Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ambs-ace n.

also ames-ace
[SE ambs-ace, double ace or both aces; thus the lowest possible throw in dice]

1. nothing, next to nothing.

[UK]Chaucer Man of Law’s Prologue line 123: O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas! Youre bagges been nat filled with ambes as, But with sys cynk, that renneth for your chaunce.
[UK]Lydgate Minor Poems 166: Whos chaunce go the neyther on synk nor sice, But with ambes ace encresithe his dispence.
[UK]Nashe Unfortunate Traveller in Wells (1964) 230: I durst pawn the credit of a page – which is worth ambs-ace at all times.
[UK]Jonson Bartholomew Fair I i: Who would have mark’d such a leap-frog chance now? A very less than ames-ace, on two dice!
[UK]J. Cleveland Poem in Character of a London-Diurnall 11: Thou Twins-in-one, in whom Dame nature tries To throw lesse than Aumes-ace upon two dyes.
[UK] ‘The Second part’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) II 107: Duckenfield’s in a pittifull Case [...] And he’s thrown Aums Ace, / Tyburn owes him a reproach.

2. bad luck, misfortune, worthlessness.

[UK]Skelton Image of Ipocrysy (third part) n.p.: This were a hevy case, A chaunce of ambease, To se youe broughte so base, To playe without a place.
[UK]Dryden Persius III 36: But then my Study was to Cog the Dice; And dext’rously to throw the lucky Sice: To shun Ames-Ace, that swept my stakes away; And watch the Box, for fear they shou’d convey False Bones, and put upon me in the Play.
[UK]S. Centlivre Gamester Act I: My evil Genius flings Am’s Ace before me.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 288: For nestor cries, Aums ace; you’re out.

In phrases

within ambs-ace of (also the ambs-ace of, within an aim’s ace)

very close to; thus excl. amerace! don’t go far!

[UK]Trial of Langhorn 18: His Wife was but aumes ace turned from a devil [F&H].
[UK]N. Ward London Spy XI 275: The wonderful Eclipse which, according to the Promises of Astronomers, was to bring this wicked World within Ambs-Ace of the day of Judgement.
[UK]R. North Examen 224: His Lordship was within Ams-ace of being put in the Plot for Godfrey’s Murder.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Ames ace. within ames ace; nearly, very near.
[UK] ‘Modern Dict.’ in Sporting Mag. May XVIII 98/2: Within ames ace; nearly, very near.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 8: amerace. Very near; don’t go far; be within call.
[UK]J.R. Lowell Among my books I 192: A lucky throw of words which may come up the sices of hardy metaphor, or the ambs-ace of conceit [F&H].
[UK]M. Edgeworth Castle Rackrent (1832) 28: He was within ames-ace of getting quit handsomely of all his enemies.
Kerry Sentinel 11 Jan. 4/1: The Laune Rangers practicall ran away with the Football championship of the county last year, and even went within an aim’s ace of securing the all-Ireland medals.
[SA]Sun. Indep. (Dublin) 31 Aug. 35/1: I sense that the caller has come within an aim’s ace of telling me it is no wonder I never amounted to anything.
[SA]Sun. Indep. (Dublin) 24 Feb. 49/5: I bought a paper shredder and [...] Wooster came within an aim’s ace of getting his whiskers caught in it.