Definition of when the chips are down in US English:

when the chips are down

phrase

informal
  • When a very serious and difficult situation arises.

    • ‘CAN A person trust others for support when the chips are down?’
    • ‘It's a great place to play when the chips are down.’
    • ‘But the crisis has shown us how amazing people can be when the chips are down.’
    • ‘This is a dreamy, imaginative and sensitive sign, but underneath is a steely strength that can be relied upon when the chips are down; hence the rapid recovery when the band hit trouble.’
    • ‘It is like a family, and when the chips are down, everybody is there and just sort of mucks in,’ she says.’
    • ‘I learnt a lot about people and dignity when the chips are down and this started my interest in helping people plan their careers and achieve a measure of survivability.’
    • ‘What has happened to and because of the Tampa, the arrogant misbehaving in the face of the rule of law, is something that, when the chips are down, could happen to every one of us here.’
    • ‘But the fact is that, when the chips are down, most people haven't the courage or have too much to lose to confront the boss - whatever the situation.’
    • ‘Joe's Zimbabwe post talked about a number of things, but I want to draw on my experience and focus on one thing: what makes people act when the chips are down?’
    • ‘In crunch time, to use another sports analogy, when the chips are down, those of us who cover sports do tend to let our fandom show, and this is despite the jaded nature of the average sports reporter.’
    • ‘I think it is the job of supporters to encourage as much as possible, even when the chips are down, and if expectations have not been met by the final whistle then fans should vent their frustration.’
    • ‘The team that used to put away inferior teams with such professional élan in the past is starting too look a little lacklustre when the chips are down.’
    • ‘But when the chips are down, Douglas has no doubt that things will be different, citing the controlled aggression displayed last year as evidence.’
    • ‘‘I think it's really important when the chips are down to support your home team,’ she said.’
    • ‘If, however, you do not see eye-to-eye with your investors then their rights - particularly when the chips are down - can become a restriction on the development of your business.’
    • ‘And that in itself is another cause for satisfaction, another sign of a ‘team’ unified in its aim; when the chips are down and things aren't going their way they roll up their sleeves and dig in.’
    • ‘He also needs to show that, notwithstanding his mostly-superficial second term problems, he can get what he wants from the Senate when the chips are down.’
    • ‘But in actual fact when the chips are down and the global operations centre cannot diagnose what's wrong with a particular service, it falls back on people in the field.’
    • ‘But when the chips are down (despite some pretty unlikely situations), their determination shines through.’
    • ‘A truly mean player won't hesitate to play dirty when the chips are down.’