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Don’t Get Into Any Jackpots

Ron, who lives in North Pole, Alaska, is curious about an admonition from his mother: Don’t get into any jackpots. This expression, which dates back to the 1800s, refers to getting trapped into adding bets to a round of high-stakes poker...

Run a Sandy

A historian in Indianapolis, Indiana, says a World War II-era letter from her father to her mother refers to running a sandy. It’s a phrase that derives from poker and the act of sandbagging, a kind of bluffing of an opponent. This is part of...

Origin of Catbird Seat

The legendary baseball announcer Red Barber is credited with popularizing the term the catbird seat, the enviable position in poker where you’re last to bet. James Thurber’s amusing story “The Catbird Seat” published in The...

Above Board

When something happens above board, it means things are clear and in the open. But this has nothing to do with being on board a ship. Rather, it comes from the term board meaning “table,” as in room and board, and has to do with poker...

Pungle

Quiz time! Does pungle mean a) a baby platypus, or b) “to put down money.” It’s the latter. Pungle is most common in the western United States. It comes from the Spanish pongale, an imperative meaning “put it down.” For...

Four-Flusher

If someone seems too good to be true, he may be a four-flusher. This term for “a fake” or “a phony” comes from the poker slang four-flusher, meaning someone who has four cards of a suit but not yet the full flush. Some people...