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Language is alive and dynamic, always changing and embracing new words and phrases. As users, we are active participants in it. Since the language is so fluid and quickly adapting, hundreds of new words and terms are added to the dictionaries every year. You might even not realize but your vocabulary probably contains a lot of gambling expressions or phrases. Whether or not you have entered the casino, placed a bet, or picked up a deck of cards, some idioms you speak may have roots that come directly from a casino. So, we picked a few of them to explore this interesting linguistic phenomenon.

Sweeten The Pot

You know this one for sure. It originally comes from gambling – when players make new bets, they will sometimes say they are “sweetening the pot” as they throw chips in. The term relates to card games (such as poker), where it means to add money to the pool. That way the pot is larger and therefore more desirable to all players. But even though the expression comes from gambling, it is now used in everyday conversation. In everyday meaning, this refers to making something more attractive or desirable.

Poker face

This one comes from the most popular card game – poker as well. It is common that poker players try to keep their faces completely blank, so that no one can tell whether their cards are good or bad. So this expression is used to describe a face on a person that shows no emotion.

No, he can’t read my poker face. (Lady Gaga – Poker Face)

Gambling Expressions: No Dice

No dice is another interesting idiom with more interesting history. It is a creative way to say NO to something or someone. It can be used in many different situations.

For example: Kate wanted to go to the birthday party of her friend, but her parents said no dice.

It was created in the early 20th century, when gambling with dice was illegal in many areas, with strict punishments. Therefore, when challenged by police, players would go to extreme measures to hide their dice. Some of them even swallowed the dice to avoid arrest! Can you imagine?

Show (One’s) Cards

This one is also very common to hear in conversation. Maybe even some of you have given or received the advice to not to “show the cards” too early. In card games, this means revealing the value of your cards once the hand is over. In everyday use, it refers to showing your resources or plans. Or emotions.

Don’t show your cards too early. Keep him guessing as long as you can.

When the Chips Are Down

When the chips are down also comes from poker. Since there are so many idioms coming from this game, let us remind of this little poker dictionary.

So, this idiom refers to the situation when all the bets have been made and there comes the final moment when the cards are turned over and the winner revealed. In common use, this line is something people use when they want to describe the difficult situation. Translated roughly, we can say that this idiom refers to “when in need” or “when the situation is serious or urgent”.

One day when the chips are down, you will know who your true friends are.

Whether it’s in a written, verbal, or nonverbal form of communication — indeed, language is alive. It has been transforming since the evolution of humankind and will continue to do so as long as there’s a need for people to communicate. Hope you will remember this post next time you use some of these gambling expressions. We bet there are some you use daily, without even noticing. Let us know what your favorite gambling idioms are.

Desert Raider


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