Call Someone's Bluff

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To call someone's bluff is to make someone do something they threaten to do, in the hopes or assurance that they do not dare, or have the means, to carry out the threat.

Usage

The 'someone' in this idiom is important. Someone else's bluff is always called. You cannot call your own bluff.

Examples:

"The customer threatened to sue if he didn't get his money back. The manager called his bluff."

"The senator threatened to reveal details of the conversation to the press. The General called his bluff, knowing that anything the senator divulged would be equally damaging to both of them."

"Mark told me a story about his childhood when he told his friends he had once eaten 20 flies. To his regret, they called his bluff!"

Origin

This idiom comes from the game of poker, which during the 1800's was also called Bluff. In poker, to bluff means to make a bet or raise try to make your opponents think your hand is a good one. The hope is that one or more player, fearing your mighty hand, will fold even though their hand is actually superior. To call someone's bluff is to force them to show their hand and expose their treachery.

The term bluff came to be used outside poker to refer to making threats that they are not actually willing, or able, to carry out and to call someone's bluff came to mean forcing them, figuratively, to "show their hand."

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