Hold all the cards and hold all the aces

Hold all the cards and hold all the aces are two idioms that mean the same thing. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idioms hold all the cards and hold all the aces, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

To hold all the cards and to hold all the aces mean to have control of a situation, to have all the advantages available in a situation, to be ahead in a competition, to have all the power. To hold all the cards and to hold all the aces are expressions taken from card playing. A person who holds all the cards in a card game can make all the plays. A person who holds all the aces in a card game holds the highest cards. To hold all the cards is more often used in American English, and to hold all the aces is seen more often in British English. Both expressions have been in use since the mid- to late 1800s, but to hold all the cards is by far the more popular of the two idioms.


“We’re consistently stupid in treating First Nations as an afterthought, and trying to do side deals with them to appease them, when in fact they hold all the cards,” said Gallagher, who has written two books on the subject, 2012’s Resource Rulers and his new book, Resource Reckoning: A Strategist’s Guide from A to Z. (The Edmonton Journal)

They hold all the cards after Houston gave up a huge bounty to acquire the offensive tackle. (Forbes Magazine)

Saracens Colts continue to hold all the aces as Vikings must rely on someone else beating Saracens Colts to have any chance of taking the title. (The Isle of Man Today)

Lewis Hamilton believes rivals Ferrari hold all the aces as Britain’s five-time Formula One world champion gears up for the biggest battle of his career. (The Belfast Telegraph)

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