Ace in the Hole – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

If you’ve ever watched a poker game in a movie or on TV, you’ve probably heard the phrase ace in the hole. They kind of go hand-in-hand. But what does it mean, and how can you use it in everyday conversation? Let’s get to the bottom of it.

What Does Ace in the Hole Mean?

Ace in the Hole Idiom Origin Meaning

An ace in the hole is like a hidden advantage or secret resource that can be used when it’s needed most. In other words, it’s your secret weapon or trump card, ready to be played at the right moment.

Have you ever played Mario Kart? Okay, picture this: it’s the final lap, you’re in second place, you’ve got the first-place player in your sights, and you’ve got a red shell. That’s your ace in the hole!

Origin and Etymology of Ace in the Hole

The phrase came from the game of stud poker, where players have one or more cards (the hole cards) dealt face down, and only they can see them. If one of those hidden cards is an ace, that’s a very advantageous position—hence, ace in the hole. Bada bing, bada boom!

Ace in the Hole Synonyms

Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to say ace in the hole without actually saying it.

  • Trump card
  • Secret weapon
  • Hidden advantage
  • Back-up plan
  • Plan B
  • Secret strength
  • In reserve

Depending on the context, you could easily use any of these in place of ace in a hole. Try slipping it into one of the sentences I listed below!

Ace in the Hole Idiom Examples in a Sentence

Ace in the Hole Idiom Origin Meaning 1

It’s a bit of a strange expression, so let’s see it in use with a few complete sentences to give some deeper context of how to mix it into your vocabulary.

  • Steve had an ace in the hole, a piece of evidence that would prove his innocence beyond a doubt.
  • Their new organic product is the company’s ace in the hole for increasing market share.
  • The guaranteed scholarship was my ace in the hole if I didn’t get the job I wanted.
  • The surprise witness was the prosecutor’s ace in the hole during the trial, and they saw the whole thing.
  • In case I ever get a flat, I always keep a spare tire in my car—my ace in the hole.
  • The seasoned substitute player was the coach’s ace in the hole during the championship.
  • The secret ingredient was butter which was her ace in the hole in the baking competition.

What’s Your Secret Weapon?

So, that’s the whole story and usage of the expression ace in the hole. It’s a handy phrase to keep up your sleeve for the next time you want to express the idea of having a secret advantage or contingency plan. Don’t be afraid to play this card in your daily conversations with people! And take a second to load up on my other idiom guides when you get a chance!