Out for Blood

When I was a kid, my family and I played cards—a lot. We seldom played for money, but if we did, it was merely penny ante. What we usually played for, however, was blood. We were the quintessential illustration of the old phrase, “out for blood.” We were all about winning, and short of cheating, we did anything we could be victorious (at least I don’t remember anyone cheating—I could be wrong).

Then, I went to college. At school, I walked innocently into the same scenario. The guys in the dorm played the same way I was taught. Usually there was no money involved (unless it was the occasional penny ante stuff), but everyone was out for blood. No need to get homesick there. And since I played cards far more than I studied, it quickly and easily became my home away from home.

It’s Just a Game

A couple days ago, the latest iteration of my family (my lovely Bride, my oldest daughter, and I) decided to reinstitute the almost forgotten tradition of playing 500 Rummy. We quickly discovered that we all played by slightly differing rules. Just as quickly, we discovered that my tradition of card playing was vastly different as my spouse’s. I play for blood, while she plays for fun. As she aptly put it, “It’s just a game!”

This was a foreign phrase to me, so I looked it up. Sure enough, she was right. This changed everything, and we decided to stop keeping score. Wow! What a difference. It was much more fun than I had anticipated (although, playing for blood still runs deep in my veins—pardon the pun).

I also decided to look up the origin of the idiom, “Out for blood.” I couldn’t find it, but I ran across another idiom that seemed appropriate enough. It was, “Above board.” I had never thought about that one, but my impression was that it had something to do with sailing. Wrong…


Above board has to do with card playing. This is what the all-knowing Internet had to say about it. “Cardsharps place their hands under the ‘board’ or table to stack the deck. If they keep their hands above the board, they can be presumed to be performing without trickery.” That made sense, but I had always thought that word to be “cardsharks,” not “cardsharps.” And, since my spellcheck is rejecting the “sharks” version, I suspect I have always been wrong. You learn something new every day.

Anyway, back to being “out for blood.” I had anticipated finding a connection between the saying and the cross of Christ. Since His blood was spilled on our behalf, I was hoping I could tie it in for today’s blog. Alas, there is no apparent correlation between the two. I could easily make one up, but intellectual honesty prevents me from doing so.

Suffice it to say, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). I suppose this applies to cards as well as sin.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.