Gambling Expressions in English - By Professor Bob Wilde
The British love gambling and always have done.
So it is not surprising that there are so many idioms in the language taken from betting money on anything!
Let's start with cards.
My friend John never gives away secrets: He holds/keeps his cards close to his chest. A secretive, mysterious person holds his cards close to his chest.
Easy to understand. But here's another: John looked as if he was losing the motor race, but he actually won: he had an ace in the hole - an extra fast gear! The meaning is a hidden advantage. It comes from the game of poker, where you have a card turned face down on the table which only you know about.
Another way of saying a person has an advantage is to say he or she has another card up his/her sleeve.
This comes from magicians, or card cheats. It is very common in English.
Here's one you may like:
John's a bit strange sometimes: I don't think he's got a full deck.
This means John is a bit mad, because 52 playing cards makes a deck and so we are suggesting he has
fewer than that! i.e. his brain is not quite perfect!
And from the card game, bridge, we have:
John said he'd supply the food for the picnic. We thought he couldn't cook, but he brought wonderful food
with him! He really came up trumps!
A trump card is one which is better than any other.
In everyday English it is very common to say I bet John's not here tomorrow, which means
I'm sure John won't be here tomorrow.
Other phrases using bet are:
You can bet your life it'll rain tomorrow. The BBC said so! This means you can be 99% sure it'll rain!
We don't want to give you too many of these expressions at one go but there will be more soon. We hope you like them! In fact we'll bet real money you do!