Penny ante is a poker term, referring to a game in which every player must put a penny in the kitty in order to participate in a round. It is also used as a way of calling something paltry or insignificant.
A penny-ante poker game is the lowest-stake game possible, assuming actual money is used for wagering. By extension, a penny-ante business deal is a low-risk venture. As with other similar euphemisms, including "small potatoes" or "nickel and dime," the phrase is often used disparagingly. The word "ante" comes from the Latin root meaning "before," also seen in such words as "antedate" and "antebellum."