Here's what I posted. The numbers are the occurrences per million words, first in the British National Corpus, and second in the Time corpus (in peak decade).
- hit the jackpot: 0.32 (2.0 in 1940s)
- on a roll: 0.30 (2.21 in 1990s)
- ace in the hole: 0.04 (0.08 in 1940s)
- Bingo!: 0.17 (0.64 in 1990s)
- play(s/ed/ing): [somebody's] cards close to [somebody's] chest 0.07 (0.06 in 1960s)
- wild card: 0.54 (1.38 in 1990s)
- shoot the works: 0 (0.80 in 1930s)
- put(s/ting) * money down: 0.05 (0.11 in 1990s)
- beginner's luck: 0.04 (0.32 in 1960s)
To give you some context anathema, which is about the 23,800th most common word in the British National Corpus, occurs 1.42 times per million words. In other words, unless a learner of English has a huge vocabulary, there are lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of more useful things teachers can be teaching them than gambling idioms (or almost any other idiom, for that matter).
The following is a sample of the responses. Over the next few days I'll try to untangle some of them.
"So I think we can safely say that there are times that word frequency lists can be misleading."
" I have noted, at first with some dismay, the rabid attacks on any form of linguistic sophistication. Apparently, our foreign students have far better things to do than learn the subtleties of the language they are studying."
"Comments have been made on teaching idioms. Idioms are of utmost necessity in using and understanding English. "
"I have never said the word anathema, partly cos I'm not sure how to say it. But the gambling idiomatic terms turn up frequently - maybe once a month for each, in colloquial speech in NZ, so they should/could be taught."
"None of the correspondents have suggested that they have any difficulty recognising or understanding “hit the jackpot”, yet the low level of occurrence of the expression in corpora suggests that it should be so unfamiliar as to cause difficulty even to native speakers (I could imagine that there are many native speakers of English who would have problems with “anathema”). If the expression is so uncommon, how do we all know it?
"One possible explanation is that the corpora that we have available seriously misrepresent the language we encounter in our daily lives."