When the chips are down

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When the chips are down is used as an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom when the chips are down, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

When the chips are down means at the most critical time or when all seems lost. The expression when the chips are down comes from gambling and refers to the time during a game of chance when the bets have been made, but the outcome is not yet known. Poker chips and gambling chips in the shape of discs came into use in the mid-1800s; before this time, numerous objects were used in wagering games, including coins and paper money. The idiom when the chips are down came into use during the mid-twentieth century.


“When the chips are down Manitowoc rises to the occasion every time.” (Seehafer News)

“It comes down to understanding each other, and quite simply having a relationship where when the chips are down, you’re going to sort of say, ‘We’re going to figure this out.’” (Home Health Care News)

The issue, he bluntly told reporters, isn’t whether he’ll carry out his commitments to Netanyahu, but whether, when the chips are down, Netanyahu will do the same for him. (Times of Israel)

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