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Let the Bully Win

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Chewbacca: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!
C-3PO: He made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.
Han Solo: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.
C-3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
Han Solo: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.

Two (or more) characters are playing a game. John Doe is clearly smarter, more skilled and just plain better at the game than the other. Richard Roe still wins. Why? Because Richard is a Sore Loser and it would be detrimental to John's continued good health to win against Richard.

This is often the case when a Bad Boss plays a game with his mooks - who are too terrified not to let him win. Other times it happens between a smart but not too strong player and a not-as-smart but definitely stronger opponent. It can also happen between any kind of boss, benevolent or not, and a Yes-Man. The yes-man will always let the boss win because he wants to placate the boss' ego, even if the boss would rather win (or lose) fairly.

It's related to Appeal to Force.

This is NOT the Disproportionate Retribution itself, or the act of Rage Quitting. Throwing the Fight is about losing because of a genuine threat, whereas this is about losing because of an implied or assumed threat.



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  • Depending on the Writer, The Kingpin's many gym workouts may invoke this, as the many Mooks he inevitably beats up are typically under his direct employ, and in some cases may even be paid to lose to make him look better.
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin deliberately loses the ball to Hobbes.
    Calvin: I'm losing the game, but winning an ambulatory adulthood.
  • The entire events of the Black Moon Chronicles are set in motion because of Lucifer playing chess (and always winning) against his minion Pazuzu (who knows exactly how much Lucifer's promise not to kill the one who bests him is worth), who keeps losing so as not to incur his master's wrath. So they decide to play the game with mortals instead.
  • Maus features a Jewish collaborator during the Holocaust, who deliberately loses money during card games to German soldiers so they keep liking him.


  • The page quote (and semi-trope namer) comes from Star Wars: A New Hope, when R2-D2 is playing and beating Chewbacca at dejarik.
    • C-3PO's advice to R2-D2, "Let the Wookiee win", has become a proverb, especially on the Internet. It means "With nothing substantial at stake, it is best to give way to whoever cares the most". Proponents of this principle argue that a lot of time and energy is often wasted on trivial arguments just because people can't stand losing. Opponents argue that it could lead to the enabling of an abuser — an extreme example would be Britain's appeasement of Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II.
  • Double Subverted in Jet Li's War, with Yakuza boss Shiro practicing sword sparring with one of his men. When he allows himself to be distracted, the other guy accidentally strikes him, and immediately begs forgiveness. Shiro calmly tells him not to worry, and that is was his own fault for allowing himself to be distracted... and then kills him anyway.
  • Friday: During a game of craps.
    Smokey: I won; gimme my money.
    Deebo: You what?
    Smokey: I lost.


  • Isaac Asimov's "The Mayors": King Lepold, excited after his recent successful hunt, offers his noblemen a bet about his skill. No one dares to take the risk of winning, which he interprets as them all agreeing with his opinion.


     Live Action Television  

  • On The Adventures of Pete & Pete, a school bully with a paper motif, nicknamed "Papercut", was so intimidating to the other kids that they would always pick rock whenever he challenged anybody to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
  • Averted in the frequent poker games in Star Trek: The Next Generation. If Worf were as big of an asshole as some of the other Klingons we see in the show, this would be his strategy, but he's a rather gracious loser.
  • Yeralash has an episode where two boys are playing chess, and the stronger one constantly makes hidden threats. At the end, the weaker one brings an even stronger guy to sit in his place.
  • In Family Matters, Carl lets his boss cheat at Golf. Initially.
  • Played with in Malcolm in the Middle. Both Francis and Commandant Spangler are highly skilled at pool, but Francis has been throwing games because Spangler will be upset about losing and take it out on the cadets. When Spangler learns about this, he threatens to cancel everyone's privileges if Francis doesn't give his best. Francis takes a third option by losing on purpose, and the match eventually devolves into a competition to see who can play the worse game of 8-ball, with both players using all kinds of trick shots to sink the cue ball at the same time as the 8. By the end of the exhibition, everyone's lost track of who has 'lost' more games, so it's impossible to declare a winner.
  • In an early episode of Scrubs, both J.D and Dr. Steadman, the hospital's resident Yes-Man, go to play golf with Chief of Medicine Dr. Kelso with the intent of doing this, and the hope of scoring some points and getting themselves in line for a promotion from Kelso. Much to J.D's surprise Dr. Cox is also there for the game... solely because Cox enjoys thrashing Kelso and punching holes in Kelso's ego.
  • The Wire has a variant of this where Mayor Royce will go to play poker with some of the city's high rollers, who lose on purpose to him, so that the money they "lose" to him in turn becomes bribe/campaign donation money for Royce. (And so Royce allows them to get away with all of their own bits of corruption.) This way they're not breaking any laws against illegal contributions or bribes, they're just all guys playing a game, and it's a coincidence that the Mayor is walking away with all the cash. Some of the other players grumble about it, however, because Royce has become so greedy over the years that they're starting to get fed up with how much they have to lose in order to appease him.
  • Narcos: Pablo Escobar and one of his lieutenants are playing pool and talking shop. Pablo is already on edge because a rival Cartel isn't showing him the respect he thinks he deserves. Then the lieutenant unwittingly beats him. Pablo reacts by congratulating him, handing him a sum of money for winning... and immediately quadruples his "War Tax" on all of his lieutenants.
  • ''M*A*S*H: Charles Emerson Winchester III was reassigned to the 4077th from Tokyo after creaming his superior officer in cribbage, and engaging in some Unsportsmanlike Gloating about how much the Colonel in question owes him. When said Colonel visits the 4077th, Winchester sees an opportunity to get back to Tokyo by buttering up the Colonel, engaging in this trope to do so.

     Video Games  

  • Played with in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: His underlings blatantly let Wu Zi Mu, a powerful but blind Chinese gangster, win whenever they play anything, including moving the cup when he plays Office Golf or lying about their cards in Blackjack, which leads to funny moments when Carl, not caring, beats him regularly. Judging by his personality, "Woozie" a nice enough guy, especially to his men, that he probably wouldn't care if his minions beat him or not, but to his experienced mooks it's better being safe than sorry.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Chewbacca incident mentioned under "Film" above is referenced in Star Wars: The Old Republic, on Hutta, where a Wookiee is standing near a dejarik board, with a protocol droid missing its arms and its head smashed in.
    • It is also referenced in LEGO Star Wars II, where Chewbacca's finishing move on Stormtroopers is to tear their arms out of their sockets (very easy to do with Lego figures).
  • At one point in Mass Effect 2, two of your engineers will invite you to a game of cards that you can potentially score credits from. The paragon option will have Shepard ask them to go easy on him, which makes them let their guard down. The renegade option will tell them that it's not a good idea to win against their boss, but after it's done they'll convince themselves that Shepard was just kidding.
  • In the Pig King's Tower in Mother 3, Lucas must compete against several robotic likenesses of the Pig King in various events, however, in order to progress Lucas must lose the events in order to stroke the Pig King's massive ego.
    • More specifically, he has to just barely lose (for instance, whack one less mole in a game of whack-a-mole or lose a race by a single step), which makes it even more insulting - the robots are absolutely dreadful at all of the games.

     Web Comics  

  • Bug has this problem with Grizzlies.

     Western Animation  

  • The Simpsons: During the annual Nuclear Power Plant company picnic, everyone has to let Mr. Burns win the sack race.
    • Similarly, in a comic story in Simpsons Illustrated magazine, Homer lets Mr. Burns win at golf.
  • On the Looney Tunes short "My Little Duckaroo", Daffy Duck plays a game of poker with feared outlaw Nasty Canasta. Daffy deals Canasta one card, then keeps the rest for himself, giving him a "royal straight flush full house with four aces high." Canasta wins with the three of spades...and a revolver shoved down Daffy's gullet.
  • Rocko's Modern Life, "Teed Off": Ed Bighead is playing a game with his boss Mr. Dupette, and is instructed to let Dupette win. The groundskeepers at the golf course strictly enforce this by shooting Ed's ball down with pianos. However, they did not count on Heffer, who rigs the game back In Ed's favor.
    • Actually somewhat subverted since Mr. Dupette was actually a rather good sport and was completely oblivious to the fact that the executives are rigging the game in his favor. He didn't really mind losing and even congratulates Ed when he does win. Ed does however gets the crap kicked out of him by his supervisor, who got quite the Villainous Breakdown from his efforts to prevent Heffer's interference.
  • The croquet game in Disney's Alice in Wonderland is rigged in the Queen of Hearts' favor, with the cards playing the wickets moving so that the ball goes through every time. When one misses, he is inevitably sent away to the chopping block.
  • In Adventure Time, Jake convinces Finn to play an outlandish card game with him because his girlfriend won't play with him anymore. Finn, who's never played before, does much better than expected, causing Jake to become increasingly agitated. Eventually, BMO tells Finn that Jake gets extremely upset whenever he loses a game, so to make things easier on both of them, Finn throws the game.

Alternative Title(s): Let The Boss Win, Winning By Intimidation, Golfing With The Boss


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