hold (all) the cards

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hold (all) the cards

To be in a position of power or control over someone or something else. The phrase alludes to having the best cards in a card game (which would lead to victory). Now that Charlotte knows about us, she holds all the cards—I imagine it won't be long until she tells my wife what she saw. I saw my brother break the vase, so I hold the cards right now and can get him to do anything I want.
See also: card, hold

hold all the cards

be in the strongest or most advantageous position.
See also: all, card, hold
References in classic literature ?
Permit me, sir--if you hold the card a little slanting, this way, you catch the light upon the up-stroke.
But in a significant victory for trade unions, the 20,000 "airside" workers at Manchester and London City airports will not be required to hold the cards by law.
Yet when it comes to substance, it's the evolutionists who hold the cards.
Though it will initially be voluntary to hold the cards, the Home Office hopes to later persuade Parliament to make them compulsory - possibly from as early as 2010.