What Does The Cards Are Stacked Against You Mean?

The Cards Are Stacked Against You Meaning

Definition: Luck does not appear to be on your side despite your best efforts.

This idiom implies that some outside force has manipulated someone’s circumstances to give him or her a disadvantage. It is also used to describe situations that a person is unlikely to “win” because of said outside forces.

People tend to use this idiom as a way to empathize with someone who has had a streak of bad luck. The phrase is often used as a way to explain situations that do not work out the way in which someone wanted.

Origin of The Cards Are Stacked Against You

cards are stacked against himThe idiom is related to the gambling term, “Stack the cards.” If a player “stacks the cards,” he purposefully arranges the cards in a deck so he has a better chance of winning the game. Conversely, to “stack the cards” against someone is to purposefully arrange the deck so that a particular player loses the game.

It is thought that the idiom was first used between 1825 and the mid-1800s, although there is no clear record of its first usage.

Examples of The Cards Are Stacked Against You

meaning of the cards are stacked against youToday, this idiom is used to suggest that someone’s bad luck is not his or her own fault. The cards might be stacked against you if your boss told you he is terminating your employment due to budget cuts but you have an expensive bill coming up.

An example conversation between two friends below illustrates the correct use of this idiom.

Jane: I just got fired.

Mary: Oh no! That’s horrible news. I’m sorry to hear that.

Jane: Yeah. Really bad timing, too. My landlord just told me if I pay my rent late again this month, he’ll evict me. Plus my husband’s first medical bill is due.

Mary: Seems the cards are stacked against you. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

More Examples

  • “To me, Michael Moore has always believed that America is a place where the cards are stacked against you,” Wilson said. “And I’ve always believed that America is a place where anything is possible.” – USA Today
  • “As a parent, the cards are stacked against you,” Landry said. “I thought, ‘Here’s a mom who is experienced in the field, who has a master’s degree in education, who thought she knew what she was doing.’ Boy, was I wrong.” – The Washington Post

Summary

The English idiom “the cards are stacked against you” is used to suggest that an outside force has purposefully orchestrated someone’s misfortune.