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Against All Odds: Counterterrorist Hostage Rescues By Samuel M. Katz

Under intense pressure and with the highest odds at stake, these professional soldiers and police officers must perform and get it right.

I am not sure if "odds at stake" is idiomatic. Doesn't that translate to "odds at risk"? How can an odds be at risk? I would understand if they said "odds they face", but "odds at stake" doesn't seem to be right. Is there something I am missing?

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  • Unless this is some kind of regional usage, I agree with you. "At stake" are the outcomes, the consequences, and peoples' lives, etc., not the probabilities (the "odds").
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 0:51
  • I also think it’s a mistake. On google ngrams, it appears it’s never used
    – user33415
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 0:53

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I agree that 'odds at stake' is not idiomatic. I think it is a combination of two other phrases that are commonly used at times like this when the author is trying to build suspense. Sometimes people mistakenly conflate two commonly used phrases and come up with something that doesn't mean what they're trying to say.

The two phrases that are being confused are 'against the highest odds' and 'with something valuable at stake'.

We say 'against the highest odds' when the odds of failure are very high. There is a good chance that the endeavor will not succeed.

Against the highest odds they beat the world champions.

We say 'with ... at stake' when we're explaining what could be lost if the endeavor fails. For instance,

With the team's reputation at stake he chose to shoot the goal.
With her career at stake she made a heroic attempt to get the deal

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    In theory, it should read with the highest stakes at stake, but I can see why somebody might not want to repeat the word in that way. But rather than saying the somewhat nonsensical with the highest odds at stake, it would make much more sense to say with the highest stakes at risk. Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 16:33

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