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Put one’s cards on the table and lay one’s cards on the table

  • Put one’s cards on the table and lay one’s cards on the table are idioms that date at least to the 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the phrases put one’s cards on the table and lay one’s cards on the table, where these phrases came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

    To put one’s cards on the table or to lay one’s cards on the table means to reveal one’s intentions, to be honest, to bring things hidden out into the open. When someone puts his cards on the table he reveals his agenda, feelings, plans or intentions. The terms put one’s cards on the table and lay one’s cards on the table come from card games, most specifically, poker and its antecedents. At the end of a hand of poker the winner must put all his cards on the table to prove that he is indeed holding the winning hand. Related phrases are puts one’s cards on the table, putting one’s cards on the table, laid one’s cards on the table, laying one’s cards on the table. Sometimes the idiom is shortened to simply, put it all on the table or lay it all on the table.

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    Examples

    If you discuss these matters with someone, you will lay your cards on the table. (The Chicago Sun-Times)

    My hope, through the TN50 initiative, is that we put it all on the table and have honest conversations with one another and begin identifying principles and values that matter most to us as Malaysians.  (The Star)

    Surely we all understand that you do not put your cards on the table prior to negotiations, otherwise you have nothing to negotiate. (The Hastings and St. Leonard’s Observer)

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