Ranking the Most Popular Gambling Idioms

Idioms are amusing phrases that people frequently hear and use daily. They have been unique to countries, regions, and cultures, making idioms very difficult to comprehend if you have never heard them before. It often seems like some one is speaking a different language altogether.

The world of gambling is no different. You'll hear 100s of Idioms being used through casino halls and sporting events.

Check out our top 10 most popular idioms from the world of gambling.

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Down to the Wire

The phrase first comes from racing events. It absolutely was common practice that the winner broke a wire as they passed within the finishing line.


This phrase means that the race is unpredictable or close.

When would it be used?

An example of its use would be within a horse racing event when there will be no clear leaders near the finish line.

This race is down to the wire, who will win is anyone's bet.

Ace in The Hole

The term 'Ace in the hole' along with a number of other 'Ace' related idioms comes from the most popular card game of poker. In this game, the Ace is an advantage card to have in your hand.


This term, when used concerning poker, implies that the player features a hidden advantage over their competitors.

When would it be used?

During a poker tournament, you may hear the commentator say:

Things are looking promising for Daniel, he has an Ace in the hole.

All Bets Are Off

This really is a common phrase that was coined by commentators and live bookmakers mostly heard at horse races. It was initially shouted to declare that no longer bets are being taken, and current bets are now void.


A guaranteed win has now become uncertain - A sure bet is now off.

When would it be used?

In relation to horse racing, you will hear this term during a race when a promising horse that had high odds does not perform like expected.

Today is not a good day for horses or jockey. All bets are off on this one.

Bet the Farm

From early 1900s where it had been common for the common gambling man to place his assets at risk or use his farm to cover gambling debts.


To risk everything you have in hopes of success

When would it be used?

A contemporary alteration for this idiom you might hear is 'Don't bet the house. ' You'll hear either as a warning that you are staking significantly more than finances can handle.

I thought it was a good idea, I bet the farm, but now I'm flat broke.

Run the Table

Initially used in Billiards when a player took over the table and sank all the balls in succession.


To win every time

When would it be used?

It's used to indicate a winning streak. If it's said to you, then congratulations!

Watch it, he's running the table tonight!

In the Cards

A phrase taken from tarot readers who predict your future depending on the cards you're dealt.


It's predicted to happen.

When would it be used?

During a Blackjack or Poker game, for example, it may be said:

It's in the card for him tonight.

This really is an optimistic thing, this means the cards are in the players' favour, and they are probably be successful.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

This idiom is now trusted in daily life. It arises from gambling when players would have to up their stakes to compete, such as for instance in poker.


To support your claims with a financial commitment.

When would it be used?

During a card game, this term could be used as smack talk to berate your competitor into wagering more income if they're talking a big game.

You think so, do you? Put your money where your mouth is then!

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Many believe this idiom originated from casino halls in Vegas, where it had been once possible to buy a complete chicken dinner for $2, the same price as the very least bet.


It means that you have won and, therefore, can afford a chicken dinner.

When would it be used?

Widely used by winning players and dealers to congratulate you on your win. It's a term employed for joy and pride that you have just won.

Winner, winner chicken dinner! Let's go cash these chips in.

Tip your Hand

Another phrase originating from the card table.


To accidentally or tactfully reveal your advantages to your competition.

When would it be used?

In terms of playing a card game, one might unintentionally show their hand when distracted. A player may tip their hand to the left or right and so the players sitting next to them is able to see the cards. A person might also put it to use as a tactic.

He just tipped his hand, but was that a smart move this early on in the game?

Shell Game

The term 'Shell game' originates from a well-known gambling street scam where a shell will be hidden under a cup. The dealer would then move them fast so that you couldn't tell that has been hiding the item. You had then place bets concerning which it was under,


The phrase means to use methods of deception during play.

When would it be used?

Often you'll hear commentators at card tournaments or sports matches describe the game as a shell game.

The tactics there are using tonight are sneaky, what a shell game this has been.

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Closing Thoughts

Our collection of the most used gambling idioms is just a 'drop in the water, ' you will find 100s more for you to have fun learning and using. Make sure you listen out for them the next time you visit your local casino, watch sports, or attend a horse track.

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