Poker in the English language

Online poker has helped a great deal to make this popular game become a hobby and a profession. However, many years ago, its popularity made its jargon and terms find their way into the English language. Not only that: many other languages have their equivalent of these idioms, phrases and expressions, even though they are not really known as places where poker is played everywhere, everyday.

An ace up one’s sleeve, for instance, can mean that someone has something that could be an advantage over other people’s chances, but not only in poker – playing in all kinds of situations. Calling one’s bluff is used when someone is asked to prove something – and they surely do. Another common one is beats me; players originally used to say that another player’s hand was better normally when it was a surprise turn in events. Today, people say “beats me” when they are puzzled by something, meaning they don’t know the answer for something.

In English, we can say that a person has an ace in the hole when someone has something that can guarantee them a victory. In other languages, people say they have a wild card to mean the same thing, while in English a wild card is someone or something that people don’t know much about and it may behave in way they can’t predict. For example in the current X Factor series, they introduced “wild cards” to bring into the competition.

And nothing better to explain this usage of terms than the phrase poker face: a facial expression that gives nothing away, one of the best skills a professional poker champion has. A person can also hold on all her/his cards, meaning they have all the chances to win pretty much like in a poker game. But, if someone is in a position where the smallest mistake could jeopardise a whole operation, they can be advised to play their cards right. In poker, the meaning of it is not quite the same: if you play it right, you can win with any kind of hand.

Filed Under: Poker Advice

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