Put All Your Cards On the Table

Also: Lay your cards on the table.

As an idiom, in use since the early 1900’s.

Meaning of Put All Your (or one’s) Cards On the Table

To put all your cards on the table is to be truthful and reveal your true intentions or plans without holding anything back; to be transparent, especially in business dealings or other negotiations.

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This idiom does not have to be used in the second person, it can also be used in the first or third person as in “I am putting all my cards on the table,” or “he put all his cards on the table.”

The word all is not always included.

As above, the variant lay your cards on the table, is sometimes used.

Put all your cards on the table idiom meaning

Examples Of Use

“Listen, I’m going to put all my cards on the table. I can only invest if I can be guaranteed a return within one year.”

“Young man,” said Mr. Sterling, “I want you to put all your cards on the table. What are your intentions in regards to my daughter?”


The origin of this idiom is in card games and the idea of a player putting all of his or her cards face up on the table so that the other players can see exactly what they hold. In the idiom, cards can be seen to mean the truth and to put them on the table means to reveal the truth. Although some card related idioms are quite old, this one only seems to have been in use since the early 20th century.

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