a wild card

wild card

1. In a card game, a card that the player can choose to represent any card. He's going to play his wild card as an ace to win.
2. Someone or something that is unpredictable. He is too much of a wild card to be a successful candidate. Nobody wants to vote for someone wildly unpredictable. The wild card in this game will be the weather.
3. A person or team who is permitted to participate in an event or competition, such as a round of playoffs, without having to adhere to the usual entry protocol. The wild card rarely wins the championship, but anything is possible.
4. In computing, a character that is substituted for an unknown character in a search. An asterisk is often used as a wild card in database searches.
See also: card, wild

a wild card

You describe someone or something as a wild card when they cause uncertainty because nobody knows how they will behave or what effects they will have. Some Italians think of her as a possible wild card in next year's presidential election. Note: In games such as poker, a wild card is a card that can have any value a player chooses.
See also: card, wild
References in periodicals archive ?
The New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Oakland A's, and Los Angeles Angels are all battling for either a division title or to clinch a wild card in the American League.
The Orioles, who are heading to the playoffs with at least a wild card spot, face a Rays squad that will give it their all with the hope that they can somehow find a way to squeak into the postseason.
The Angels have done that now, earning their first back-to-back division titles and playoff appearances after winning the '02 World Series as a wild card, all of it under Mike Scioscia.
The Angels have done that now, winning their first back-to-back division titles and playoff appearances after winning the `02 World Series as a wild card, all of it under Mike Scioscia.
Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last year as a wild card team after losing the American League East crown to the N.
Not all the players are as eager about making the playoffs as a wild card, though.
That's the way it is in a pennant race, even if you are repulsed by the thought of a wild card.
A win over Modesto (70-65 overall) either tonight or Thursday and the JetHawks (73-62) clinch no worse than a wild card berth.