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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

hold all the cards

be in the strongest or most advantageous position.
See also: all, card, hold
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in classic literature ?
Anne of Austria held the cards against the cardinal, and her daughter-in-law assisted her in the game, when she was not engaged in smiling at her husband.
Monsieur Guillot held the card and looked at his visitor.
He held the card in his hand after they were gone, as if deeply considering it.
For the first seven minutes Cambridge had it all their own way, despite fractionally fluffing the start when the umpire's "attention", but thereafter, the Light Blues (Oxford) quickly caught up and held the cards till the end.
SRI Lanka came back fighting on the third day of the Third and final Test with India in Ahmedabad - but the hosts still held the cards as they aimed to wrap up the series 2-0.