hold the cards
- (idiomatic) To be in a strong position, possessing significant advantages over someone else; to be in control of a situation involving multiple parties.
1907, R. Austin Freeman, chapter 14, in The Red Thumb Mark:
- "[B]ut if you make conditions I have no choice but to accept them, seeing that you hold the cards."
- 1986 Aug. 17, Peter H. Lewis, "Practical Traveller: Learning the ABC's — as well as the XYZ's — of Flying," New York Times (retrieved 12 Jan 2012):
- Once a ticket is paid for and the airline has your money, it holds the cards.
- 2008 July 10, Megan Lindow, "Why Mugabe and His Foe Are Talking ," Time:
- "In the short term, from a power perspective, the current Zimbabwe elite is holding the cards," says Steven Friedman, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy.
- Often used in the present participial form: holding the cards.