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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 (much to their chagrin) 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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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Way of the Househusband, there's a bit where Tatsu is teaching Miku how to play golf. All of his tips are designed for someone who wants to lose without looking like they're trying to lose. It is abundantly clear that this was a skill he cultivated to avoid embarrassing his Yakuza superiors when playing golf with them.
  • Inverted in Yu-Gi-Oh! during the Duelist Kingdom arc. When Arc Villain Pegasus is holding his brother Mokuba hostage, Kaiba is forced to win a duel against Yugi in order to face him. As a result, when he's about to lose he's so desperate that he threatens his own life by standing on a ledge so that if Yugi attacks he'll fall to his death. Yami Yugi attempted to ignore it and win the duel anyway, but Yugi stopped him.

    Comic Books 
  • The entire events of the Black Moon Chronicles are set in motion because of Lucifer playing chess (and always winning) against his minion Pazuzu. The latter knows exactly how much Lucifer's promise not to kill the one who beats him is worth, so he keeps losing deliberately so as not to incur his master's wrath. Then they decide to play the game with mortals instead.
  • 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.
  • Maus features a Jewish collaborator during the Holocaust, who deliberately loses money during card games to German soldiers so they keep liking him.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin deliberately loses the ball to Hobbes.
    Calvin: I'm losing the game, but winning an ambulatory adulthood.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Flirting Scholar: The main character is an incognito famous painter posing as a lowly servant who has to pretend that his boss is a better painter.
  • Friday: During a game of craps:
    Smokey: I won; gimme my money.
    Deebo: You what?
    Smokey: I lost.
  • The page quote (and semi-trope namer) comes from Star Wars: A New Hope, when R2-D2 is playing and beating Chewbacca at dejarik, or holochess. In fact, Wookiees are so infamous for being Sore Losers that in Star Wars: The Clone Wars a dejarik club on the planet Abafar banned them over it.
    • 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.
    • Another common way to phrase it is "Is this a hill you're willing to die on?" I.e., is whatever you're defending so critical that you're willing to sacrifice something important for it - job, reputation, relationship, etc.
  • Double Subverted in Jet Li's War (2007), 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 it was his own fault for allowing himself to be distracted... and then cuts off the man's ear.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm, despite its extremely status-based society, Deconstructs this in various instances:
    • Manchild Sylvester hates the fact that everyone is supposed to let people of higher status take the better positions in the yearly hunting competition in the Noble's Quarter's forest. This is coming from the person with the highest rank in the duchy, who is among the very few entitled to first place.
    • After getting Adopted into Royalty, the protagonist has to tell her noble adoptive brother's retainers to quit doing this, because her brother is set to inherit a seat in which competent Honest Advisor types are more needed than Yes-Men and it's hard to tell which retainers are the competent ones if they are all holding back in hope of getting on her brother's good side. She makes the same demand of people who want to be her own retainers.
    • The protagonist periodically engages in this to avoid having her opponent start outright hating the game from losing too often, when she wants said opponent to acquire skills that can be developed by playing it.
  • 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 TV 
  • 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.
  • In Family Matters, Carl lets his boss cheat at Golf. Initially.
  • Discussed in Game of Thrones. King Robert Baratheon, having been a skilled warrior in his youth, is determined to engage in tournament combat. Ned, worried for his safety, invokes this trope, insisting that no would would dare risk the king's wrath by beating him in combat. Robert's pride won't allow him to engage in a rigged fight, so he resignedly withdraws.
  • 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.
  • ''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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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" becomes bribe/campaign donation money for Royce. 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. If they didn't do this, the implication is that Royce would suddenly start cracking down on them for their corruption or use the power of the city bureaucracy to complicate their lives and business ventures. While the other players generally accept this as an inherent part of their dirty dealings, some of the other players grumble about the whole thing 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.

    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 (and preventing CJ from scoring a goal) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).

    Web Comics 
  • Bug has this problem with Grizzlies.

    Web Video 
  • In the Regular Car Reviews video for the 2012 Porsche Cayman R, Mr. Regular suggests this to Cayman drivers who end up racing against a Chevrolet Corvette on the street:
    Mr. Regular: If a Porsche Cayman driver loses a race, they'll just go buy more polo shirts. But if a Corvette driver loses a street race... they call the cops.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • In one episode of American Dad! it's shown that the Smiths rig each family game night so Stan wins because of how destructive and toxic he gets when he doesn't.
  • Zig-Zagged in an episode of Bojack Horseman where Bojack unwittingly agrees to compete in a rigged Game Show against Daniel Radcliffe. Both characters are the bully in a way, as Daniel was cocky and rude towards Bojack, but Bojack was set up to be the heel for the audience to root against. Despite everyone's pleas to just play along, Bojack lets his pride get in the way and cheats his way to victory only to sabotage himself in the end to spite Daniel in spite of the fact that the whole thing was for charity and his shenanigans resulted in them getting nothing.
  • 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.
  • In the Regular Show episode "Death Punchies", Rigby learns the art of Death Kwon Do after getting sick of Mordecai (and everyone else) always beating him in their game Punchies, only for Mordecai to do the same. When their battle ends up taking them deep into the Earth's crust and the crater starts filling with lava, Rigby refuses to quit and Mordecai realizes that the only way for them to both escape with their lives is for him to throw the fight.
  • Played With in the episode "Teed Off" of Rocko's Modern Life. Ed Bighead is playing a game with his boss Mr. Dupette, and is instructed to let Dupette win. The groundskeepers at the golf course 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. Mr. Dupette actually turned out to be a good sport, and congratulated Ed on the win. Ed does however get the crap kicked out of him by his supervisor, who got quite the Villainous Breakdown from his efforts to prevent Heffer's interference.
  • Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School has Scrappy-Doo distract a giant well-dweller the group is trapped with by luring it into a game of Wall Ball by bouncing one off the narrow space. Before long, it gets into the game and manages to swat the ball, but Shaggy is more nervous about the affair when it roars while continuing to try hitting the now speeding ball.
    Shaggy: Like, I hope you let 'im win, Scrappy! This guy looks like a sore loser!
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

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


Let the Wookiee win.

The page quote (and semi-trope namer) comes from Star Wars: A New Hope, when R2-D2 is playing and beating Chewbacca at dejarik, or holochess. 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.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / LetTheBullyWin

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