What Is the Origin of Sandbagging?

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The term sandbagging generally refers to a cheat who conceals his real talents to fool his opponent. In cards, a sandbagger pretends his hand is lousy to get other players to put greater stakes on the table. In golf, a sandbagger pretends he has a lower level of ability than he really does. In pool, think Paul Newman in "The Hustler": a pool shark acting like an amateur to raise the bets against him. Though the origin of the word sandbagging didn't mean quite the same thing, it did have a negative definition that has carried on through the years.

Back in the Day

  • The word ''sandbag'' dates back as far as the 1580s, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, and referred merely to a bag filled with sand, often used as a weapon. The noun evolved into a verb around 1887 meaning to attack someone with a sandbag, making a sandbagger a rotten individual who ambushed his victims with that sandbag. In the 1940s, sandbagging meant to hold back from betting at first in hopes of making a greater bet later. The modern meaning of the term took shape around 1970.

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