What’s so funny about this? This little joke has a lot of wisdom. Of course, to get it, you have to penetrate the double meaning of the expression “holding all the cards.” It refers, of course to a card game, most likely poker, though it could be bridge or almost any other card game. It’s just that for some reason, poker has had a hold on the American imagination for almost two hundred years and has produced many other idiomatic sayings, such as “pass the buck” “read ‘em and weep, and so on.” Holding all the cards does not mean having the entire deck of 52 cards in your hand. It does mean holding the winning cards in your hand. As the first photo shows sometimes it only take a hand of two cards to win it all. BTW, the poker game played in tournaments is aptly named “Hold ‘em.” And that’s what you need to do, hold the winning cards in your hand. But of course, poker is a strong metaphor for the American Way of Life, or at least a fantasized version of what life could or should be. Everybody wants to be a winner. Nobody wants to be a loser. Of course that’s impossible. It’s a zero sum game. As in life, you can’t have winners without losers. There is no win-win. Interestingly, the joke sounds more like something a loser would say, rather than a winner. When you’re “holding all the cards” you know you’re going to win in any situation. If it’s a labor negotiation, the other side will “cave” or give in. Same thing if you’re arguing with your lover. But sometimes, people get fed up with losing, so they get up from the table and leave the game. So even if you’re holding all the cards, you need to have other players in the game to beat. That’s the point of the joke. The easiest way to defeat a sure, or certain winner is to change the game.  And that’s what’s so funny and so clever!


This joke was sent to me by my favorite raconteur, Patchy Groundfog

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