What does "Ace in the hole" mean?

Ace in the hole text - mp3

Ace in the hole


an advantage that is saved until needed


informal, conversational

Sample Dialogue:

A: Coach, why am I not in the game?
B: I need you to stay here for a little longer.
A: Oh...come on. I can play now.
B: Just wait. I need to put you in the last quarter. You're my ace in the hole. We can win the game if we wait till the last quarter.

Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole text - mp3 - test

It is surprising how many expressions that Americans use every day came from the card game of poker. For example, you hear the expression, ace in the hole, used by many people who would never think of going near a poker table. An ace in the hole is an argument, plan or thing kept hidden until needed.  It is used especially when it can turn failure into success.

In poker and most card games, the ace is the highest and most valuable card. It is often a winning card. In one kind of poker game, the first card to each player is given face down. A player does not show this card to the other players. The other cards are dealt face up. The players bet money each time they receive another card.

No one knows until the end of the game whose hidden card is the winner. Often, the ace in the hole wins the game.

Smart card players, especially those who play for large amounts of money, closely watch the person who deals the cards. They are watching to make sure he is dealing honestly. They want to be sure that he is not dealing off the bottom of the stack of cards. A dealer who is doing that has stacked the deck. He has fixed the cards so that he will get higher cards. He will win and you will lose.

The expression, dealing off the bottom, now means cheating in business, as well as in cards. And when someone tells you that the cards are stacked against you, he is saying you do not have a chance to succeed.

In a poker game you do not want to let your opponents know if your cards are good or bad. So having a poker face is important. A poker face never shows any emotion, never expresses either good or bad feelings. No one can learn - by looking at your face - if your cards are good or bad.

People now use poker face in everyday speech to describe someone who shows no emotion.

Someone who has a poker face usually is good at bluffing.  Bluffing is trying to trick a person into believing something about you that is not true.

In poker, you bluff when you bet heavily on a poor hand.  The idea is make the other players believe you have strong cards and are sure to win. If they believe you have strong cards and are sure to win. If they believe you, they are likely to drop out of the game. This means you win the money they have bet.

You can do a better job of bluffing if you hold your cards close to your vest. You hold your cards close to you so no one can see what you have. In everyday speech, holding your cards close to your vest means not letting other know what you are doing or thinking. You are keeping you plans secret.

About the author

Mark McCracken

Author: Mark McCracken is a corporate trainer and author living in Higashi Osaka, Japan. He is the author of thousands of online articles as well as the Business English textbook, "25 Business Skills in English".

Copyright © 2010 by Mark McCracken, All Rights Reserved.