Where does the phrase “to leave in the lurch” come from and What does it mean?

The phrase “to leave in the lurch” has nothing to do with the lurching of a ship or a drunken man.

But we can’t do very much with it except to trace it to an old French dicing game called lourche, which somewhat resembled the present game of backgammon and which was played some time before the seventeenth century.

The player who was left in the lurch was apparently left far behind the goal, for in later games in which the name persisted it kept that meaning, as in cribbage in which lurch describes the state of the player who has pegged fewer than thirty-one holes while his opponent has scored sixty-one and the game.