"Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her; but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game."
~ Voltaire (1694 – 1778)
There are so many expressions that we commonly use in our everyday conversations that come from the ordinary deck of playing cards. Have you ever heard someone say that they don’t want to “get lost in the shuffle” or ask the question, “What’s the deal anyway?”
Most of us have heard people say, “It’s just not in the cards for me to …” when things didn’t work out the way they planned.
When someone seems to be in charge of a situation, people say that they are “holding all the cards.”
Some days many people say “the cards have been stacked against me” when nothing they try works out or something seems to be blocking their efforts or from achieving their goals.
If someone doesn’t seem to know what they are doing, people often say, “They’re not playing with a full deck!”
When someone is confused about a particular situation, they ask, “What’s the deal?”
“Your ace in the hole is …” is another expression using card terminology to indicate a way to win or make something happen.
We have also heard people say, “I need to play my cards right to …” when they want to take make the most of certain opportunities present in their life.
Then there others who love to tell us that we need to “learn to play the hand we’ve been dealt” when things are not going our way. For some who can do everything and they say that they’re “the Jack of all trades!” or they’re “the Jack of all Spades!”
Many times we see people being secretive about their plans, thoughts, or feelings. We say they are “playing their cards close to their chest” like many card players do.
When people want someone to openly reveal what their plans or intentions are, they usually ask them to “put (or lay) your cards on the table.”
At times, when someone has tried everything and have now given up, they say, “Let the cards fall where they may.”
For some, when they are not surprised by how certain events have unfolded, they say, “It was all in the cards.”
Other card quotes:
♦ “Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” ~ Josh Billings (1856-1950)
♦ “He is such a card!” (a witty, entertaining, or eccentric person)
♦ “Don’t get lost in the shuffle!”
♦ “When you find a King, keep him. When you find a Queen, love and protect her. Don’t reshuffle your cards because you may end up with a Joker!”
♦ “One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.” ~ Oscar Wilde (Irish poet, novelist, dramatist and critic, 1854-1900)
♦ “Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning, all you need is two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you wish you had a club and a spade.”
♦ “Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well" ~ Jack London, American novelist, journalist, and social activist
♦ “Every Queen deserves a King who understands when her crown gets too heavy.”
♦ “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em….” ~ lyrics from The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
♦ “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru (Former Prime Minister of India)
♦ “Men are like a deck of cards. You’ll find the occasional king, but most are jacks.” ~ Laura Swenson
♦ “There will soon be only five kings in the world — the King of England and the four kings in a pack of cards.” ~ Farouk I, King of Egypt and the Sudan (1920 – 1965)
♦ “Fate is the cards you were given when you were born; destiny is what you do with them.” ~ Gina E. Jones, founder of The Cards of Life and International Association of Cardology
♦ “I looked at the cards in my hand, the queen of hearts nestled between the king of clubs and the king of spades. No wonder she was smiling.” ~ Megan Hart, New York Times Best-Selling American author
♦ "It's the niceties that make the difference fate gives us the hand, and we play the cards." ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)
♦ “I am the king and you could’ve been my Red Queen. Now you are nothing.” ~ Victoria Aveyard, American writer of young adult and fantasy fiction, screenplays and author of “Red Queen”
♦ “Life is like a game of cards. Reliability is the ace, industry the king, politeness the queen, thrift the jack. Commonsense is playing to best advantage the cards you draw. And every day, as the game proceeds, you will find the ace, king, queen, jack in your hand and opportunity to use them.” ~ Edgar Watson Howe, American author and editor (1853-1937)
♦ “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt with. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding and my dear one, you and I have been granted a mighty generous one.” ~ Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
♦ “God and death play cards while they wait for an old man to die.” ~ imgur.com
♦ “God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.” ~ Terry Pratchett, author of “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”
♦ “In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.” ~ Amor Towles, author of “Rules of Civility”
♦ “Destiny plays its cards in a way that no one can comprehend.” ~ Anurag Shourie, author of “Half A Shadow”
♦ “We are no more free agents than the queen of clubs when she victoriously takes prisoner the knave of hearts.” ~ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, English aristocrat, letter writer, and poet
♦ “I looked at the cards in my hand, the queen of hearts nettled between the king of clubs and the king of spades. No wonder she was smiling.” ~ Megan Hart
♦ “The key to success is playing the hand you were dealt like it was the hand you wanted.” ~ Kaitlyn Walsh, author
"Don’t you draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy
She’ll beat you if she’s able
You know the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet
Now, it seems to me some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get."
~ lyrics from Desperado, a song written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey
From our readers:
♦ “Holding aces doesn’t ensure a win. Right moves do.” ~ Anonymous
♦ “You have to give up some diamonds if you want a hand full of hearts.” ~ Mr. Garner (Fatherly advice when his daughter told him that she was getting a divorce.)
♦ “If people feel like the deck is stacked against them, then they stop playing by the rules. Because why play by the rules? The game is fixed, right?” ~ Anonymous
♦ “Sometimes, the cards play you.” ~ a Russian saying
♦ “Everyone has a Trump card, but the showtime matters.” ~ Shivam Rana, India
Popular Catchphrases from the Cards:
From Card Game Slang to Commonplace Slogans
“If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to hold all the aces and the situation won’t become another house of cards.”
The average American will hear approximately ten catchphrases a week that originated from a card game expression. And card game catchphrases appear in every country around the world, in almost all cultures. Sociologists and historians use these expressions as one of the measures of playing cards and their anthropological and sociological influences.
The abundance of these card game catchphrases certainly demonstrates the dissemination of this pastime and shows the impact playing cards have had upon societies around the world.
“A house of cards” refers to a plan or scheme that has a very weak foundation, like a house made from stacking playing cards against each other. Holding the aces, sometimes referred to as holding all the trumps, denotes that the person has a winning hand or the upper hand in something. The phrase originates from games that a hand of aces would be the highest combination of cards a player can have. Playing your cards right alludes to a player’s use of strategy and skill to get the advantage with her hand.
The Trump Card
Like the trump card, playing cards catchphrases are a key resource in the research of playing cards origins. The trump card in games can be held in reserve until the player wants to utilize the card to win a hand. In society, the common use of catchphrases are now being resourced as a valuable tool in the history of playing cards.
There are dozens of other playing cards catchphrases that pop up in everyday conversation. Playing cards catchphrases have even spread into professional technical lingo. Computer science, athletics, and legal professional jargons are filled with playing cards catchphrases.
Take a phrase like the wild card. In card games, the wild card refers to a card that the player can determine its value. In sports, a wild card player or team is an outside factor that has suddenly become included for some reason or another and may influence the outcome of a sporting event.
Computer programmers refer to the wild card when discussing a symbol that symbolizes one or more undefined characters in a text. In a legal trial, a wild card witness is a surprise factor that could influences the case. Every time you use playing cards catchphrases, you will be carrying on slogans that have been used for centuries and originated from the invention of the playing cards and their cards games more than a thousand years ago. Don’t let these great sayings get lost in the shuffle.
So even if the deck is stacked against you or when you lay your cards on the table, when you call someone’s bluff or say you have a card up your sleeve, you will carry on a tradition that will continue to be a part of our society. It’s in the cards.