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When I used to play video games, "all in" meant that you were devoting your army to a "do or die" effort. In other words, you were either going to win or lose in the next battle. The "all in" meant that you typically brought all of your soldiers to fight, holding none back.

But years ago I was doing the Daily Jumble, and the hint was something like "After running a marathon he was _ __". This was before the web, so I had nothing to fall back on. It turns out the answer was "ALL IN" meaning "tired". I asked a friend and he said "that's a usage from the eastern U.S." I certainly hadn't heard it before then and I still haven't since.

Is this a common meaning? Maybe some easterners can chime in?

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    For the first meaning you mention - "fully committed" - I think that most people will be even more familiar with it in a poker context - especially Texas Hold'em - than in a videogame context. For the past ten years or so, it seem you can't turn on the TV without seeing some guy in wraparound Oakleys pushing a tall stack of chips into the center of the table and announcing "All in." youtube.com/watch?v=c_PS1pNgT8A
    – MT_Head
    Jun 25 '12 at 17:57
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Having lived on the East Coast (mostly New England) for five years now, I cannot point to any situation in which all in has been used in conversation to mean tired, or anything else for that matter. This implies that I rarely, if ever, hear the phrase in regular conversation! Nevertheless, I do not think it is a regional thing. NOAD notes the phrase is informal:

all in
(informal) exhausted:
he was all in by halftime

I certainly wouldn't have trouble deducing the meaning of the phrase from the context. Your friend may be right, though, about this usage being specific to the Northeastern US, but I doubt this is a fact.

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  • The sports angle ('by halftime') seems to be key. Like 'We left everything on the field' is an expression used to convey a sense of honourable defeat. Sep 11 '13 at 9:57
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The term "all in" meaning tired or exhausted is in common usage in the UK.

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    I'd say 'done in' is more commonly used here. Sep 11 '13 at 9:36
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"All in" is not restricted to the East Coast of the U.S. It's given without regional specification by NOAD

all in informal exhausted: he was all in by halftime

Webster's 3rd New Int'l Dictionary also defines it as "completely tired, exhausted" with no regional variation note.

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"All in" is a gambling term (esp. poker) It refers to a player committing his entire remaining chips / money to the current bet. In essence your first idea of the expression as meaning "do-or-die" is correct. It means an irreversible and complete commitment with the added subtext of feeling very confident in the commitment.

I have not encountered it in it's sense of "tired" in UK or Australian English.

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    True, it is also a gambling term, but the rest of this is not true. It does mean tired.
    – Robusto
    Apr 13 '11 at 1:18
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    @Robusto. I see. However it must be AmE, having lived extensively in the UK and Australia I have never encountered it in this sense. (P.S. I'll edit)
    – jsj
    Apr 13 '11 at 1:24
  • @tricedeth12: Funny enough, the Macmillan Dictionary indicates as British informal the usage of all in to mean tired!
    – Jimi Oke
    Apr 18 '11 at 23:54
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In my region (US), going "all in" means committing every resource you have to a specific endeavor. I've never heard of "all in" meaning tired, but if this endeavor were a race, it would certainly mean ending up tired.

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    This is certainly the meaning I've always been familiar with, as well. Never really heard all in to mean tired until I saw this question!
    – Jimi Oke
    Apr 18 '11 at 23:50
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"All In" is used (or was- not so much now) in England to mean tired....e.g., "Im all in" or someone may say "you look all in, go to bed".

I think the phrase is still in used in the north of England, rarely heard down south.....

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The term "all in" meaning tired was used in the U.S. in the 20th Century from as early as the 30s until maybe the 60s. Just watch any old movie or TV show. It just became out of vogue. The responders here are probably just too young to know this.

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I had never heard the term used as tired before.

But I can see where it's really saying the same thing. If you're "All In" (tired), you've given all you had to give, you have no strength left, no energy...it's time to go to bed, you have nothing left in you, you're all in.

It's more like what has happened AFTER You put in all your chips, and you lost the play. You have nothing left to play with: time to retire. :)

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