"A card up his sleeve" means to have a secret advantage that you can use later; for example, She still has one card up her sleeve. This means that she has a secret plan, idea, or advantage that can be utilized if and when it is required. Now I am asking if there is any synonym that can replace this phrase?

  • 5
    If you add some context, you might get answers that are more closely tailored to your needs. In particular, why doesn't "card up his sleeve" work for you? Do you want a more formal term, or something without gambling associations? Something less colorful or more colorful? Is there a particular context where you want to use the phrase? And so forth.
    – 1006a
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 4:39
  • 1
    Tangential: Dutch has a proverb for this, "they have a stick behind the door". To explain the image: consider someone opening the door to a stranger, but holding a baseball bat in the hand that is behind the door in case the stranger has ill intentions. The stranger should think twice before attacking the person, because they may have a stick behind the door. It is used much like "card up his sleeve", for any hidden benefit a person may have, not just aggressive/violent/defensive purposes as the example would suggest.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 10:16

5 Answers 5


There's a very similar phrase: "She still has a trick up her sleeve."

trick up (one's) sleeve

A secret plan, idea, or advantage that can be utilized if and when it is required. A reference to cheating at a card game by hiding a favorable card up one's sleeve. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve if he decides to pursue legal action against me.

(source: The Free Dictionary)

  • Flashbacks to the best episode of Only Fools & Horses ever written! Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 12:23

You're probably looking for

ace in the hole
A secret advantage, or some kind of resource kept until needed. It refers to a high-value card in stud poker which is kept face down while bets are made.

TFD Online

The "hole card" in stud is the card that is dealt first and remains face down until a showdown occurs.


One (also informal) synonym is secret weapon:

someone or something that gives you a special advantage over your opponents, especially in business or politics
The show could be ABC’s secret weapon in the ratings war this fall.
Macmillan Dictionary


trump card:

an advantage that makes you more likely to succeed than other people, especially something that other people do not know about.


I read your question as if you are looking for a word instead of a phrase. Maybe the word is "resourceful". I understand that to describe someone who always comes out of situations as if he had had a card up his sleeve.

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