Games and sport idioms

Monopoly money

Money that has no value and is used only in games

E.g. You’d think it was monopoly money, the amount he spent last week.

The dice are loaded against smb

Somebody is unlikely to succeed

E.g. I wanted the job in Paris, but I knew the dice were loaded against me because my French isn’t good.

To dice with death

To take a great risk

E.g. He drives so fast! You are dicing with death if you are letting him drive you.



E.g. The audience sat there poker-faced all through the play.

To hold all the cards

To be in a strong position

E.g. Management found that the union held all the cards in the pay talks.

To keep / play one’s cards close to one’s chest

Not to reveal one’s plans

E.g. I kept my cards close to my chest in the interview.

To play one’s ace / trump card

To use one’s advantage, especially one others don’t know about

E.g. The politician played his ace card by promising lower taxes for all on the day of the election.

To move the goalposts

To change the rules in a situation in a way that is not fair

E.g. My boss has just increased my sales targets again – it’s so unfair, he just keeps moving the goalposts!

To get the red card

To receive official criticism for bad behaviour

E.g. She got the red card from her boss because she was late a few times.

It’s just not cricket!

Not right or fair behaviour; usually used humorously

E.g. It seems unfair to push her out just because of something so minor – it’s just not cricket!

A whole new ball game

A completely different situation

E.g. My new company is a whole new ball game from the last one.

To play hardball

To be so determined to get what you want that you use unfair methods

E.g. People here like to play hardball.

To take a rain check

Something you say when you have to refuse someone’s invitation to something that you would like to do at another time

E.g. I think I’ll have to take a rain check tonight. I promised I’d make the dinner.

Not pull any punches

To speak in an honest and direct way without trying to be tactful

E.g. The coach didn’t pull any punches when he told the team how badly they had played.

To be / feel punch-drunk

To be tired and confused

E.g. The trade fair was so noisy and busy that I felt punch-drunk by the end of the week.

Below the belt

An unfair attack

E.g. It was below the belt to mention his rival’s marital problems to the journalist.

To throw in the sponge / towel

To admit defeat

E.g. He will never agree to throw in the towel, even if he has lost any chance of winning the election.

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