Poker terms we use in everyday language

The English language is a rich tapestry, filled with words and phrases that are evocative and descriptive. Of course, the language has had plenty of help in getting there, having borrowed plenty of terms from other languages. If you have the savoir faire to not speak like a hooligan, you’re likely to avoid becoming the victim of schadenfreude. This fluidity is not limited merely to using loan phrases from other languages. In everyday English, we use sporting terms and other such jargon too. This includes a surprising number  of terms borrowed from poker.

Indeed, if you are an occasional poker player who benefits from using to find new sites to bet on, then you may not have realised before just how much this game has impacted the language we use every day. So it might come as a surprise to you to learn that some extremely common phrases have been taken from the language used by regular poker players. Here, below, are a few interesting examples, with explanations of what they mean in life, and in poker.

To put one’s cards on the table

In business and even in personal relationships, there comes a point when you need to be honest about your motivations and your wishes. This is when we go to the person we need to be honest with and lay our cards on the table. We’ve been keeping our cards close to our chest (that’s another one) for too long and now we need to put it all out there in the hope that our honesty will be well received. This is taken from the stage in a poker game where we need to reveal our hand and see who has won. In poker, the reward we hope for is chips or money. In life, we hope something can be agreed with a business or romantic partner.

To have a good poker face

Okay, so maybe this one was a bit more obvious. We talk about a poker face often in the context of negotiation or in relation to keeping a secret. People will probe us with questions and try to get us to reveal what’s going on inside our head, and it’s valuable to be able to ensure that our facial expression gives nothing away. To have a good poker face means to be able to keep an impassive exterior while we’re feeling much more tumultuous inside. In poker, we simply want people to think we might have a garbage hand when in reality we’re on for a Royal Flush, because – as in life – we can get them to give more away this way.

To have something up one’s sleeve

In moments where everything looks pretty much lost, it’s always useful to be resourceful enough to have one last trick you can play, one last gambit you can try to bring things back. Being resourceful enough to turn things around at the last moment like this is referred to as having something “up your sleeve”. At first glance that’s a weird phrase, though you can kind of understand it. But again, it came from poker, where back in the olden days people would cheat in a game by hiding a card or two somewhere about their person – usually, up the sleeve. It would be harder to do now, but try to remember that once upon a time sleeves were very baggy and frilly, so there was no issue getting a card up there.

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