lay (one's) cards on the table

lay (one's) cards on the table

To reveal something that one has kept hidden, such as one's motives, intentions, opinion, etc.; to be very candid. A reference to a player in a card game revealing the cards that they were holding. You deserve honesty, so I'm going to lay my cards on the table. I can't offer you this job, but we may have another position that you'd be good for. Brian says he starts every relationship by laying his cards on the table—that way there's no secrets.
See also: card, lay, on, table
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

lay one's cards on the table

 and put one's cards on the table
Fig. to be very candid about one's position on some issue. (Alludes to laying playing cards on the table, face up, showing the cards.) All right. Let's lay our cards on the table and speak very candidly about this matter. It's time we put our cards on the table and spoke honestly. lay one's hands on someone, something, or an animal Go to put one's hands on someone, something, or an animal. lay (oneself) down to lie down. Just lay yourself down there and try to sleep. I'll lay myself down here for just a few minutes.
See also: card, lay, on, table
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

lay one's cards on the table

Also, put one's cards on the table. Be open and honest, reveal one's position or intentions, as in John laid his cards on the table and told her how much they could afford. This expression alludes to showing the hand one holds. [c. 1900] Also see show one's hand.
See also: card, lay, on, table
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

lay your cards on the table

or

put your cards on the table

If you lay your cards on the table or put your cards on the table, you tell someone the truth about your feelings, opinions or plans. I will lay my cards on the table. I am an atheist. I'm going to put my cards on the table and make you an offer. Note: The reference here is to players in a card game laying their cards face up for the other players to see.
See also: card, lay, on, table
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

cards on the table, to lay/put one's

To be completely candid, to hide nothing. The term comes from numerous card games in which the players must at some point turn their cards faceup and show their hands. The expression was transferred to a more general meaning in the late sixteenth century.
See also: card, lay, on, put, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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