chip magnet.

3- The Wildcard

A wildcard is usually an unexpected useful addition to a situation.

4- To show all of your cards

When one divulges the truth of their position or opinion they are said to be either showing all of their cards or less commonly tabling their hand. 

5- Dealing from the bottom of the deck

This expression is a reference to cheating in poker, yet it applies in any context where there is suspicion or accusations of cheating. 

6- Let the chips falls where they may

A twist on the French expression "Que sera, Sera" with a slightly different meaning. The English expression describes an attitude towards an event that is implicitly happening or about to happen, and the French one is more of an attitude about life in general. 

7- You have to play the hand you're dealt

Reminding us of the Socratic logic that we should not lament things we cannot change.

8- Call a spade a spade

This imperative expression requests one to look at things as they truly are. 

9- Aces!

This phrase was more common in the early-to-mid 20th century, and seems to be falling out of use. You say the word "Aces!" emphatically as a compliment or to imply that things are great. i.e. Aces! You just hit a hole in one!

10 - Overplayed their hand

This phrases describes someone who claims to be in a stronger position than they really are, or possibly someone who is simply trying too hard. 

Recommended Reading:

Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker

The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story

The Theory of Poker

THE ONLY POKER SITE Salvatore endorses is FULL TILT


Posted on Jul 31, 2010
Sharla Smith
Posted on Jul 7, 2010