Business Vocabulary Idioms — Gambling

Learning objectives

In this article, you will

  • learn some useful business vocabulary taken from the activity of gambling
  • practice key vocabulary on the topic of gambling and investing
  • practice a useful prefix.

Newsmart Level 3 (B1+, TOEIC 389–550, TOEFL iBT 41–52, IELTS 4.5–5)

In two previous business vocabulary articles we’ve looked at the influence of language from baseball and the Wild West on business English vocabulary. As we’ve seen, it’s possible to describe a business scenario using idioms from each of these. We’ve also talked about how an ability to properly use business idioms can help you in your business career. In this article we’ll take a look at some common and useful business terms taken from gambling.

The similarities between gambling and certain types of business, especially investing, have often been remarked on. Certainly there is one very obvious area where they overlap. At their most basic level, both gambling and investing are both about taking risk in order to gain reward. This probably explains why the language of gambling is so omnipresent in English business vocabulary.

Before seeing some gambling idioms in context, let’s figure out what they mean.

Have the upper hand

Luck of the draw

Go for broke

Have an ace up your sleeve

Hedge your bets

Now let’s see them all in use in a short story about a private investor who makes the mistake of ploughing his money into a friend’s unrealistic startup.

“After inheriting $3 million from a distant relative, Jimmy decided to quit his job and try his luck on the stock market. In the first year, everything seemed to go well. He invested sensibly and conservatively, made sure he hedged his bets, and didn’t play for high stakes. He seemed to enjoy the luck of the draw, and ended the year with the upper hand.

The next year, however, everything changed. His best friend Tony was looking for investors willing to roll the dice and help him develop a search engine to rival Google. Although other people had said that the odds were stacked against Tony, Jimmy decided to go for broke. Confident that they would win hands down, he went all-in and invested everything he had in Tony’s venture. Predictably, the new search engine was a non-starter and Jimmy ended up losing his shirt.”

Of course, few investors are as reckless as Jimmy! In the end, he acted more like a gambler than an investor, which is why he lost his money. Although investing can seem similar to gambling, there are some crucial differences. Unlike gamblers, investors do proper research into their investments and try to make sure the odds are in their favor. Although they do take chances, they try to minimize risk as far as possible. They aren’t greedy or compulsive, and they also try to have a long-term plan.

So, although it’s great to use gambling idioms in your business conversations, it’s probably best not to behave too much like a gambler in your business life!

Photo credit: fergregory for iStock

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