Wild cards

wild card

noun
1.
Cards. a card having its value decided by the wishes of the players.
2.
a determining or important person or thing whose qualities are unknown, indeterminate, or unpredictable: In a sailboat race the weather is the wild card.
3.
Tennis. a player, usually without ranking, who is allowed to enter a tournament at the discretion of the tournament committee after regularly qualifying competitors have been selected.

Origin:
1530–40

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
wild card
 
n
1.  See wild
2.  sport a player or team that has not qualified for a competition but is allowed to take part, at the organizers' discretion, after all the regular places have been taken
3.  an unpredictable element in a situation
4.  computing a symbol that can represent any character or group of characters, as in a filename

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

wild card
1927, in fig. sense, from literal use in poker, from wild (adj.) + card (n.). Sports team sense first recorded 1950s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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