cards are stacked against

Many difficulties face someone or something, as in The cards are stacked against the new highway project. This term originated in gambling, where to stack the cards or stack the deck means to arrange cards secretly and dishonestly in one's own favor or against one's opponent. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.