Follow TV Tropes



Go To

"When you work in intelligence, there's no bigger slap in the face than a picture of yourself in the middle of an operation. It sends a clear message: we're one step ahead of you; we're in control; we own you. Mylar balloons and a bottle of champagne, that's just twisting the knife."
Burn Notice, "Scatter Point"

A character has come up with a perfect plan to ensnare an opponent. The foe is surely doomed. However, the foe has set up a superior plan, one that makes the first plan look pathetic. In short, the first plan has been Out-Gambitted.

This trope specifically has three parts:

  1. Alice makes Plan A.
  2. Bob makes Plan B in response.
  3. Plan A goes down in flames.

Or alternatively:

  1. Bob makes Plan B in anticipation of Alice making plan A.
  2. Alice makes Plan A.
  3. Plan A goes down in flames.

This is one of the reasons why the Unspoken Plan Guarantee works.

Sometimes this situation is The Chessmaster vs. a superior Chessmaster, and sometimes it's somebody who only thinks he's the Chessmaster vs. someone who actually is.

Compare Spanner in the Works (Alice is outdone by accident), Kansas City Shuffle (Alice thought Bob was using a different Plan B), Big Bad Wannabe, Gambit Pileup, I Know You Know I Know, Last Plan Standing, Touché (graciously admitting you were beaten), Xanatos Speed Chess.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • This describes every match in Akagi; Akagi manipulates everyone around him (even people who are watching the entire Mahjong games from the outside) as they think they have him cornered.
  • In Attack on Titan, the Central Military Police, who had tortured Pastor Nick to death and had been working for a shadowy conspiracy in order to kidnap Eren seemingly get the upper hand on Levi and co when they flush them out of their hideout and then enact a plan to kidnap Eren and Christa that goes off without a hitch. But then it turns out that Levi and the 104th were not only warned about their location being compromised, but also of the kidnapping plot: Eren and Christa were in a different area, completely safe. They'd kidnapped Armin and Jean disguised as Christa and Eren. Levi and co never even lost them.
  • The Washimine yakuza clan ended up with this in Black Lagoon.
    • To start, they attempted to make an alliance with Hotel Moscow, with hopes that they'll take care of their enemies. Hotel Moscow sends Balalaika and her Badass Army to help them. Her brutal tactics against Washimine's other Yakuza rivals quickly spiral out of control and the Washimine head attempts to assassinate Balalaika... Big mistake. The head got his neck snapped by Balalaika herself and with this Casus Belli in hand, Hotel Moscow allies with the rest of the Yakuza Council against Washimine and begins destroying them piecemeal.
    • Yukio, a high school girl and the lead's last relative, takes control over the clan and manages to restore some semblance of fighting strength and strikes back, taking out the local head of Hotel Moscow... Who was one of Balalaika's hated rivals. Since Balalaika's troops are made of former Soviet Airborne Troops who fought at Afghanistan and can start and win World War III, Balalaika quickly fights with much more cunning and brutality, which almost completely destroy Washimine...
    • Once this is done, Balalaika uses the guise of her new alliance to murder the heads of the entire rest of the council, throwing the entire Tokyo underworld into all-out chaos and giving Hotel Moscow carte blanche to move in and seize control. Which had been Balalaika's objective all along, and she outplayed at least three other factions in the process. Once she realized that Balalaika had won the war, and Yukio's bodyguard and most faithful supporter Ginji died in a duel with Revy, Yukio chose to commit suicide rather than giving Balalaika the ultimate laugh. It wasn't better that Washimine clan itself suffered a civil war between those who supported Yukio and those who supported Chaka, which finished when Chaka was brutally slain by Ginji for kidnapping Yukio, beating her bloody, sexually humiliating her via stripping her almost naked, intending to sell her into sex slavery, and trying to use her as a human shield.
  • In Bleach, Shinji explains his reversing ability to Aizen, but leaves out the fact that he can reverse each of the three dimensions individually. Just when Aizen has him "figured out", Shinji reverses only front and back, allowing Hitsugaya to stab Aizen from behind, which he never suspects because he's not reversed in the other two directions. Cut to Aizen revealing that he's been using Kyoka Suigetsu this whole time, and just made Hitsugaya stab Hinamori.
    • Aizen's on the receiving end of this trope several times during his end-game. The first and most obvious one is when Gin pulls a Starscream and tries to kill Aizen. Aizen has, of course, been expecting this all along, but Gin reveals he was the only shinigami that completely lied about how his powers worked while biding his time to figure out the weakness in Aizen's abilities. He proceeds to instantly kill Aizen with his Bankai's true power, making Aizen experience true fear for the first time in his life. Unfortunately, the Hogyoku grafted to Aizen's chest is able to save him and use that fear to help him evolve, but this means that Aizen's new form completely fails to adapt to Ichigo's Look What I Can Do Now! power-up later. After Aizen's defeat, it turns out that Aizen was also Out-Gambitted by Urahara from the start; while Urahara outsmarted and nearly killed Aizen several times in their fight, Aizen walked away victorious but failed to notice it had all been an elaborate distraction for a seal to lock Aizennote  away when he inevitably grew too reliant on the Hogyouku and was rejected by it.
  • In the Bokurano anime, Koeyemshi is trying to get Kana Ushiro to be the next Zearth pilot by putting mental pressure on her and threatening to force her brother Jun to do it instead if she refuses. However, Jun secretly asks his and Kana's friend Youko Machi to help, and she stops Koeyemshi by shooting him to death and then taking over the pilot system, de-contracting Kana and taking her place to use Zearth in the next battle. She dies as a result, and later Jun pilots Zearth and dies too, but Kana is ultimately safe.
  • Subverted in the Case Closed anime. The Anti-Villain Akemi Miyano met up with Gin and Vodka, fellow members of the Black Organization, and told them they wouldn't kill her or they'd never know where she put the HUGE sum of money that she stole for them... but they shot her to death and took the key to the locker where she hid it. However, Akemi had the last laugh: said locker key was false, and she gave the real one to Conan (who had tried to disuade her from the robbery) before dying.
  • In Death Note, Near & Mello beat Light by anticipating his "fake Death Note" plan and exploiting it for their own purpose.
  • The Buu Arc of Dragon Ball is full of gambits and plans that end up being nullified by even superior gambits and plans. Probably the worst example was when Super Buu demanded seeing the "Strong Fighter"/ Gotenks (Goten and Trunks fused together) he was promised by Goku, and in an effort to buy more time Piccolo suggests that Buu amuse himself by terrorizing the people of Earth, knowing they can be revived with the Dragon Balls. Despite Majin Buu's previous rampage there were still billions of humans left on earth so Piccolo thought that with that many humans left it would take Super Buu at least a few hours to fly across the world and terrorize every single one of them. Super Buu instead kills every single human, with the exception of Mr. Satan, Tien, Chiaotzu and all those present on Kami's Lookout, in only two minutes and never left Kami's Lookout while doing it. All of humanity had essentially become a Sacrificial Lamb for the sake of giving Goten and Trunks just two more minutes of time to train. It's safe to say that Piccolo's plan of trying to outsmart Super Buu to gain more time backfired on him tremendously. Every time the heroes would come up with a plan of defeating Super Buu, Super Buu would just outplay them or outsmart them. Another example would be when Piccolo destroyed the only exit of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber forever trapping himself, Gotenks and Super Buu in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. What does Super Buu do? He rips a hole through dimensions by screaming (though it should be noted that this had no planning whatsoever and he was just really angry at being denied sweets) and escapes the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, leaving Gotenks and Piccolo trapped inside while he turns the rest of the Z-Fighters into candy and then eats them. Probably the only person who was ever able to out-gambit Super Buu was Vegito. Who intentionally wanted to be absorbed by Super Buu and beat the shit out of him effortlessly to piss him off enough to make Super Buu desperate enough to absorb him. Super Buu instead turns Vegito into a jawbreaker. Vegito then uses his new form to kick Super Buu's ass. Vegito then points out that being turned into candy actually works as an advantage to him because he is extremely fast and far too small for Super Buu to hit and also retains all of his power because he's so much stronger than Super Buu.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Hohenheim manages to completely undo Father's transformation of everyone in Amestris into a philosopher's stone using a transmutation circle made from the shadow of the solar eclipse. And this was possible because Father's own Evil Plan required that solar eclipse. Furthermore, Hohenheim's allies undo the seal Father put on everyone else's alchemy by using Father's own transmutation circle.
  • Harem Royale - When the Game Ends - has an exchange of plots between Serika and Ren that eventually results in the former's victory. First, Serika impersonates Asunaro and sends a request for a meeting to the fifth heroine to lure her out. Ren suspects a trap and sends someone else to the site of the meeting. However, Serika predicts this and is able to deduce Ren's identity and location. Not only that, but she later arranges a loss for Ren and convinces her to work with the others.
  • This is how the main characters in Higurashi: When They Cry finally win. Rika, using her "Groundhog Day" Loop induced prescience and The Power of Friendship, successfully out-gambits the people trying to kill her.
  • Hunter × Hunter:
    • During the Hunter Exam arc, Gon is engaged in a game of choice: he has to keep one of two candles lit in a windy room for longer than his examiner can do the same. As such, he picks the longer one, but the examiner actually has four candles, two of which are rigged to burn quickly. However, because it burns so strongly, he's able to leave it unattended to blow out his opponent's candle.
    • Another test involves the room where they must leave two people behind or take the long road. The team loses 50 hours in a gambling match just after the above example, so they have about 2 hours left, one route which only 3 of the five can travel down takes 5 minutes, the other route takes about 12 hours. The solution Gon sees is to choose the long route, break through the wall to the short route, then stop for just long enough to slide down the hill on a door...and the group make it to the finish with less than a second to spare.
  • Dio to Jotaro in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In part 3, Dio launched a barrage of knives against Jotaro, which made him fall quite a long distance. Knowing Jotaro was probably Not Quite Dead because No One Could Survive That!, he decided to chop his head off with a stop sign. Too bad that's just what Jotaro wanted, because he got a free hit while Dio was closing in. Earlier, Jotaro successfully Out-Gambitted D'Arby in their poker game, where the stakes were the souls of him, Joseph, Polnareff, Avdol, Kakiyoin, and Jotaro's mother Holly, alongside the secret to Dio's Stand — the boy that Jotaro choose to give the cards was working for D'Arby, and gave Jotaro weak cards, but Jotaro refused to look at them, making D'Arby think that he had switched them, and added too much to the stakes, with the possibility that losing would equal D'Arby's death from blabbing Dio's secret, playing a Batman Gambit that made D'Arby break down.
    • Every fight in JoJo, considering that it's a series where intelligence goes far beyond strength, results in one of the fighters being Out-Gambitted, such as Joseph's battle with Esdisi in part 2.
    • One of the earliest examples lies in part 1, when Dio planned to have Jonathan cut him in order to take hold of and freeze him. Jonathan Out-Gambitted him by cutting him at an area with the tip of his sword at the torch that allowed him to defrost himself.
    • Joseph Joestar's epic chariot battle against Wham/Wamuu. Every tactic one fighter used was immediately countered by the other, with Joseph barely prevailing in the end.
    • In Part 4, Angelo pulled a Batman Gambit, predicting Josuke would choose to break through a specific wall in his house to escape Angelo's Aqua Necklace. so he set a humidifier into overdrive behind that specific wall. Aqua Necklace successfully entered Josuke's body...and then Josuke revealed he had shredded and swallowed a rubber glove. One use of Crazy Diamond, and Aqua Necklace was trapped.
  • Every major battle in Kingdom comes down to this, with each side trying their best to come up with innovative moves to blindside their opponents while trying to predict what their opponent was trying to do.
    • Perhaps the superlative example in-series occurs in the Gyou Campaign. Qin wants to invade Zhao, and the planned route would be through the mountains. Riboku sees through this and heavily fortifies the region, potentially turning the campaign into a costly war of attrition. So, Qin decides to surprise Riboku by attacking through a different route, aiming to capture the cities of Retsubi and Gyou. However, Riboku has seen through this, and purposefully leaves Retsubi weak while fortifying Gyou, hoping that the Qin get overconfident and bogged down, where he can capture back the weak Retsubi, bottling the Qin in and leisurely destroying them. Ousen, the Qin commander sees through this, and makes a new plan to conquer Gyou — creating a refugee flood that will overwhelm Gyou's resources sooner than expected by Riboku. The lord of Gyou then tries to control these refugees by only allowing in those on their ledgers, but Ousen has seen through this as well and has his spies sneak in by replacing injured members of the refugees and disposing of the originals. At the end of this, Qin wins. And this is just one part of one campaign in the story.
  • Happened in Liar Game, where Akiyama was out-gambitted by Yokoya, who walked away with a huge amount of the winnings and left him in debt. However, Nao pointed out to Yokoya that even though he had won, he still lost the game, because he went back on his philosophy of complete dominance and instead turned to common cheating and stealing and three of his teammates had betrayed him.
  • Lupin III:
    • The main character is the world's greatest thief, so he enjoys doing this to his enemies. And Fujiko. Sometimes it happens among his antagonists even without his involvement.
    • In Lupin III: Mystery of the Hemingway Papers, arms dealer Marces tried to pull a fast one over on rebel leader Consano, but it turned out Consano anticipated that and hired away Marces's Psycho for Hire to put a bullet through his former boss's heart.
  • The "Kanna's Dad" arc of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid involves this. Azad, a wizard that plots to exterminate dragons by manipulating rival factions to killing each other, attempts to get his hands on the Dragon Stone, an item which would allow him to force dragons to do his will (thus allowing him to make dragons kill each other just through brainwashing) by becoming a human colleague to Chaos-faction dragon Kimun Kamui, who possess a Dragon Stone and then take advantage of how Kimun's daughter, Kanna, is seeking his attention first by tricking her into destroying the stone absorbing its power and then by creating a conflict where she is needed to make a new Dragon Stone. However, Kanna would not only become suspicious of him after the destruction of the Dragon Stone, but also her exile due to the incident resulted in her heading to Earth to find Tohru, which led to her becoming used to modern technology and finding a Parental Substitute in Kobayashi (whose computer programming skills would make her a powerful magic user in the Dragon World ). Thus, as she agrees to make a new Dragon Stone for her father, Kanna sets up a plan to have Kobayashi and Tohru enter the Dragon World and, via Kobayashi being able to use magic in this world and a cell phone and tape recorder that Kanna brought with her, aide in exposing Azad's true nature and eventually defeating him.
  • In Monster a hooker connects the dots and realizes that Johan Liebert has been committing a slew of murders for the past few years, so she attempts to blackmail him with this information. Johan had planned on this possibility and planted his hitman, Roberto, to act as her "boyfriend" days, maybe even weeks, ahead of time. It doesn't go well for her when she pulls a gun on Johan.
  • Naruto:
    • Shikamaru Nara pulls this off quite a lot. All of his battles involve him making his opponent so sure of their victory that they inevitably screw up and fall to his masterfully-laid Batman Gambit.
    • Itachi's plan was to kill the Uchiha clan as ordered and then die by Sasuke's hands to make the Konoha village consider Sasuke a hero. However, right after Itachi dies in battle against Sasuke, Tobi manipulates Sasuke into his own agenda which instead makes him a wanted criminal in two villages.
    • Orochimaru trains Sasuke for three years to make him stronger so that he can take over Sasuke's body to become immortal. However, Sasuke sees through this and instead uses Orochimaru's technique against him to absorb Orochimaru into his own body instead.
    • Madara planned to manipulate Tobi for his Moon's eye plan by orchestrating the death of one of Tobi's teammates at the hands of another. However, Tobi decides to keep the Moon's eye plan for himself without ever intending to bring Madara back into the picture.
    • The above-mentioned plan by Tobi gets out-gambitted by Black Zetsu who ensures that Madara is brought back by leading Kabuto to Madara's corpse for the Edo Tensei ressurection and using Kabuto to blackmail Tobi into cooperating.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Negi out gambits Kurt Godel by simply not revealing that he has an informant from the future, which allows him to guess his rival's goals.
  • In the case of Neon Genesis Evangelion, we have numerous plots going along side-by-side. We have Seele who's trying to manipulate everyone into activating Instrumentality, we have Gendo trying to reunite with his wife Yui, the angels who plan on reuniting with Adam, and later Ritsuko who plots to kill Gendo and stop his plans due to how he used her. The one who emerges on top? Rei Ayanami, who undermines Gendo after he sees an end to both the Angel's plot (sort of) and Ritsuko's plot.
  • One Piece: The Dressrosa arc amounts to a gigantic gambit pile-up between Law and Doflamingo. Ultimately, the winner is a third party — the Straw Hats, who save Law (completely disregarding the fact that he ended their alliance in order to save them and kill Doflamingo, knowing full well he'd probably die in the process) and screw up Doflamingo's plan anyway. Considering their notorious reputation as a collective Spanner in the Works, nobody should've been surprised. Law, however, was counting on that and mocked Doflamingo for not seeing it coming despite knowing of the Straw Hats reputation.
  • Kanba Takakura from Penguindrum. Several times. First his sister Masako kidnaps his brother Shouma and sets a Hostage Situation... to get a kiss from him, which she does. Later, when Himari dies for real, he fails to stop it... but Sanetoshi is able to do so, also roping Kanba in a Deal with the Devil. Which actually is the same Deal with the Devil that Masako took for the sake of her brother Mario. This means, Kanba is out-gambitted by Masako, who then is "defeated" by Sanetoshi, and then Sanetoshi plays both of them like violins, or their precious siblings (Himari and Mario) will die again. Ultimately, Kanba is so involved in Sanetoshi's plot and so desperate to save Himari for real, that he ends up having a Face–Heel Turn despite Shouma and Masako's pleas, and he can only get "free" of it via having himself Ret Goned (alongside Shouma, who does it to save Ringo from dying to Screw Destiny).
  • Pretty Cure:
    • In Suite Pretty Cure ♪, the group Trio de Minor attempt to win back their Heel–Face Turn old friend Ellen by spooking her constantly, making her think that Hibiki and Kanede were being incredibly insensitive over her fear of ghosts. It seems to work when they're able to hold the duo's Cure Modules as ransom and gets Ellen to join them only for Ellen to grab the Modules and toss them back and rejoin her friends — she had already figured out they were the ones spooking her and used the opportunity to foil their plan.
    • In Healin' Good♡Pretty Cure, Guaiwaru sets up a Batman Gambit by tricking the Cures into killing King Byo-gen and assuming power as the new king, and manages to make the Cures suffer greatly. But it turns out that King Byo-gen had been expecting his plan and cooked up one of his own, and two episodes after his defeat, he absorbs Guaiwaru to reassume his true form.
  • A masterful one happens in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Madoka is in a tight spot since three Magical Girls (Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko) have died at different spots and only Homura is left to fight off Walpurgis Night, which will destroy the world if not stopped. Madoka can defeat Walpurgis if she makes a contract with Kyuubey and becomes a Magical Girl, but will end up turning into an even more powerful witch herself. In either event, the world will end and Kyuubey will harvest the witch's energy output. Faced with this situation, Madoka becomes a Magical Girl... but uses her wish to erase every witch from existence before they're born, including all witches born in the past and future, and even including the witch that she would have become, taking advantage of how Homura's time loops have actually let her get access to more and more raw magical power, thus Kyuubey is unable to deny her and she's able to make the system and Kyuubey her bitches. This ends up altering reality and effectively rewriting the whole Magical Girl system so that magical girls will no longer turn into witches, leaving Kyuubey to gather energy from sources other than the broken dreams of young girls like Madoka and her "teammates".
    • Another one happens at the end of the sort-of prequel Puella Magi Oriko Magica. So Kyouko, Mami and Homura have managed to kill Witch!Kirika and corner Oriko, and Homura finishes her off via destroying her Soul Gem after Kyoko impales her with her spear? No, Oriko won't be stopped by that. She will use her last moments to take a shard of Kirika's witch body and shoot it out of the witch's barrier... and fulfill her original "mission": killing Madoka Kaname via getting her Impaled with Extreme Prejudice with that shard. Oy vey.
  • In Sailor Moon, this happens twice:
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! is this trope. Every duel seems to boil down to "Who will Out-Gambit who?". All players use their cards and strategies, putting a gambit against enemies and sometimes two duelists can be Out-Gambitted multiple times in the same duel. Yami Yugi's duels are almost always about how his gambit destroys his enemy's gambit.
    • Here's an example from 5D's done by Yusei. Yusei has on his field nothing except two face-down cards, against Greiger/Bommer's Flying Fortress SKYFIRE/Giant Bomber AIRRAID. If SKYFIRE's attack goes through, then Yusei will lose — and SKYFIRE allows Greiger to destroy a card on the field once per turn by discarding a card. Greiger decides not to destroy either one, speculating that it's actually a ploy to make him deplete his hand uselessly. It turns out he's right: the two cards are Wasteland Tornado and Limiter Break. Wasteland Tornado would allow Yusei to destroy a spell or trap card on the field; targeting it for destruction would be pointless because Yusei could activate it in response to the effect anyway. If Limiter Break is sent to the Graveyard, Yusei can Special Summon Speed Warrior to protect against SKYFIRE's attack. But since Greiger doesn't destroy either card, Yusei reveals that was covered, too: he activates Wasteland Tornado himself to destroy his own Limiter Break and get Speed Warrior to intercept the attack.
  • Happens incredibly often in YuYu Hakusho. Technically Yusuke's death falls in this category, along with Jaki's attempt at turning Kuwabara to the Dark Side, possibly for a stronger host, Yusuke outwitting Goki (with little difficulty) and then later Hiei, back when they first met, Kurama's fight with Roto, Kurama outwitting Kaito (although that was technically supposed to happen), Sensui and Toguro both getting their way despite the team's actions... there's also the fight between Yusuke and Kibano, who used a mask that shut out the other senses to focus on sensing spirit energy and used it to fight Yusuke in the dark. The mask however is also the reason Kibano was unable to see or smell the cigarette Yusuke put on him to find him in the darkness.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment is this trope. At the end of a rollercoaster of magical action, double-crossings, and double-double-crossings, the reader is left just as much in the dark as the viewpoint character of the book, Doctor Strange, whether everything went just as Doctor Doom planned or not..
  • Justice League of America: Lex Luthor's new Inustice League are using corporate tactics to weaken the JLA's power base before the full-scale attack. He thinks the League won't be prepared for this, but since Batman also runs a multinational corporation, he recognizes the plans and turns them on Luthor by having Green Arrow pretend to join them and giving Mirror Master a better offer. Later, both groups are both Out-Gambitted by The Joker, who briefly gets his hands on the Philosopher's Stone and turns the world into a giant smiley face.
    • Meanwhile in the same story, Metron leads The Flash, Aquaman, and Green Lantern on a wild goose chase to find the philosopher's stone landing them in a Bad Future this version of Metron comes from where Darkseid has conquered Earth. They team up with the surviving leaguers, Batman beats Metron by challenging him to experience humanity and then knocking him out.
    Metron: This is absurd. Ceaseless particle motion? What am I meant to experience.
    Batman:This (knock out punch).
  • Knights of the Dinner Table:
  • Jadina from Les Légendaires is able to out-gambit the God of Evil Anathos during the Anathos Cycle in a quite impressive way: She first let her Dark Action Girl Tenebris get captured so she can lead the Castlewar, Anathos' mobile fortress, into an Ambush inside a Canyon. Anathos sees through the trap and replies by forcing Jadina's Legendaries to split up when they attempt to infiltrate the Castlewar and having them forced to fight against his Hellions while he gets Jadina for interrogation, as he deduced this infiltration attempt was a diversion for a bigger plan. Turns out he's right, but finds that out too late: the Legendaries are able to defeat their Hellion counterparts, and both them and Jadina are able to distract him long enough for the plan to works. The Elves then open several portails between the place and their world's sea, filling the Canyon with water and thus making the Castlewar's weaponry unfunctional while they attacks it with their ships. When Anathos tries riposting by sending his Vulturs attack the ships, the Pirahni and humans arrive with flying machines and rides, quickly destroying them. Even the other Legendaries are impressed to see Jadina planned this all along.
  • New Avengers (2015) has both SHIELD and the Maker trying to outwit Sunspot and failing spectacularly. SHIELD send a Kaiju to the Avengers island base, drawing out the heavy-hitters and leaving the island vulnerable to being taken over. Except that Sunspot planned for that eventuality and had an entire second base to evacuate his personnel to. Then the Maker bugs the new place and attacks it while their defences are low. Except not quite: Sunspot knew about the bugs and deliberately fed them false information to lure the Maker to the base right when Sunspot wanted him to be there. For good measure he bugged the Maker's base in return, which gave one of his agents the opportunity to trick SHIELD into blowing it up.
  • 100 Bullets is essentially nothing but a massive Gambit Pileup from beginning to end, but as it nears its conclusion it becomes clear that the plot revolves around a three-way war between the older Trust members led by Augustus Medici, the younger Trust members, and the Minutemen. In the final issues, one of the Younger Trust members hires an assassin to take out a key ally of the Minutemen and one of the most influential older Trust members, crippling Augustus's power base and forcing him to admit he's been Out-Gambitted by the new generation and resign from the Trust... only for the Minutemen's leader, Graves, to out-gambit them by resigning himself over their objections... only for the very last issue to reveal Augustus had Out-Gambitted everyone, engineering everything up to and including his own out-gambitting so that everyone else involved in the war annihilates each other in the power vacuum resulting from his departure. He's entirely successful, too, though he doesn't live long enough to appreciate it, because the one thing he didn't count on was Graves having more standards than he expected.
  • This happened once in the Sleepwalker comics when The Kingpin was confronted with a rival crime boss named Crimewave, who was planning to usurp his position. The Kingpin's response was to manipulate Sleepwalker and Spider-Man into capturing Crimewave for him after luring Crimewave's disgruntled second-in-command into his service. Crimewave has never appeared again in large part because no writer has ever been interested in using him.
  • Spy vs. Spy was a comic consisting of the two spies Out-Gambitting each other in ridiculous and amusing ways. It would almost universally end with one of them getting shot, blown up, or hit with something due to the other spy using their plan against them.
  • A young Imperial Naval gunnery officer named Garil Dox became an instant Rebel sympathizer when the Death Star destroyed his homeworld, Alderaan. Feeling that he could do more good from the bridge of the Imperial Star Destroyer Reprisal than if he jumped ship to seek out the Alliance, he waited until Darth Vader himself came aboard to oversee the capture of several Rebel groups by Commander Demmings. Knowing Vader's temper when it came to failure, each time the Reprisal closed in its target, Dox discreetly fired a killing shot despite orders to capture. Vader's anger rising, he ordered one last mission. They arrived at a remote planet with one small settlement on it that Vader claimed was a Rebel outpost. Once again, he ordered Demmings to neutralize the enemy without killing them, and Demmings ordered the best gunner, Dox, to make the shot. Dox annihilated the outpost and waited to see Demmings' summary execution, only to be arrested on the spot. Vader revealed his knowledge of Dox's plan to discredit Commander Demmings, a valued soldier of the Empire, along with preventing capture of Rebel operatives who could reveal damaging information about the Alliance. He then twisted the knife by telling Dox that the outpost that he had just destroyed was not a Rebel base at all, but a settlement of Alderaanian refugees. Dox then expects Vader to kill him, but the Dark Lord knows it's what he wants and orders him sent to an Imperial labor camp instead, where he can serve the Empire in a useful way via Fate Worse than Death.

  • Antipodes: Rubidium kills the Attenuator for Stalliongrad, banking that Jigsaw will give himself up to save the city before Tantalus realizes Stalliongrad is defenseless. However, Tantalus sent Jigsaw and Tiptoe to him in the first place, banking that they would lower the shield somehow, and was ready to attack at a moment's notice.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act IV: After learning that Hokuto is apparently planning a full-on attack on Yokai Academy to capture Moka in the future, Tsukune and co. take time to prepare. However, they fail to consider the fact that Luna and Falla, two Time Masters, weren't present during the attack in that timeline, and are caught unprepared when Hokuto does factor in Luna and Falla's presence and instead has Jovian and Jacqueline kidnap Tsukune's mother and cousin and hold them hostage at opposite sides of Tsukune's hometown in order to Divide and Conquer the group while a Brainwashed and Crazy Felucia forces Moka to go with her to Hokuto without a fight.
  • RealityCheck's Nyxverse: Alicornundrum has Prince Blueblood's father, Duke Blueblood. He tries to con Twilight into a marriage contract with his son. Unfortunately, he never considered: 1) Twilight is not going to take it lightly, 2) Celestia's reaction if she finds out (which she does indeed). 3)Threatening or trying to boss around Twilight or Celestia carries bad consequences.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage: Once Vaati discovers Queen Chrysalis's ruse during the Canterlot Wedding episode, he secretly transports all his monsters to Canterlot (while having Celestia secretly evacuate the city's civilians), and then allows the Changelings to attack, which triggers an utter massacre once his monsters reveal themselves.
  • Child of the Storm runs on a massive Gambit Pileup, but in the end, Doctor Strange was manipulating them all for the sake of his own Long Game.
    • During the Forever Red arc of the sequel Ghosts of the Past, Russian President Volodya attempts to shut down the Red Room by meeting with General Lukin while backed with a small army, all of whom are equipped psychic dampeners in case Lukin tries to have one of his telepathic minions take control of them. Unfortunately, the minion Lukin brought with him is the Red Son, who telekinetically destroys all of the dampeners and the soldiers weapons before killing them all, allowing Lukin to kill Volodya and seize control of Russia.
    • At the climax of the Bloody Hell arc of Ghosts, Dracula has captured Carol and is preparing to enact his plan to drain her blood and gain sunlight immunity. However, he's foiled when Harry bursts into the scene, projecting an illusion of the Phoenix, the one being Dracula fears. This drives Dracula into such a panic that he doesn't see through the illusion (and the fact that he can still easily overpower Harry) until right before the Avengers arrive on the scene to send him packing.
  • The Ultimate Evil: During the climax of the Demon Portals arc, the Chan Clan and Shendu team up to open the last portal so that Jade can escape the Netherworld, in exchange for the Chans' friend (and object of Shendu's obsession) Valerie Payne surrendering herself to him. However, Uncle realizes that Shendu is probably planning to double cross them all when the time comes, so already has a spell in place to banish him before he has a chance to.
  • In Fate: Zero Sanity, Gilgamesh believes that he is the Fourth Grail War's resident Magnificent Bastard as in canon. He is gravely mistaken and ultimately taken advantage of by Assassin!Obito Uchiha, the War's true Magnificent Bastard, ending in Gil's death via Saber and Berserker when Obito steals Tokiomi's Command Seals and orders Gilgamesh to attack the latter two.
  • Corrin Reacts: Corrin and Saizou manage to do this to each other. Saizou swaps Jakob's diary for a blank in an attempt to catch Corrin out. Corrin in turn swaps the (unbeknownst to him) blank diary for a book of sketches of Flora, causing Saizou to flip out when the blank diary is missing.
  • Dodging Prison & Stealing Witches: Dumbledore frames Harry for attempted murder of his twin John and convinces the boys' parents to let him defend Harry at trial, intending to lock Harry up in Azkaban until he has to face Voldemort. Unfortunately, not only does Harry refuse to sign a confession, but the prosecution informs him they plan to push for execution. Come the trial, Dumbledore learns that not only is the prosecution pushing for exoneration, but a good deal of evidence he thought was inadmissible is presented. Due to the prosecution insisting the defendant is innocent and the defense declaring him guilty, Amelia forces the two to switch sides.
  • A Chance Meeting of Two Moons: When Blueblood/Bluebelle tries to submit a proposal for a summer house he/she wants to build outside of Ponyville, Luna/Artemis sees it for what it really is — an attempt to set things up to establish a power base down there and make life miserable for the Element Bearers, and she/he immediately rejects it as a result. Later, when Blueblood/Bluebelle tries to convince Celestia/Solaris to their side, they are again made to look a fool by Luna/Artemis.
  • In Mergers Brock chooses to be merged with Steelix for pragmatic reasons given its strength and difficult capture rate, but unfortunately the Rockets were prepared and catch him in a Master Ball.
  • Secrets Of The Emeralds: Knuckles, of all people, pulls one on Robotnik. When he tries to rescue Sonic from Robotnik's fortress, Sonic asks him to tell him what the real secrets of the Chaos Emeralds are. Knuckles explains that each emerald has a different power, depending on the color, and gives the light blue one as an example, telling Sonic that it's a teleporter. When Knuckles is captured and brought in front of Robotnik, the doctor mockingly tells him that the conversation was recorded and uses that Emerald on Knuckles to transport him into a cell. Unfortunately for him, Knuckles was well aware (or at least, strongly suspected) that Robotnik might be listening. Turns out that the light blue Emerald that Robotnik uses on the badly injured Knuckles has the power of healing, not teleportation.
  • In Risk It All, Ren's grandparents conspired to kill his father to prevent him from ever challenging Ren's uncle for the position of patriarch of their clan. They didn't count on Ren's father going as far to torch their ancestral home and plant explosives to create a diversion and escape.
  • Chasing Dragons:
    • During the Greyjoy Rebellion, Balon has his forces pull back from Fair Isle enough to draw the royal forces into invading the island to take on the token force holding it, so that the Iron Fleet can then return and destroy the royal fleet to strand the army there... all of which Euron and Stannis see coming, so after initially invading the island they return their forces to the ships under cover of darkness, leaving them at full strength when the Ironborn attack, giving the royals the upper hand.
    • Bloodraven foresees Euron's Long Game (gain Stannis' trust until he can become Hand, become regent for Stannis' children after eventually killing him, marry one of his daughters to become king) and arranges events to have him killed during the above-mentioned battle at Fair Isle.
  • Second Bite of the Cherry: Jin Guangshan offers one of his bastard daughters as a bride to Lan Wangji, hoping to ally with another powerful Great Sect and make it seem the very honourable Gusu Lan are alright with his immoral conduct. Unfortunately for him, the Lan elders already have trained a bride for Lan Wangji precisely to avoid this kind of political trap.
  • Pokémon: Harmony and Chaos: This happens to Team Shadow when they first try to invade the Crystal Empire. Sombra is able to enter the Crystal Empire without issue due to being on good terms with everyone, and secretly installs a virus in Androrg that messes with its security list in its systems, allowing Chrysalis and the grunts to invade while also turning Androrg and all the Guardroids against everyone in the Crystal Empire. Team Shadow attempts to obtain the Heart Fragment of the Crystal Heart and the Shadow Spear, contained in two cases, with Sombra subtly assisting them by taking the cases and planning to hand them off to one of the grunts and make it look like he was robbed, and Chrysalis at one point pretending to threaten his life to force everyone to hand over the cases. In the end though, although Chrysalis manages to snatch both cases and escape, she finds out too late that Shining Armor and Cadance already thought ahead and hid both of the artifacts somewhere else. The cases were just empty decoys, and the whole battle was just buying Cadance time to remove the virus and get Androrg and the Guardroids back on their side so Team Shadow could not immediately attack again after realizing they were tricked, or try the same trick in the future. The only silver lining for Team Shadow is that Sombra managed to keep his cover, with nobody realizing he is the leader of Team Shadow.

    Film — Animated 
  • The main plot of The Bad Guys is Wolf trying to con a philantrophist into thinking he and his gang are willing to go through rehabilitation to escape jail time. Eventually, Wolf enjoys doing good things, but as it turns out it was all a ruse of the philantrophist from the start in order for them to be the fall guys of his master plan.
  • Cars: Lightning attempts to escape Radiator Springs after Mater removes the parking boot, only to immediately run out of gas after a few miles. Furthermore, the Sheriff and Sally are waiting for him right where they predicted he’d be forced to stop in order to bring him back to town.
    Sheriff: Boy, we ain’t as dumb as you think we are.
    Lightning: B-B-But-But...H-H-H-How-How did...?
    Sally: We siphoned your gas while you were passed out. Kachow.
  • This is how the Big Bad of Zootopia gets taken down; Bellwether traps Judy and Nick in a pit then darts the latter with a Night Howler pellet, intending him to turn savage and kill Judy. Bellwether calls the ZPD reporting a savage fox and an officer down. While waiting for them to arrive, she intends to watch the gruesome death all the while carrying on her Evil Gloating. This backfires on her massively as it turns out Judy and Nick anticipated this and replaced the pellet with blueberries. While Nick faked going savage, Judy used her carrot pen recorder to capture Bellwether's gloating leading to an Engineered Public Confession. By the time Bellwether realizes she's been tricked, the ZPD are behind her and blocking off all means of escape, catching her red-handed leading to her arrest and the end of The Conspiracy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Adventure In Kigan Castle, Osami is arrested after he's mistaken for a spy trying to kill the king of Kigan Castle, and is thrown in the dungeon to be executed. Granny the Old Witch tries to take advantage of this. She disguises herself as the queen, and visits Osami in his cell to try and make him join forces with her. However, Hermit the Old Wizard, Granny's sworn enemy, has already put Osami under a sleeping spell so that Granny can't talk to him.
  • In Batman & Robin Poison Ivy spends most of the film seducing the title duo, turning them against each other and trying to kill them with her kiss. She eventually gets Robin alone and reveals what Freeze's plan is, in exchange for a kiss from 'her lover for luck'. Robin keeps the deal and kisses her but doesn't die thanks to wearing a rubber lip, stopping her poison. Unfortunately, he didn't expect her to shove him from her throne into her pond and try to have her plants drown him instead. Even more unfortunately for Ivy, Barbara shows up as Batgirl, and not only saves him, but also provides Batman with the key to destroying Ivy's lie to Freeze about his wife.
  • Batman Returns: The Penguin orchestrates a crime wave to make the people of Gotham lose faith in the current administration. He has one of his mooks abduct the Mayor's infant child in broad daylight, only to show up himself and "rescue" it. He wins over the people's sympathies with his pitiful life story. He frames Batman for murder, and uses a remote controlled Batmobile to cut a path of destruction, making it seem as if Batman had finally snapped. All to instigate a recall election and get himself elected Mayor. But he didn't count on the Goddamned Batman having a disk drive in his Cool Car to record the Penguin's rants and broadcast them at his next speech:
    The Penguin: You gotta admit, I've played this stinking city like a harp from Hell!
  • Batman: The Movie features multiples layers of this. The Penguin dons a Paper-Thin Disguise and tries to convince Batman and Robin that he's Commodore Shmidlab. Batman and Robin take him to the Batcave so they can prove that he's the Penguin and arrest him — once inside the Batcave, Penguin re-hydrates the mooks he's carrying (don't ask) and orders them to attack, which was his plan all along. However, the tragic demise (again, don't ask) of these same mooks apparently convinces Batman that Penguin really is Commodore Schmidlab — but as Batman and Robin are escorting him out of the Batcave, Penguin gasses both of them and steals the Batmobile. As soon as Penguin is out of sight, Batman and Robin wake up (they were faking unconsciousness, having taken an anti-knockout gas pill beforehand) and follow the Batmobile's homing beacon right back to the Penguin's lair.
  • Bullet Train: The Prince controls The Father throughout the movie with a Dead Man's Switch on his son, who is currently in a coma in a hospital; if The Prince doesn't call her man every ten minutes, or fails to answer when he calls, the man will kill the son. When The Elder (The Father's father) shows up and interrogates her, he causes The Prince to miss a call. She mocks him that after everything that happened, his grandson is dead, and we get a shot of the assassin entering the hospital room. The Elder just smirks and says "My grandson was pushed off a building. Did you actually believe I would leave him unguarded?" Cut to a seemingly random nurse who had been in the background of previous scenes killing the assassin before he can touch the grandson.
  • Circle:
    • When the room decides to force a universal tie in an attempt to cheat the game, one person secretly switches his vote to kill Pregnant Lady. Another astute person notices this, and switches his vote to that guy so he'll be trapped in a tie with Pregnant Lady. Of course, the room chooses to save her over him.
    • When the cast is whittled down to less than ten people, Eric manages to outmaneuver Bearded Man twice in a row. First, by observing that the Quiet Man never votes, he agrees to a deal to trade the Fake Wife for the Little Girl, voting in an order he knows would default to a majority for Fake Wife. Then, he makes up a story about the Quiet Man being untouchable and suggests voting for him, so that Bearded Man will waste his vote on Quiet Man and get eliminated himself.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, Shady Tree gets James Bond out of the retort with the intent to question him about where he hid the real diamonds. Neither he nor Morton Slumber counted on Bond having leverage against them to the tune of 50 grand (courtesy of Tiffany Case):
    James Bond: You wouldn't burn up 50,000 real dollars, would you? [...] You bring me the real money, and I'll bring you the real diamonds.
  • In Diggstown, Bruce Dern gets out-gambitted by James Woods in an overtly crooked boxing wager. Realizing that he'd been bested by a superior conman, Dern shrugs and says, "You beat me fair and square!"
  • The ending of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has both male leads be out-conned by the woman they thought was their mark.
  • Happens quite often in Drunken Master. In one instance, Jackie Chan's character has to scoop water from a bucket with teacups to fill another bucket while hanging upside down. When he notices his mentor is taking s nap, he quietly gets down, quickly fills the bucket with a much larger pan and then splashes waster on himself to make it as he's sweaty and tired. However, the napping teacher is one step ahead and when Jackie's character announces he's finished, the teacher hands him two extremely tiny teacups and tells him to do everything in reverse.
  • Equilibrium. DuPont uses John Preston as an Unwitting Pawn in his scheme to expose the Resistance, but underestimates the latter's ability to strategically kill all of his mooks. Despite being the same person who decided to piss off a First Class Grammaton Cleric, who is a skilled master of plenty of deadly weapons and Gun Kata. Meaning he's made another fatal error where he specifically mentioned previously that someone who is a master of the latter is an adversary not to be taken lightly.
  • Flightplan (2005): The villains' plans relied on them framing Kyle Pratt as the one who was taking the plan hostage and creating a mass disturbance by 'faking' a mental breakdown about her deceased daughter having been taken onto the plan, but once Kyle works out what's going on, she takes advantage of the fact that everyone else thinks she's the criminal to act as a genuine hijacker so that she can follow up a new lead until she can find her daughter.
  • The finale of Hunting Humans is just one borderline ludicrous example of this after another. Let's see:
    • Serial Killer A goes to the home of the detective that Serial Killer B hired to keep tabs on him, and kills him. Serial Killer B (revealed to be the detective that Serial Killer A hired to keep an eye on Serial Killer B's detective) shows up to ambush him.
    • Serial Killer A reveals the detective isn't really dead, and that he hired him to his side.
    • Serial Killer B reveals that he knew Serial Killer A would try to bribe the detective to his side, so he offered him $5,000 on top of whatever Serial Killer A offered him to remain loyal.
    • Serial Killer A then reveals that he hacked into the detective's accounts and took all his money, and that the only way he can get it back is if Serial Killer A remains alive. After Serial Killer B kills the detective, Serial Killer A states he didn't take the money, he just made it look like he did.
    • Serial Killer A reveals he has an ally outside ready to snipe Serial Killer B at his command.
    • Serial Killer B manages to get outside, and into a wooded area, and when Serial Killer A follows him, Serial Killer B reveals that years of training have made him a fighting machine capable of countering everything that Serial Killer A throws at him.
    • Serial Killer A kills him using one of eighteen guns he had hidden in the forest, knowing the Serial Killer B would come to the detective's house, and that their battle might take them outside.
  • How Jackie finishes her scheme in Jackie Brown. The cops want her to turn informant so she can help bring down her boss Ordell, a notorious Arms Dealer but Ordell has a nasty habit of killing people who turn informant (and has already attempted to do so before she pulled a gun on him). Ordell wants her to continue her money smuggling as an air stewardess, but if she does so the cops will just throw her ass in jail. So, instead, she understates how much money Ordell wants her to traffic for her to the cops, takes the majority for herself and, when Ordell realizes what she's done, gets the cops to wait for him at her apartment then get him killed with a single sentence — "He's got a gun!".
  • In Jupiter Ascending, Balem and Titus spend most of the movie sending more guards or bribing more mercenaries to bring them Jupiter. Kalique buys out two of Balem's mercenaries so that she sees Jupiter first, and is nothing but polite and kind to her. The result is that Titus is under investigation by the Aegis and Balem is dead, while Kalique is alive and well to take control of the company, exactly as she wanted.
  • Maverick. Bret and Zane out-gambit everyone who is trying to out-gambit them, and are topped themselves by Annabelle, who doesn't go ahead with some complicated con but instead just waits until all hell calms down, walks in on them while they are taking a bath with a gun in hand, takes the money and leaves. They don't mind — they think it's all a game and the fun will be in getting the money back from her. Plus Bret anticipated something of the kind and stashed half the money in his boots.
  • Sands of Once Upon a Time in Mexico wanted druglord Barillo and General Marquez killed after allowing them to kill the President of Mexico in exchange for a pile of money. He gets Out-Gambitted on both sides, first when the Mariachi and his crew decide to fight for the President instead of letting him die, and when Ajedrez, a key player in his scheme, turns out not only to be a mole for Barillo, but also his daughter.
  • Rock 'n' Roll High School marks possibly the only time where one gambit (Riff Randall waiting for three days to be first in line to get tickets to the Ramones concert and getting a hundred tickets for her friends and her music teacher) is Out-Gambitted by another gambit (Mrs. Togar donating her ticket and her best friend's ticket to charity), which is then Out-Gambitted by the Gambit Roulette that was Riff Randall's knowledge of the Ramones getting her and her best friend a free ticket each to the same concert. Riff's words to Mrs. Togar? "Screw you, Mrs. Togar, we made it to the concert anyway!"
  • In The Silent Partner Cullen does this repeatedly to Reikle. Almost all of Reikle's attempts to get Cullen to fork over the money get him arrested or inconvenienced; when he finally pushed Cullen to far by murdering Elaine, he sets up Reikle to be killed.
  • The plotters in The Spanish Prisoner had a multi-layered plan to get ahold of the process and leave Joe to take the fall. In the end the Feds were watching them the entire time and were just letting them proceed to gather evidence.
  • In Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man is framed for a bank robbery thanks to Eddie Brock Jr. As it turns out, there never was a bank robbery the day earlier, and Brock's plan to get the office job at the Daily Bugle would've succeeded if Peter Parker hadn't recognized the photo from a previous photo of Spider-Man returning stolen loot to the bank (not to mention that Peter Parker had very good reason to be 100% certain that Spider-Man had never robbed any bank) and made sure Brock's scam was revealed to J. Jonah Jameson. In a later scene, Parker takes Brock's place in the office.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: How Admiral Kirk was able to outwit Khan and escape from being marooned inside the Regula planetoid. Khan had left Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov behind to spring a trap on Kirk, while Kirk was able to determine exactly how long it would take to restore main power and rescue the landing party, leading Khan to believe it would take days instead of hours. Once the trap failed to kill Kirk, he made damn sure to convince Khan of his helplessness, counting on Khan to continue his pursuit of the Enterprise knowing that he could come back to finish Kirk at his leisure.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: How Spock defeats Khan, by allowing the latter to retrieve the armed torpedoes he thought contained his crewmates.
  • Wild Things essentially consists of this trope and Fanservice.

  • Animorphs:
    • In the finale, Visser One's plan worked well. Tom's worked even better. Jake's worked best of all.
    • David was never really more than a Big Bad Wannabe, but he was still able to run circles around the Animorphs for the first half of Book #22, and they (and he) even thought he'd killed Tobias at one point. They let him think they're beat and will give him what he wants, but they've already devised a plan in private thought-speak.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist King Pryderi of The Chronicles of Prydain makes an alliance with resident Evil Overlord Arawn in an attempt to conquer Prydain and put an end to the infighting and bickering between lords that has long plagued his land. After he has conquered Prydain he planned to make Arawn into his servant by virtue of his superior army. Too bad for him, Arawn is well-known and feared for his evil trickery and, too late, the King realizes that the Death Lord has outmaneuvered him. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't live long after.
  • If you are a character in the Codex Alera, you should try to avoid going up against Gaius Sextus. Even if you seem to win against him, he's probably still using you somehow or other. Witness Lord Kalarus, whose plan to make himself a Load-Bearing Boss and blow up half the countryside was foiled by Gaius walking into the heart of his territory and detonating the volcano himself, or Lord Aquitaine, who almost got his wish to be First Lord when Sextus legally adopted him as secondborn to Tavi, leaving the country in the most capable hands possible between his death and his grandson's return. Also, chronic traitor Invidia eventually learns that, if you betray everyone you've ever worked with, people will eventually notice. And when you try to do it again, they'll leave you stranded in the woods. Naked.
  • In Courtship Rite: Joesai manan-Kaiel, by Storm Master Tonpa of the Mnankrei clan. Joesai has planned to make people think the Mnankrei are responsible for the Death Rite on Oelita the Gentle Heretic; when Tonpa realizes he's being framed, he not only comes up with a way to put the blame back on the Kaiel, but to make them take the blame for destroying the local grain store, which they had originally planned to make look like an accident.
  • In the Daemon novel Freedom, this turns out to be the case: The villains thought that they had finally managed to pull one up on Sobol by breaking into the Daemon and exploiting flaws in the code. It turns out he'd planned for this, knowing no system is secure, and purposely placed those flaws there. When the villains attempted to use them the Daemon detected it and, now knowing precisely who was attempting to hijack the system, proceeded to wipe out their finances.
  • Black Arthur in The Demon's Lexicon thinks he's been very clever indeed: he first managed to make a deal with a demon in return for unprecedented power by providing the demon with a human body that will not deteriorate — that of his infant son — and when that plan went awry thanks to the baby's mother running away with him, allowing him to grow up among humans as Nick Ryves with no memory of his true nature, he managed to lure Nick into a magic circle and trap him there, counting on Nick's demon nature and their original bargain to win out. Unfortunately, what Arthur didn't count on is that Nick's adopted brother Alan is a lot better at this than he is: most of the events of the book are part of Alan's plan to get Nick trapped in just such a magic circle, so that he could then set him free in a way that would ensure he could never be bound by another magician.
  • Lord Vetinari every Discworld book, to the point where he has prepared his own deepest dungeon for when he will be thrown in when he is overthrown.
  • Dune, being a millenial tale of galactic intrigue that accumulates Gambit Pileups like some books accumulate minor characters, has numerous examples of this trope.
    • In the first novel, the Emperor travels to Arrakis to "put down the Fremen rebellion" once and for all and to severely discipline the Harkonnens he was using as his tools. The Guild travels there to safeguard their precious Spice, having foreseen a crisis with their oracular powers. Paul Muad'dib, however, has become a Messianic Archetype possessed of far greater powers and takes advantage of having all his enemies together to pull a surprise attack that winds up with him dethroning the Emperor and taking his place.
      • Even earlier, the Atreides were themselves victim of this when they knowingly walked into the Harkonnen trap on Arrakis, counting on their superior training and potential alliance with the Fremen to see them through. What Leto failed to realize was that the Emperor was backing the Harkonnens and the sheer amount of money both were willing to spend to defeat him.
    • In Dune Messiah, the Bene Tleilax construct a complicated gambit involving forcing Paul to discredit himself out of love for his consort, Chani. Paul, of course, has anticipated this, but it's the loyalty of the ghola Duncan Idaho, whom they were counting on to either kill Paul (forcing Alia to make the same choice) or recover his memories, showing Paul what could be achieved with Chani, that allows Paul to evade the trap.
    • In Children of Dune, Alia, now possessed by the Genetic Memory of Baron Harkonnen, plots to have Paul's children assassinated to cement her rule. Meanwhile, the Bene Gesserit are trying to manipulate the children into returning to their control. Leto II, however, by willingly embracing his father's messianic role, successfully discredits Alia and becomes the God Emperor.
  • Done in the ninth book of the Everworld series. Senna Wales, the witch who has been previously pulling all the strings and guiding the other characters along has the tables turned on her when her mother, Anica Wales makes a deal with Merlin to capture her. Their plan is to lure Senna out in the streets of Egypt at night, separating her from the others of the group who could potentially help her, forcing her to confront them alone, leaving her to face Merlin, a mage even stronger than she is and with a thousand years of experience, with Senna's mother there to lend her witch powers in case Merlin somehow fails while the entire city they're in is under the control of the Amazons, who are allied with Senna's mother. And just to make totally and completely sure that Senna has no escape and is caught like a rat in a trap, Merlin brings a dragon to the party for back-up. And then Senna, Magnificent Bastard that she is, instantly readjusts her plans, fools them both, uses Christopher as a decoy, tricks Merlin into wasting his magic, uses all of her powers as a witch and a gateway to their full extent, and she wins. The battle ends with Merlin exhausted and running in defeat, his dragon dead, the Amazons driven from Egypt with their queen no longer among the living, and Anica begging her daughter for forgiveness. Basically, Senna faced two mages who are Crazy-Prepared and vastly more experienced than herself, with no prior warning or prep time, and thwarted them. She's that good at Xanatos Speed Chess. After the confrontation is over, Senna is heavily exhausted by clearly enjoying the victory, and comments to Anica, "You underestimated me."
  • One of the Gor books had a character warn the fellow kidnapping her that she planned to scream. He admitted that was an excellent plan. When she opened her mouth to scream, though, he stuffed in a wadded-up scarf, gagging her. "I, too, had a plan — a counter-plan. My plan, which I have now put into effect, was clearly superior to yours."
  • Harry Potter:
    • The entire, seven book series plays this trope mostly straight: Voldemort makes Plan 1. Dumbledore, along with Snape, makes Plan 2. Voldemort goes down. For example, Voldemort wants to kill Harry. Dumbledore guesses (and therefore knows) that if Harry dies at Voldemort's hand, then Harry will just come right back to life, and Voldemort will be weaker. That was the plan for two books. See also almost anything Dumbledore does, from leaving Harry at the Dursley's, to giving Hermione the time-turner, to going to the cave in book six, to trusting Snape and having him as the mole, to having Snape kill him. Though in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Dumbledore admits he was outgamitted by Voldemort in the short run when he acknowledges that his hiding of information made it considerably easier for Voldemort to trick Harry.
    • In the "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" section of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the charlatan finds himself outwitted when he tries to make Babbitty Rabbitty do his bidding.note 
  • In Helm, Arthur de Noram is no match for the man he tried to conspire with, Siegfried Montrose.
  • "His Last Bow" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is about a spy, Von Bork, who's been outwitting the British in and out and is about to return to Germany at the outset of the First World War after having already given his government a wealth of information about just about everything. He just needs that final piece on British naval codes from his Irish-American informant... Who promptly captures him and reveals himself to be Sherlock Holmes in disguise, having come back from retirement at the government's request for long enough to assume this role and play against Von Bork. Oh, and feed him and his government false information all along.
  • About halfway through Hollow Places, Austin blackmails Warden Tim White into stopping his guards from abusing the prisoners by threatening to release a recording of him bribing a judge. This plan backfires months later when the Warden obtains a security video of Austin breaking into the judge’s apartment to obtain said recording.
  • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom:
    • During the Elfrieden occupation of Amidonia's capital Van in volume 3, Amidonian General Margarita Wonder, who had surrendered with Van's garrison, asks to sing on King Souma Kazuya's first variety show on the Jewel Voice Broadcast from Van. She sings Amidonia's national anthem, which calls for the recapture of the land taken from Amidonia in the two countries' last war, hoping to inspire Patriotic Fervor and resistance to the occupiers, expecting to be executed afterwards. Instead, Souma says there's no law in Elfrieden against singing another country's national anthem and applauds her performance, proving he's the furthest thing from the tyrant the House of Amidonia made him out to be.
    • The occupation of Amidonia is ended with a peace treaty negotiated by the Gran Chaos Empire, where Amidonia is required to pay reparations. Souma withdraws, arranging things such that either the returning Prince Julius Amidonia will have to abandon Amidonia's irredentism or ruin his country further. What neither they nor the Empress expect is Julius's sister Princess Roroa to exploit Julius's political weakness to foment a revolt in favor of annexation by Elfrieden. Julius is forced to flee the country, and Roroa pledges herself to marry Souma, uniting the countries. Lampshaded by Souma, who laments to Empress Maria after all's said and done that "We were all outwitted by a little girl."
  • The Hunger Games: For all President Coriolanus Snow's talk about destroying Katniss's image so the unhappy districts would have nobody to rally behind, Plutarch completely played him for a fool.
  • Minor example from Kitty and the Silver Bullet: Kitty, trying her hand at being a Chessmaster, tries to use Detective Hardin and the Denver PD as an Unwitting Pawn to take down Carl for her. Hardin turns it around by being fashionably late to the fight, thus making Kitty bait to trap Carl into an assault charge. They're on the same side, though, so it's all good. Bigger example from the same book: Rick's attempt to unseat Arturo is thwarted by Mercedes, with the help of a spy in his ranks. But then Arturo becomes the Spanner in the Works by opting for Redemption Equals Death, thus leaving Rick in control of Denver anyway.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Sauron, the guy who when taken prisoner by the Númenóreans was in control of them within a year, out-gambits almost everyone during the War of the Ring. He anticipates Saruman's betrayal and gives Denethor the right information to draw the wrong conclusions, but just as Gandalf planned, Sauron simply couldn't imagine that anyone would try and destroy the One Ring instead of claiming it for themselves. He's actually right in the end, except that he couldn't have foreseen Gollum destroying the ring by accident.
  • Anyone in The Mental State who thinks that Zack State is just a gullible youth tends to end up in this situation. Most of the antagonists are simple-minded brutes, but there are a few who actually have an objective and a plan for achieving it. The best examples are Harry Jacks, Commissioner Viceman and Saif. They all underestimate Zack's deviousness and ruthlessness.
  • The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest has an immensely satisfying occurrence of this against all the (many) people who have screwed over Lisbeth for all of her life.
  • The Mistborn trilogy is basically a Gambit Pileup by the end, so naturally a lot of people end up Out-Gambitted, In roughly chronological order Preservation out-gambits Ruin, trapping him, then Ruin out-gambits a lot of people by changing prophecies in order to try to get somebody to free him, then Kwaan and Rashek out-gambit Ruin by figuring out his deception and killing Alendi so that Rashek can take the power of the Well of Ascension for himself, becoming the Lord Ruler, and stopping Ruin from getting out. Then Kelsier out-gambits the Lord Ruler in order to kill him. Ruin out-gambits everyone again to get Vin to go to the Well of Ascension and free him. After that it turns out that the Lord Ruler had prepared for the possibility of his death and Ruin's release and prepared storage places for people to hide to protect them, and hid the atium stockpile, which contained most of Ruin's power where Ruin couldn't get at it. Then it turns out that Preservation had planned for everything, in spite of having had most of his mind destroyed when he trapped Ruin thousands of years before, and he managed to get Elend and his army to destroy the atium stockpile, keeping the power away from Ruin, meanwhile he'd also arranged for Vin to take his power, and perform a Heroic Sacrifice to kill Ruin.. And really there are other examples, these are just the major ones.
  • In Nightmare Alley, the evil Lilith does this to Stan spectacularly, firstly by seducing and controlling him and then, once Stan has began conning the wealthy Ezra Grindle at her suggestion, by keeping the cash results of their con in her safe where she secretly replaces the five hundred dollar bills with singles. When Stan takes the money back, discovers what she's done and attempts to confront her, she tells him he is deluded and is projecting his sexual feelings for his mother onto her and then tries to have him committed to an institution. He narrowly manages to escape and has to go on the run as a result of her duplicity, sinking into alcoholism and depression.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch (Series) novels are made up of Gambit Pileups by two Great Others, the Light Geser and the Dark Zabulon. They've been doing this for decades. It helps that they're able to foresee the probabilities of future events very clearly.
  • In the Outbound Flight novel Survivor's Quest, the Vagaari turn out to have a rather large gambit involving Obfuscating Fawning Idiocy. But, it's revealed, the Chiss planned for this all along, letting word leak out so that the Vagaari formed their plan in the first place, setting up safe spaces for their crew, inviting along Jedi and 501st stormtroopers and not letting the Vagaari see what they could do. All to make that nomadic people of slavers strike, satisfying the Chiss Martial Pacifism so that they could seek out and attack the Vagaari. After it's all over Mara Jade looks at that plan in disbelief, and says that Thrawn's fingerprints are all over it. But Thrawn is dead, and his clone was destroyed.
    • In Isard's Revenge, Ysanne Isard neatly out-gambits both the New Republic and her clone, who is aligned with a former Imperial warlord the New Republic is campaigning against. She builds a secret lab near one of the warlord's bases she knows the New Republic will attack, researching yet another Imperial superweapon. The New Republic instantly seizes on it as justification for their invasion, while the warlord protests that he had never heard of the lab until the New Republic "found" it, making both sides look worse due to the Golden Mean Fallacy. This leaves both sides nice and distracted so Isard can launch her real plan, stealing the newly-repaired Super Star Destroyer Lusankya from under the collective nose of the New Republic fleet. Unfortunately for her, two astromech droids managed to escape her clutches, allowing some pro-Republic smugglers and a New Republic Intelligence agent to set a trap for Isard to stroll right into.
    • At the climax of The Thrawn Trilogy, the New Republic plans on striking at the Imperial shipyards at Bilbringi, but try to play Thrawn by not-quite-as-secretly making plans for an attack at Tangrene. Thrawn sees through the Rebels' ruse and prepares accordingly, but gets surprised by the Smugglers' Alliance, who assumed that the New Republic was attacking Tangrene and planned their own strike at Bilbringi that just happened to coincide with the New Republic offensive. In other words, a cunning plan was defeated by a cunning-er plan but rescued by a botched plan — and even then it could've gone the Imperials' way were it not for a critical Bodyguard Betrayal.
    • The overarching plot of Mercy Kill: the head of Galactic Alliance intelligence is a traitor and has turned one of his crack teams, the Wraiths, loose on a co-conspirator, hoping for one of two outcomes. Either they expose the conspirator and the head of Intelligence can figure out how and patch the leak, or they don't and both men are safe. Face Loran, head of the Wraiths, comes up with a suitably brilliant counter-scheme: suspecting his boss from the outset, he creates two teams for the job and reports on the activities of a third that is completely fictitious. Sure enough, the head of Intelligence warns his ally about the fake Wraiths, implicating himself and warning Face to bring hidden backup to their confrontation.
  • Vizzini from The Princess Bride is a very notable one.
    • If you pay attention to the Man in Black's challenge, he says "Where is the poison? The contest ends when you choose and we drink." In other words, under the literal rules of the game, even if Vizzini had figured out they were both poisoned, he still would have drank and died. Unless he decided to Take a Third Option and NOT DRINK.
    • Really, the whole scene is Vizzini trying several different gambits. First, he tries probing for information, trying to get Westley to unknowingly give away some hint of which cup is poisoned. (The book version of Westley does start becoming agitated and concerned that Vizzini may figure out the whole setup, while the movie version stays cool and lets Vizzini ramble away and go on tangents.) When that fails, he gets Westley to look away and then switches the cups. Before drinking, he carefully watches Westley's reaction to see if there's any hesitation on Westley's part. When Westley doesn't hesitate to drink, Vizzini figures that Westley thought that he was reaching for the "safe" cup, but due to Vizzini switching the cups, now Vizzini has the safe cup. Had Westley hesitated, Vizzini would have inferred that he was now holding the poisoned cup and tossed it aside. Of course instead Westley had poisoned both cups and was exploiting his Acquired Poison Immunity.
  • Done in The Queen's Thief. The Magus of Sounis frees Gen, a low-born thief who stupidly brags about his successes, from prison and forces him to steal Hamiathes' Gift so the king can use it to claim rightful rulership to the throne of neighboring kingdom Eddis. Except that he's been played since BEFORE the start of the book by Gen, or rather Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis and the Queen of Eddis' COUSIN, who knew that the Magus knew where Hamiathes' Gift was, pretended to be commoner of Sounis and purposely bragged about his skill to draw the Magus' attention so that he'd be hired to steal it, and once he did stole it a second time in such a way to make the Magus think he lost it, and finally returned it to his queen.
  • The Big Bad of Raised by Wolves had a very simple plan: infect Chase with lycanthropy, then leave him in Stone River Pack's territory. Chase would be taken in by Stone River, where he'd make contact with Bryn — a former target who got away — and bring her back to him. Unfortunately for him, Callum, the pack's alpha, turned out to have precognitive abilities, a mastery of Xanatos Speed Chess, and a grudge against the Big Bad for what he did to Bryn.. Didn't See That Coming.
  • In one RCN book, Daniel Leary's corvette Princess Cecile is being pursued by a privateer, Estremadura, that is continually dropping out of FTL right on top of him, too close for effective use of kinetic-kill missiles. Daniel fires missiles off in another direction entirely then tricks the privateer into dropping out of FTL directly in their path; they hit at terminal velocity and Estremadura is obliterated, a trick that only worked because the other pilot was so good.
  • This describes every single one of Zhou Yu's schemes against Zhuge Liang in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Time and time again, Zhou Yu create schemes after schemes to kill Zhuge Liang. Zhuge easily saw through each one of them, making a fool out of Zhou Yu. In the end,he dies of illness and the reopening of an old wound, caused by the rage at Zhuge beating him time and again; knowing that he could never match Sleeping Dragon.
  • The Sinister Six Trilogy has The Gentleman thinking he got away with his plan, only for the Chameleon to betray him, only for HIM to be caught by Doc Ock who had the exact same plan, then they're all foiled by Spider-Man when he gets Pity on his side.
  • Crops up regularly in a A Song of Ice and Fire to practically everybody involved. Unsurprisingly, given its high concentration of Chessmasters and Magnificent Bastards, as well as those who aspire to be such meeting such things as pawns and random spanners.
    • More specifically, however; the prize for getting herself Out-Gambitted most regularly has to go to Cersei Lannister, particularly through the well-named A Feast for Crows.
  • In Tales of Dunk and Egg, the Blackfyres historically got pulverized due to their own egos getting repeatedly used against them by the then-Hand, Brynden Rivers aka "Bloodraven". He outright won a war of wits, not just a battle, by undercutting each and every attempt they and Ageor "Bittersteel" Rivers made to gain the Iron Throne. If at a cost.
  • John French's Thousand Sons novel Ahriman trilogy features several of these:
    • In Ahriman: Exile, Ahriman, having learned that his unseen enemy is his old ally Amon, travels to a desolate space station and summons a powerful daemon in order to question it about Amon’s plans. Amon predicted that Ahriman would summon that specific daemon, however, and pre-emptively bound it into his service. When Ahriman summons the daemon, it easily breaks free of his control and unleashes a horde of lesser daemons upon the station, forcing Ahriman and his allies to flee for their lives.
    • In Ahriman: Sorcerer, Ahriman’s lieutenant Sanakht conspires with Ignis to kill Ahriman and take control of his Chaos Space Marine warband. While Ignis recruits people to their cause, Sanakht sets up a Manchurian Agent that will cripple Ahriman’s flagship when the time is right, and accompanies Ahriman on his mission to retrieve the Athenaeum of Kallimakus. Sanakht knows the Athenaeum is guarded by blanks, which will prevent Ahriman from defending himself with his sorcery and give Sanakht (who is the better swordsman) a chance to kill him. Unfortunately for Sanakht, Ignis is loyal to Ahriman and has not only kept his master informed of the plot, but also fed the conspirators misinformation so that they will fire on each other instead of Ahriman’s loyalists during the coup. Ahriman’s own plans also require the destruction of his flagship, as this will tear open a Warp rift and let the warband escape from the Inquisitorial fleet that is pursuing them. Finally, Ahriman needs someone to act as a vessel for the Athenaeum, and by letting it possess Sanakht, he’s killing two birds with one stone.
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, this is the only way that Kyousuke can fight against the White Queen, an omnipotent Eldritch Abomination. However, the Queen is far smarter than she normally lets on, and due to her twisted love for him, doesn't mind losing.
    • A good example of this is the fourth volume, when the Queen pretends to let Kyousuke use her sword as a handicap, but is in fact damaging the building in a way that would kill the people Kyousuke is trying to save. However, Kyousuke had already figured out that the building's design deviated from the original plans, so he knew that this wouldn't work.
    • The seventh volume is a back-and-forth example of this, ultimately ending in the Queen's victory. She pretends that her plan was to sabotage Kyousuke's attempt to kill her (which he 'discovers' and makes a counter-plan for), but she actually wanted him to succeed. She was able to survive through currently-unknown means, while Kyousuke's means of defeating her would become a threat to the world in its own right. As a result, he is now forced to work with her — her goal all along.
  • In War of the Dreaming, this happens to Azrael's plan to free mankind from tyranny by destroying the magical realm's power over them, carried out by a complex line of murder, betrayal, backstabbery, and replacing Congress with shapeshifting doppelgangers. The counter-gambit to this is set up by Prometheus, who outmaneuvers him simply by having a son whose descendents will interbreed with humanity and spread the ability to Screw Destiny at much less cost.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • the Intelligence Cadet Corps puts a tracker on one of the Masterminds and figures out where their secret hideout is; but Stopwatch is way ahead of them, using a fake hideout and planting false clues in it, so when the Cadets search the hideout, they leap to the wrong conclusion about the intended heist.
    • Diamondback's plan for her Combat Final relied on Hekate backstabbing her — it would have worked out for both of them if she didn't, but would work much better for Sandra if Hekate decided to cheat. Kallysta obliging grabs the Villain Ball with both hands and pays the price for it.
    • She-Beast uses her duel against Nemesis to set up the Spy Kidz, by leaving a gap in her defenses that Nemesis could only know about if the Intelligence Cadets were spying on her (against the direct order of their faculty advisor) and passed it on to her opponent. Not only does she humiliate Nemesis, the Secret Squirrels get caught red-handed as a result.
    • The Bell Witch's plans for the Telechines' Astrolabe involved her getting the power and her daughter Nacht getting all the negative repercussions. Katie saw it coming a mile away and turned the tables on her.
    • Scapegrace manages to out-gambit three opposing supervillains and her own family, all with an eye toward achieving her desired Gender Bender transformation.
  • In the historical novel Wings of Dawn: Waleran, spokesperson for not using the same gambit all the time, even when it does seem to be working.
  • In The Witchlands, when Vaness is captured, she manipulates her captors to lead her towards Baedyed territory, as her recent (not yet publicly known) treaty with them should compel them to rescue her. Unfortunately, the Baedyeds aren't satisfied with the treaty and have already planned to murder Vaness, so the entire idea backfires on her.
  • In Worm, Tattletale and Skitter outmaneuver Coil, having anticipated that he would betray them, and put him in a position that he cannot escape from, whereupon Skitter shoots him in the head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In the second season, Raina threatens to expose Jemma Simmons (who is currently undercover at HYDRA) in order to blackmail Coulson into helping her. Coulson just smiles and lets her go through with it, to Raina's consternation, as she knows that Coulson is A Father to His Men. She didn't know that Coulson had another mole in HYDRA — Bobbi Morse, who had gotten a job as chief of security for that base, and was thus in a perfect position to extract Simmons when things went south.
  • Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda has a knack for pulling this off, especially when dealing with the Nietscheans. The episode "Double Helix" in Season 1 features multiple layers of outsmarting each other.
  • In Cheers Sam is often out-gambitted by rival bar owner Gary in the "Bar Wars" episodes. Other times it's the snooty owner of the restaurant upstairs, "Melville's".
  • The perps in Columbo usually think that their plans are pretty damn foolproof, actually, and that this shabby little detective has no chance of uncovering them. Unfortunately for them, Columbo has a tendency to prove them very wrong with his own cunning plans.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • In the fourth season episode "Masterpiece", Jason Alexander plays a serial killer who confesses to Agent Rossi that he's committed seven murders and is about to kill five more people, unless the BAU can find where he's hidden his victims. He does this as a massive Take That! to Rossi himself, who caught his serial-killer brother and watched as he was executed. It does not end well for him — Rossi lets him believe he's won, confess his entire scheme, and then reveals he's recorded the entire thing. And his team is fine, thank you very much, he knew the place was booby-trapped. This is why one does not threaten Rossi's "family".
    • In the episode "Lessons Learned", Gideon tricks a terror suspect by altering his sense of time. Done more cleverly than most as he doesn't use a clock. Over a 48 hour period he slightly alters the man's prayer times. At the end they convince him the attack has already happened and get him to reveal the real target in time.
  • The Devil Judge: Sun-ah manipulates Ga-on into getting Yo-han arrested. But Yo-han guessed something like this would happen and already made plans to deal with it. He made sure he had blackmail material on the prison warden and used it to get out of prison.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Any time that someone tries to play the Daleks or Cybermen for personal gain. In those cases they usually forget that the races in question have very straight-forward goals (exterminate everything and assimilate everything, respectively), and so are not as vulnerable to convoluted maneuvering from anyone who isn't the Doctor.
    • Inverted in "The Five Doctors", where the Master, knowing that the Cybermen will kill him once he has outlived his usefulness, leads them all into a death trap once they have outlived theirs.
    • The Curse of Fatal Death, a parody special starring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, takes this trope to new, ridiculous heights, involving among other things the Doctor and the Master's duelling bribery of an architect regarding sewer placement, which leads to the Master spending a very long time climbing out of said sewer.
    • "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways": The Daleks have, for centuries, been manipulating the people of Earth to turn the planet into a Crapsack World with no one the wiser... and then the Controller of the Gamestation uses their own system to bring in the Doctor, knowing he'll destroy them.
    • "Last of the Time Lords": The Master is subjected to this by the Doctor and Martha. Let's just say that his inability to resist dramatic countdowns is something the Doctor was counting on...
    • "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky": As part of their plan, the Sontarans pull a Capture and Replicate on Martha, now a member of UNIT with a high security clearance, with the clone tasked with preventing UNIT from launching nuclear warheads at the Sontaran ship. It turns out that the Doctor, who caught on to Evil Martha the moment he met her in person, is fine with this as he doesn't want Earth starting an interstellar war.
    • "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End": In order to try and stop Davros and the Daleks from destroying reality, several of the good guys have access to some devastating weapons: UNIT's Earth-destroying Osterhagen Key, controlled by Martha, and Sarah Jane's Warpstar pendant. When they and their allies manage to get into position to use these items, they call up the villains to threaten them to back off... only to be teleported to Davros' vault. Then Donna and the Doctor clone arrive with their Dalek-destroying weapon... only for it to be destroyed. It's the Darkest Hour for everyone before the element that will really save the day, unforeseen by almost everyone, comes to light.
    • "The End of Time":
      • The Master prepared for the possibility of his death before the series 3 finale, but his plan gets derailed when his widow reveals she's been making plans of her own. Not enough to stop him entirely, but it kind of ruins the man's day.
      • The Master summons Rassilon, Lord President of the Time Lords, in a gambit to resurrect the Time Lords and turn them all into copies of himself. One hand motion by Rassilon and the smile is wiped off of the Master's face (not that Rassilon was ready for the Doctor and the Master's combined opposition).
    • "A Good Man Goes to War" puts the Doctor on the receiving end. His Army of The Ages manages to rescue Amy Pond and her baby. Except the baby, the villains' real target has been swapped out with a Doppelgänger and the real one is still with their leader.
  • Game of Thrones: Constantly. Almost every time someone engages in intrigue, or even a conversation. That's when things don't turn into a Gambit Pileup.
  • Many examples from House.
    • Happens to Cuddy again and again every time she tries to play House.
      (in response to her switching his painkillers with laxatives) I know when my Vicodin isn't Vicodin. Do you know when your birth control pills aren't birth control pills?
    • Wilson is the only one who ever really matches House, in fact he pulls off one of these himself in "Safe" where House plays a series of practical jokes on him in the hopes of getting him to respond. Wilson stoically takes it all without complaint and House seems to give up, then at the very end of the episode House's cane snaps in two and he falls flat on his ass. Wilson deadpans that "someone" must have sawn halfway through his cane during the night.
      You magnificent bitch. You just invoked the name of your dead girlfriend to play me? You're my hero. (From "Saviors", when House finally realizes Wilson's been screwing with him the entire episode.)
    • In another episode, both House and the audience are led to believe that the pranks are being played first by Foreman and his ex-con brother, in a bonding ritual, and then by Lucas, in an effort to force House and Wilson out of Cuddy's dream home. At the very end of the episode, after House declines to get revenge on whom he thinks is the prankster, Wilson simply says "I win."
    • A Season 6 episode depicts Foreman observing Thirteen wearing a magnificent watch and Chase driving an awesome car that they felt like "treating themselves to." This leads Foreman to conclude that everyone else on the team is making more than him, despite his position as a senior fellow. When he goes to Cuddy and tries to bluff his way into raising his salary by threatening to leave for another hospital, the team starts to worry that Foreman might actually quit. When Foreman leaves for a job that doesn't exist, the team appeals to Cuddy to hire him back, saying it was all a ploy on their part to stop Foreman from acting like such an affected twit (The watch and the car were both borrowed from friends). After agreeing to bring Foreman back, reduce the team's salary, and add it to Foreman's, she tells them that she has no idea what they're talking about, and hasn't seen or spoken with Foreman in four days. Cue Foreman's appearance right outside Cuddy's office, smug smile and all.
      Foreman: The phrase... "Who's ya daddy?" comes to mind.
    • This occurs in the Season 8 episode "Chase", surprisingly on House against Taub. Throughout most of the episode, House is constantly attempting to successfully ambush Taub, who's been taking self defense classes, and Taub is shown to be surprisingly adept at reacting to whatever House throws at him. He also reveals, however, that constantly being on guard against House's attacks forces him to try to think three steps ahead of House; in one scene, House assigns Taub to "obviously fraudulent lab work" so that he'd know exactly where Taub would be at the time so he could leap out and blast him with a squirt gun (and as a bonus, he'd get to watch Taub's paranoia at work beforehand, watching him look in all the wrong places for the oncoming attack.) After he leaps out and fires, however, it turns out Taub already rigged the squirt gun to misfire, and instead it squirts at House's own face.
  • iCarly:
    • In "iRue the Day", Nevel repeatedly sabotoges the iCarly show as revenge for Carly not kissing him, so Carly, Sam and Freddie plan to sabotoge Nevel's website,, as payback. They proceed to distract Nevel long enough to hack into the site; however, Nevel knew about their plan the whole time, and instead of Nevelocity crashing, he crashes Freddie's laptop instead.
    • In "iGet Pranky", the iCarlys plan to stop Spencer's pranking by pulling a prank of their own on him — lure him into the basement and have him pick up a dollar on the floor, then have Gibby drop down on him. However, Spencer knew ahead of the prank and uses a broom and some bubble gum to pick up the dollar without even walking over there.
  • Pretty much how the team beats the Villain of the Week in every episode of Leverage.
    • A season finale involves the team squaring off against their most dangerous opponent yet — the guy from the pilot who put the team together in the first place. He knows every single con they pull to the point of knowing exactly which algorithm Hardison will use to hack a hydroelectric plant's computer. Fortunately, the team realize this and get the help of several acquaintances (including Parker's aging Gentleman Thief mentor and Nate's ex-wife) and former opponents (The Cracker Chaos and the bruiser who beat up Eliot in the first season). In the end, Nate has the two Big Bads cornered on a precipice with a gun pointing at them, choosing which one to kill. Then he sees his team and changes his mind. He leaves the gun at the edge of the precipice and walks away, knowing full well that the Big Bads would lunge for it and fall.
  • In Mad Men, Duck Phillips tries to leverage Don Draper out of his position at Sterling Cooper through a corporate buyout that would leave him as President and Draper's creative division nearly devastated. He does all this, since any contract Draper was working under would definitely have a clause restricting him from taking clients with him should he leave the firm. The hitch in Duck's plan? Don doesn't have a contract at all.
  • Happens to Jane in The Mentalist virtually every time Red John comes around, with Jane thinking he's playing Red John, while Red John is always playing him. Probably the most notable example is in "The Crimson Hat" when Jane thinks he's tricked Red John and is going to meet him while in reality, Red John not only knows it's a trick and adjusts accordingly, but takes it a step further by setting up Wainwright as his stand-in to be ultimately shot and killed by the FBI.
    • One episode has a more mundane example when Jane, having followed the killer via a tracking device, confronts them on a rooftop, where they're about to dispatch their next victim. When the killer points out that they're the one with the gun, Jane replies that he also brought a gun, whereupon Lisbon comes out of hiding and demands the killer drop their weapon. The killer just mutters "So predictable", whereupon an accomplice comes out of hiding and demands Lisbon drop her weapon.
  • In Noah's Arc, Guy has an elaborate plan to manipulate both Alex and Trey, involving staging random accidents that Guy can "fix", breaking down Alex's credibility in the eyes of Trey and Alex's friends, and a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. As complex as Guy's plan is, he's Out-Gambitted by Alex and his friends concocting a simple fake note, tricking Guy into revealing his feelings for Trey (who was never interested to begin with).
  • Parks and Recreation has Ron's stash of gold, mentioned in "Ron and Tammy". When she claims she dug it up...
    Ron: That was fake gold. Do you really think I'd just leave gold lying underground in a locked safe, where anyone could find it?
  • Prison Break: Michael manages to out-gambit his enemies several times throughout the series with backup and contingency plans.
  • Psychopath Diary: In-woo plans to kill Bo-kyung and make it look like suicide. Dong-sik realises his plan. No one will take Dong-sik's warnings seriously because they all think he's a serial killer, so he exploits this by pretending to threaten Bo-kyung. The police assume he really means to harm her so they immediately start looking for her. In-woo has to flee and Bo-kyung survives.
  • In the Season 2 finale of The Sandbaggers, Burnside spends the entire episode maneuvering to convince Wellingham to appoint Peele as the head of SIS, as Gibbs, the other candidate for the job, is someone he has a long-standing rivalry with; he spies on Wellingham to find out what he wants and feeds the information to Peele, goes looking for skeletons in Gibbs' closet and tells Wellingham they're common office gossip, and so on. Then Peele writes a memo that clearly displays him to be unfit for the job, and Burnside has to go back to Wellingham and walk back everything he's said, and Wellingham reveals that he knew all along what Burnside was up to, had already made the decision to appoint Gibbs, and had maneuvered Peele into writing the memo in order to convince Burnside that he wasn't a suitable candidate.
  • In the third season finale of Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes himself is the recipient of this trope, at the hands of "the Emperor of Blackmail," Charles Augustus Magnussen. Holmes has made a Deal with the Devil to take Magnussen down — in exchange for Magnussen's blackmail materials, especially those related to Mary Watson's bloody past as a CIA agent, Magnussen will receive Mycroft's laptop, which contains valuable MI6 secrets. Magnussen agrees to the deal and flies Holmes and Watson to his island mansion, where he reveals that there never were any blackmail materials — Magnussen's memory is just so good that he can remember every incriminating detail he's ever learned about everyone he's ever met. And he's already called MI6 to arrest Holmes and Watson for selling state secrets. Holmes is so utterly dumbfounded at being gotten the better of that to prevent the villain from getting away with his crimes and save Watson from Death Row, he decides to kill Magnussen himself and surrender to government custody.
    • Sherlock pulled this on Moriarty at the end of Season 2/beginning of Season 3. The latter, while being interrogated by Mycroft, got lots of little hints about Sherlock, learning more about his captor than his captor knew about him. He proceeded to use these to set up Sherlock as a Hero with Bad Publicity, framed him for kidnapping, turned the police against him, and made him commit suicide. Except that Sherlock and Mycroft knew exactly what they were doing, fed Moriarty enough rope to hang himself with, and in the end Moriarty shot himself while Sherlock escaped easily and spent the next two years dismantling Moriarty's criminal network, coming home to a hero's welcome.
  • Smallville:
    • Victoria Hardwick, one of Lex's early love interests, persuaded him to help her father take over LuthorCorp. Lex suggested they take over both their fathers' companies together. She then stole information from him that Cadmus was a prosperous lab and that LuthorCorp had sunk all their money into a bid for the company, and arranged for Hardwick to outbid them. When she revealed this to him, he explained that the data was fake and Hardwick had bought a worthless company, leaving them financially vulnerable and allowing LuthorCorp to buy them in turn.
    • Tess manages to out-gambit (the Alternate Universe version of) her own father, Lionel Luthor, who is the epitome of Magnificent Bastard, after he usurps control of LuthorCorp from her. He really should have known better than to underestimate his own daughter, even if the version of her from his universe is a Bastard Bastard who doesn't meet any of his expectations. He honestly seems a mix between shocked, furious, and impressed.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar team up to launch a sneak attack on the changeling homeworld using a fleet of cloaked ships. However, after their opening barrage, they find out the planet is deserted and there are 150 Jem'Hadar warships screaming out of the nearby nebula. Turns out the changelings had known about the plan and deliberately allowed them to walk into a trap, Battle of Midway style. A changeling had even replaced the Romulan commander to ensure their own success. While the Tal Shiar eventually recover, the Order is annihilated and the Cardassian Central Command is overthrown shortly thereafter.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Counterpoint", Voyager is smuggling telepathic refugees to a hard-to-find, mobile wormhole, so they can escape a repressive telepathic regime, despite repeated inspections by soldiers led by Inspector Kashyk, who lets his men search the ship (ineffectively, since the telepaths are kept in the transporter buffer during the inspections). Then he arrives on his own, claiming to be a defector and to have always known about the transporter trick and never told his men. Together, he and Janeway make great headway in finding the wormhole, but before the work is completed he has to return to his crew to keep them being ineffectual and prevent them becoming suspicious. He then returns in an official capacity and, with his second-in-command out of the room, asks Janeway if she's located the wormhole. As soon as she tells him where it is, he calls in his second, orders his men to materialise the telepaths and flies Voyager to the wormhole, intending to destroy it to prevent further escapees. Except the wormhole isn't there, the transporter buffer is full of vegetables, and the telepaths are already on their way to the actual wormhole location in cloaked shuttles — using cloaking methods Kashyk shared with Janeway as part of his defector ruse.
    Kashyk: You created false readings.
    Janeway: That is the theme for this evening, isn't it?
  • Supernatural:
    • In the sixth season finale, Castiel and Crowley have a simple plan: open the door to Purgatory and harvest the power of all the souls within. Castiel (being the more powerful of the two) decides to cut Crowley out of the deal at the last minute, and take all the power for himself. Very quickly, this starts to look like a bad decision on Castiel's part, because Crowley immediately seeks out and 'defects' to Castiel's most powerful enemy: the Archangel Raphael. Crowley offers Raphael the original deal and together, Raphael and Crowley force Castiel to flee, leaving behind all the ingredients for the spell. Unfortunately for Crowley and Raphael, Castiel wasn't taken by surprise at all. What he left behind include a fake version of one ingredient; something rare, hard to get, and crucial to the spell. He'd already hidden the real item away somewhere else. While Raphael and Crowley waste their time trying to cast a spell that can never work, Castiel is able to complete his work without threat or interruption. By the time he finishes, he's pretty much the most powerful being in the Supernatural universe. Only God, and probably Death, are stronger. Raphael doesn't fare very well after that.
    • All the Winchesters have managed to successfully pull this on occasion. Henry, John, and Sam are all pretty good, but the real master has to be Dean. More often than not, Dean manages to defeat what ever being of much greater strength, power, or intelligence (or all three) he is up against, but making them think they are winning. 9/10 if Dean is surrendering, losing his cool, and acting irrationally or seemingly being defeated badly, you're five seconds away from him defeating them in one big master stroke.
  • Happens in Third Watch in the final season. A serial killer is playing games with two cops and won't tell them where his latest victim is hidden before she dies — he knows pretty much the exact hour this happens. However, he's willing to divulge her location after that hour. What the cops do? Since the perp has no way of knowing the time outside of the interrogation room, they switch the clocks.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • At IWA Mid-South No Retreat...No Surrender, January 21, 2006, Chris Hero faced Garbage Wrestler Necro Butcher in a "European Rules" match, with the stipulation that if Necro survived both rounds Hero would have to face him in a Barroom Brawl. Hero imposed tons of rules on the premise that there would be no way for Necro to keep up with them. Instead, Necro managed to fight Hero to a 1:1 draw (Hero won Round 4, Necro won Round 5), meaning that Hero found himself in the situation he did not want to be in, a Barroom Brawl against Necro Butcher. Butcher won, of course.
  • CHIKARA, 2009-2010: UltraMantis Black, by Ares, who had Tim Donst pose as Vökoder to retrieve the Eye of Tyr from Mantis, and then used the Eye to have Delirious injure Crossbones and destroy Mantis' Order of the Neo-Solar Temple.
  • The Miz suffered this fate at the hands of Montel Vontavious Porter and Bobby Lashley. After months of threatening to use the Money in the Bank briefcase to cash in on Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship only to be brushed off as a joke, including one failed mid-match attempt that was later negated on a technicality, Miz found his chance when he made a deal with MVP to have Bobby Lashley soften Drew up before Miz cashed in following his Elimination Chamber 2021 title defense. Unfortunately, the terms of this arrangement involved Lashley getting the first crack at the championship, a fact MVP reminded Miz of as soon as he started to get out of hand with his Evil Gloating the next night on Raw. Miz attempted various antics to stall for time, which only bought him until the main event of the following week, by which point Lashley was primed to tear him apart. Even Shane McMahon was sick of his B.S. and forced him to either face Lashley in a lumberjack match or forfeit the championship. Inevitably, Lashley tore the championship away from Miz in an absolute Squash Match, with Miz's best efforts resulting in one of the most ineffectual and the most cowardly world championship reign in WWE history—eight days long with an 0-3 record and not a single bit of successful offense hit as champion. While Miz did marginally better in his rematch a week after that, his time as champ was done, he had no Money in the Bank, and his credibility as even a challenger going forward was completely shot, while The Hurt Business had taken control of the title scene on Monday Night Raw.
  • Happened to Stephanie McMahon on the March 19, 2001 WWE Raw. Commissioner William Regal issued a restraining order to The Undertaker in her name. However, it didn't say anything about Kane, so Taker sent Kane after her. Kane was shown pressing Stephanienote  above his head. Taker told Regal to give Kane what he wanted, which was a match with Big Show at WrestleMania X-7, and that he, Taker, wanted a match with Triple H. Regal agreed.
  • Happened to HHH himself a few times.

  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (The Musical). Same as the film.
    Lawrence: Yes Freddy, isn't she wonderful!
  • The History of the Devil: Lucifer is out-gambitted twice; once in a flashback by Jesus Christ, and again at the ending by the prosecution. His goal had been to reenter heaven by proving himself innocent of humanity's suffering. The prosecution acquits him on the caveat that he can never leave heaven again, knowing that heaven is utterly empty, having been abandoned by God and the other angels.
  • Richard of Thrill Me plans the perfect crime, and Nathan acts as his accomplice because Nathan is better at details. However, Nathan wants them to get caught. And he's...better at details. Nathan leaves evidence kind of everywhere.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed: Revelations "Lost Archives" DLC reveals that Warren Vidic and Lucy were working together all along to use Desmond to obtain the Apple for the Templars. This plan would have gone without a hitch if it didn't run counter to the plans of the Precursors. One of them, Juno, was aware that Lucy had betrayed the Assassins and, taking control of Desmond via an Apple of Eden, forces Desmond to kill Lucy to keep the Apple out of Templar hands.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Batman and Bane join forces to destroy all of the Titan drug in Arkham City. Bane actually wants it all for himself, and only worked with Batman because it would be easier to find everything this way. However, at the resolution of the quest, Batman reveals that he knew full well Bane's intentions and that he let Bane collect his half anyway so he could dispose of them in one go.
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift plays with this trope in Arcade mode — while in Story mode Yuuki Terumi's scheme comes to fruition with few flaws, he needed to view the entire Continuum Shift to do it, and two characters in Arcade mode came dangerously close to obliterating his plans. Both act on the exact same flaw — Terumi's dependence on the Sword of the Godslayer, Kusanagi, aka Noel Vermillion.
    • Rachel Alucard knew fully well that Terumi was on the hunt for Noel Vermillion, the "Eye of the Azure", and in her penultimate fight, she encounters the girl and fights her to help her understand just what she is and what she's capable of. Even though Rachel explained things quite clearly, Noel did not want to accept reality, and that left a window for Terumi to come in, grab her, and toss her into the cauldron for her scheduled smelting.
    • Makoto Nanaya, empowered by her knowledge of events in Slight Hope, cut right on through and disabled Tsubaki so she wouldn't try to kill Noel, and right after took Noel down to break her mindrape induced trance. Logic dictates that Terumi had no choice but to pull Noel out of Makoto's grasp at this time — Makoto knew full well what Noel was, had every intention of explaining herself to Noel, and Noel was more inclined to believe her close friend than the vampire in the poofy dress. The resulting battle between Makoto and Terumi saw the latter chomping at the bit to kill the "little bitch" once and for all.
  • The Gambit Pileup of Chrono Cross occurs when two factions compete on manipulating entire civilizations (and one of fiction's greatest Unwitting Pawns) to further their schemes across time and space, little realizing that they themselves are being played by a Chessmaster who nobody had accounted for, despite making little effort to hide himself and even having exposition-heavy chats with the protagonist on several occasions.
  • In Command & Conquer Tiberian Dawn, Kane spends most of the GDI campaign outmaneuvering you, using his control of the media to paint your organization as a bunch of murderers, until your funding gets slashed and your leaders are bogged down by inquiries and investigations. Then a few missions later your commanding officer returns to reveal that the entire thing was a ploy to lure Nod into making a hasty offensive, so not only are you able to counterattack, but a surge in GDI funding has led to new toys like Orca VTOL craft and Ion Cannons.
  • Disgaea:
    • From an embarrassing photo used to instigate a blackmail scheme, to allergy information to put a young boy in a dangerous situation, to non-integral minions bribed into disloyalty, to said young boy made angry enough to want to kill the blackmailer, Maderas' scheme to inherit the throne by killing Laharl was made one of these by Etna herself, and he never saw it coming up until it actually happened.
    • Seraph Lamington does the same by acting like a gullible fool around his right hand man, Archangel Vulcanus. Vulcanus believed Lamington was completely blind to his plan to conquer the Netherworld, Celestia, and the Human World, while it turned out Lamington was very aware of his schemes from the start, and in fact he was using Vulcanus' plan in order to lure Laharl and Flonne to Celestia so he could begin the last step in his own Gambit.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening:
    • Near the end of the game, the Big Bad, in his bid to release Grima, puts you into a situation where it appears you have killed the game's main character, as was foreshadowed in a dream sequence at the very beginning of the game. This leaves the villain with one hero dead, the other his puppet, and the legendary treasure in his possession... except that one of the parts of said treasure is actually a forgery, making it incomplete and thus insufficient for his plans, plus the Avatar purposely weakened their magic and faked their own possession BEFORE attacking Chrom to make it look like it had all played out like the dream. Cue Villainous Breakdown.
    • Then the Hierophant, who is the Grima from the Bad Future, jumps into the Awakening ritual, using his own power to resurrect the present Grima, effectively completing the plan and out gambitting the Avatar at the same time.
    • A villainous and tragic example occurs in chapter 9. Thanks to the knowledge the Hierophant gives him, Validar is able predict every single tactic the Avatar uses in their attempt to save Emmeryn and effortlessly counters them each time, ultimately resulting in the death of Phila and Emmeryn's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The Game Mod Blue Planet: War in Heaven for FreeSpace 2 has a magnificent example of this. Admiral Calder of the United Earth Federation thinks he's driven a Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance fleet into a trap by tricking Admiral Lopez of the GTVA into making rash actions to protect her ships. However, Lopez's entire fleet was nothing more than bait set out by Admiral Steele, the commander of all GTVA forces in the Sol system. He knew exactly what sort of gambit Calder would pull on Lopez, and when Calder's battered, exhausted force finally began to close the noose on Lopez's flagship GTD Carthage, Steele brings the GTD Imperieuse out of its Silent Running Mode in the Asteroid Belt — Calder thought he had left Sol system to resupply — and jumps out of subspace into the fray at the exact right location to start tearing Calder's ships to pieces with his main beam cannons from beyond the Earth ships' effective range. The "Tevs" lose a few small ships and a number of fighters, while the most elite task force in the entire United Earth Federation is almost completely destroyed save one ship in a matter of minutes. Also doubles as a Player Punch as the player is stationed on that one ship that makes it out alive only to emerge from subspace too close to the sun and doom the crew to an agonizing death...or so it seems.
  • Golden Sun. Alex Chessmasters his way to attaining the ultimate power of the Golden Sun, only to find that The Wise One had foreseen the possibility of this happening and arranged events at the beginning of the first game such that Alex would be screwed over at the last possible second of the second game. Ouch.
  • Jade Empire: The plot is a series of these, each getting sprung on by the next gambit. The ending even comes down to which one ultimately pays off: Yours, now as the Villain Protagonist (the bad ending for everyone else), The Big Good's (good ending for everyone except the Big Bad), and The Big Bad's (bad ending for everyone except for the Big Bad).
  • Mass Effect:
    • Despite their efforts to prevent it, Aria, Liara, the Shadow Broker, and the various merc groups on Omega all get Out-Gambitted by the Illusive Man and Cerberus in between the events of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.
    • The Illusive Man has his plan to subvert Shepard in Mass Effect 2 by giving a false impression of Cerebus as the misunderstood good guys by ensuring the Normandy SR-2 was crewed by generally morally upright and sympathetic Cerebus members blow up in his face. By putting good people on the ship, they respond to being led by Shepard, especially the Paragon version, by promptly showing they're far more loyal to Shepard when Shepard tells their boss to get stuffed. Note this mass defection also includes the ship.
    • The Illusive Man himself gets outwitted by the Reapers. Although he came really close to fulfilling his plans to control them and use them to take over the galaxy, he ultimately ends up indoctrinated from prolonged contact with Reaper technology. It's heavily implied (but never directly stated) that he was actually indoctrinated before you met him and they were behind his plan to control them from the beginning as a way to cause infighting among galactic resistance; Javik tells Shepard they pulled a similar gambit successfully in his cycle.
  • Mortal Kombat 11: at the climax of the Aftermath expansion's story, once Shang Tsung is done killing and betraying everyone around him and has seized both Kronika's crown and the hourglass, Fire God Liu Kang emerges from a time hole to confront him, looking not at all surprised, and calmly reveals he straight-up lied about being unable to intervene. Shang Tsung realizes that the Hourglass must have shown him this outcome, and by striking at the last moment, the sorcerer had deprived himself of all his resources, preventing any Xanatos Speed Chess. Even Shang Tsung's attempt to call the sacrifice of all his allies cold-blooded falls on deaf ears, as Liu Kang points out this timeline and everyone in it was already doomed, so he lost nothing by waiting until the last possible second.
  • Towards the end of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Grodus proves to be a very intelligent foe. He intentionally leaves the last Crystal Star at the X-Naut fortress guarded by Crump, so that regardless of who wins the battle, he'll have all seven Crystal Stars and be able to open the Thousand Year Door. When he's confronted, he uses Peach as a hostage to keep Mario from attacking him. Even Bowser unexpectedly (and quite literally) dropping in doesn't matter, as he uses the distraction to take Peach to the Shadow Queen's coffin. Grodus awakens the Shadow Queen and it seems like he has won. And then it's revealed that Beldam actually lied to Grodus about the Shadow Queen being bound to serve the one who releases her, and the Queen promptly disposes of Grodus.
  • Although primarily designed to be humorous, Peasant's Quest falls into this trope when the expected victory scene is replaced with a short speech by Trogdor informing the player that despite having met all of the said conditions for vanquishing the dragon, he is invincible and cannot be killed. Fortunately, you get a statue built of you because you've come closer than anyone else.
  • Persona 5: The Phantom Thieves pull off a caper against The Conspiracy using their knowledge of the Metaverse. After figuring out that Black Mask had tricked them into going to the Casino Palace, the rest of the Phantom Thieves knew that Black Mask was going to try to kill Joker, though they weren't quite sure why yet. Black Mask believes that they've managed to bait the Phantom Thieves into giving up Joker, get him into police custody, and make it look like Joker committed suicide during questioning rather than pay for his crimes in jail. However, knowing Black Mask was going to try something, the Phantom Thieves came up with a plan. The Thieves used the fact that a Palace's distortions only affect one area to make Black Mask think he was in the real world while secretly transferring him to the Metaverse, making Black Mask kill a cognitive version of Joker rather than the real one. Then, they used spyware on Black Mask's phone to spy on him reporting his "success" to the Big Bad, all while the real Joker sat safe and sound in the real police custody, with Black Mask none the wiser. And, thanks to Sae Niijima being convinced by Joker to help the Phantom Thieves, Joker was able to exit police custody without being spotted. After all this, a television interview makes Black Mask realize that they've been tricked, and admits to being impressed at the Phantom Thieves pulling it off. What makes it even more impressive is that Joker had been drugged by corrupt police earlier, and didn't remember there even was a gambit until the last minute.
  • In Portal 2, Wheatley of all characters manages to pull this on Chell and GlaDOS. He spends so much time building up a trap a few chambers ahead, all while trying and failing to act like it's not a trap, that nobody suspects the real trap was the Aerial Faith Plate that hurls them sideways into a Death Trap rather than ahead to the "real" trap a ways further. Even GlaDOS is taken aback by how well it was done, as it actually counted on her trying to take advantage of his idiocy to out-gambit him.
    Wheatley: Surprise! We're doing it now!
    GlaDOS: Okay, credit where it's due: for a little idiot built specifically to come up with stupid, unworkable plans, that was a pretty well laid trap.
  • In every Resident Evil game except 5, Wesker always wins. Everything is set up to rebound to his benefit, even if he takes a hit or two along the way. Until 5, the only character to hand Wesker a defeat of any kind is Ada Wong, who pulls off a successful doublecross at the end of Resident Evil 4.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Eggman pulls this on Sonic and Tails. Eggman kidnaps Amy, in order to get Sonic to give him the last Chaos Emerald. However, earlier, Tails made a fake, which would ultimately blow up the Eclipse Cannon and Eggman had learned earlier that they had two Emeralds on them, meaning one of them was a fake. Sonic plans to exchange the fake for Amy, to kill "two birds with one stone". However, Eggman tricks Sonic into getting trapped in an escape pod rigged to explode. What follows can only be expressed in dialogue.
    Eggman: You thought you could trick me with that fake Emerald?
    Tails: So... How did you know it wasn't the real one?
    Eggman: Because you just TOLD me, fox-boy!
    • The Final Mission starts with this. At the end of the Dark Story, Eggman had been defeated, but he still obtained the last Chaos Emerald and used it to power up the Eclipse Cannon. However, instead of a fully-powered cannon, it ends up activating Gerald Robotnik's ultimate middle finger to the world.
  • Thuris from Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is said to be the smartest of the three world eaters. While he DOES do some pretty creative things with the fact that most people can't see him, he's simply playing against several other, much better, chess masters. Including one of the other world eaters.
  • StarCraft and the expansion Brood War feature a massive Gambit Pileup, where Kerrigan ultimately Out-Gambits everyone, kills most of the characters, and only spares those not worth it because mercy is worse. And then it's revealed that she was out gambitted by someone else.
  • It occurs often in Tears to Tiara 2 as two very capable commanders duke it out. Worth mentioning is that quite a few of Hamil's plans seems to be very accurately predicted by Izebel, who counters it handily and makes life very hard. She actually knew exactly what he's going to do because he told her before his memories were wiped and stashed away. When he finally defeats her, it was with a plan that she had insisted he not tell her.
  • Given that The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has a massive Gambit Pileup, this trope is in full effect as Chessmasters are pitted against each other — however, the winner being Letho came out of left field for most players, albeit at the behest of the Emperor of Nilfgaard.
  • The player's interaction with Drakuru in World of Warcraft becomes this. While he initially uses you as a pawn in his schemes to breach Drak'tharon Keep and enable the Scourge invasion of the Gun'drak zone, things change once you get there. He tries to turn you into a ghoul and make you into his right hand, but the Knights of the Ebon Blade fake the transformation and have you secretly sabotage all of his plans while pretending to serve him. Eventually you manage to turn his secret weapon against him and he asks the Lich King for help, who kills him. This turns out to be because Arthas is working on a gambit of his own, and you're more important to it than Drakuru.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The final case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney reveals that Kristoph Gavin set up a long Gambit involving poisoning a painter via postage stamp and his daughter via nail polish after using the two of them to take revenge on Phoenix. But, Phoenix Wright set up an even greater Gambit that overhauled the entire legal system of the country just to catch Kristoph.
    • This happens in case 4 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies to Yuri Cosmos, who was given a bomb threat by the Phantom to stop the HAT-2 launch. When the government wouldn't cancel the launch, Yuri took matters into his own hands by switching Launch Pad 1 with the Space Museum (formerly Launch Pad 2) and having Clay Terran drug Sol Starbuck with his own anxiety pills to keep him none the wiser. However, the Phantom wiretapped his phone and used this information to kill Clay and escape.
    • In the final case of the The Great Ace Attorney duology, Lord Stronghart tries to use the argument that public order would break down if his crimes were to be known. However, Herlock Sholmes had already anticipated this and used a transmitter to let Her Majesty, Queen Victoria herself, know everything that was revealed in the trial. The Queen then proceeds to strip Lord Stronghart of his position as Lord Chief Justice and decrees that he will be prosecuted in a public trial to ensure that he will not be able to cover up what he has done.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Miu convinces everyone to go into her virtual reality simulation, assuring them she has gotten rid of weapons. In reality, she also edited and added several settings, designating her avatar an object, and thus unable to be broken, creating a wall only objects could pass through, and making it so Kokichi's avatar could be paralyzed by her, in order to kill him. Kokichi quickly catches on but agrees to enter and forms his own scheme. Knowing Miu would make it impossible for him to kill her, Kokichi shows Gonta a flashback light, convincing him to murder Miu to mercy kill everyone at the ensuring trial. When the inventor calls Kokichi to the roof, Gonta appears and strangles her with a roll of toilet paper. This act shatters any respect the remaining students had for Kokichi.
  • In Double Homework, Dr. Mosely/Zeta does this to Dennis after he blackmails her into doing his bidding, and using her resources to help him sleep with all the girls in the summer school class. She buys time by convincing him that he has a mind-control device, and then, when he is otherwise occupied, she has her Cleanup Crew destroy all the incriminating evidence that he has stored in his apartment.
  • In Silver Crisis, the titular Silver does this to Ganondorf, having fully intended to betray him from the beginning, and doing the research to figure out how to defeat him. He bluffs Ganondorf into allowing him to go through with his plan, knowing that Ganon needs his help in order to achieve the power of a God and become unstoppable. During the final battle, he takes Din’s Aura from Ness himself, who she was residing in, angering Ganondorf, and causing him to attack Silver. But Silver then lands a fatal blow on him with a Silver Arrow he had hidden, absorbing his Aura for himself and becoming the “Ultimate Life Form”, in his own words.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "stupid stuff", Strong Bad makes a bet with e-mailer Kevin Grumbles (Pronounced with actual grumbling sounds) that he can get Homestar to say something smart in order to win some "grumblecakes." Turns out that Homestar had made a bet with Kevin (grumbles) that he could make Strong Bad say something stupid (which he does in an attempt to make Homestar sound smarter) and claims the grumblecakes for himself.
    Strong Bad: I'LL GET YOU, KEVIN (grumbles)!!!
  • RWBY
    • Cinder gets spectacularly outwitted in "Vault of the Spring Maiden". Cinder had already figured out that Raven Branwen had planned on double-crossing her to keep the holder of the Spring Maiden powers, Vernal, away from her. With the trio away from everyone else, Cinder makes her move, freezes Raven, then gloats about how pathetic a leader she is as she uses her Grimm arm to gut Vernal and steal her powers. To Cinder's horror, it's not there. Raven breaks free and reveals herself to have been the real Spring Maiden; Vernal was just a decoy.
    • Ironwood equally gets spectacularly outwitted in "Creation". Ironwood had Team RWBY and JNPR on the ropes as he threatened to destroy Mantle should they not return Penny to him. Even Ruby, ever the eternal optimist, suffers a Heroic BSoD because she can't figure out a way out of this. Unknowing to Ironwood, though, three things happened: Emerald pulled a Heel–Face Turn and joined our heroes, Marrow and Winter did the same, realizing how unhinged Ironwood was, and Qrow and Robyn were still free. When the latter four meet, they're able to come up with a plan to defeat Ironwood and the remaining Ace-Ops.

  • Chainsawsuit presents: double sting. Dateline tries To Catch A Predator. Meanwhile, a fan tries to see live Stone Phillips.
  • In Coming Up Violet, Racquel gives Abby two cups of punch, one for Abby and one for Violet. Violet's cup is spiked so that Racquel can humiliate her. Abby swaps the cups so Racquel is drinking her own punch, since Abby wants to be rid of Racquel.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Sirleck planned to possess Magus as soon as he got his new body but Magus saw it coming and kills Sirleck as a result.
  • This exchange between The Dragon and the Big Bad leader of a cult dedicated to the god of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in Exterminatus Now.
  • Caliborn and Calliope in Homestuck. Calliope typically comes across as by far the smarter of the two, but unfortunately for her, Caliborn is really good at thinking outside the box. At one point, their relationship is reflected by a game of chess they're playing, and Calliope comments that Caliborn is playing really badly and wonders why he bothered pestering her into letting him switch the positions of his king and queen. A few turns later, he calls checkmate, and she thinks he's crazy...only for Caliborn to reveal that he hadn't switched their positions, he'd just made little hats that made his queen look like his king and vice-versa, and he hadn't technically made any illegal moves. Calliope, quite understandably, Rage Quits.
    • More importantly, he short-circuits most of her plans instantly by just having her dreamself assassinated before their session even starts.
    • The events surrounding the trolls' entry into the medium also qualify. Equius and Vriska are plotting to usurp the title of Blue Team Leader from Aradia (with both of course also planning to backstab the other). Aradia allows them to proceed, because A) the position of Team Leader doesn't really matter much anyway and B) in their plotting they are actually unwittingly advancing Aradia's goals.
    • Rose gets Out-Gambitted big time by Doc Scratch. She knew that she was an Unwitting Pawn from the beginning, though never knew to what extent she was being controlled. This becomes symbolic when you consider her Aspect, Light, and her class, Seer, and how she was manipulated by creatures of the Void to do their bidding.
  • The basis of this Penny Arcade strip.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • In the "Barsoom Command" arc, Schlock has discovered that the mission he is on was nothing but a trap to trick them into drawing one of their allies, the AI Lunesby, out of hiding. The trap has been sprung, Lunesby is in danger, most of Schlock's team has been arrested, and he's not far behind. Right when the bad guys are about to finish sweeping everything under the rug, they realize that Lunesby has already escaped; a few days previously Schlock hired an old enemy to contact some new friends, and they completed the mission while the bad guys were distracted containing Schlock and his team.
    • In the "Big Can of Sky" arc, Tagii manages to slip a message past Ennesby to another AI. The awesome part is that Tagii was a partition in Ennesby's brain at the time; it was literally impossible for her to be smarter than him, but she outsmarted him anyway.
  • In Tales of the Questor, the fae princeling Dolan had set up a gambit both to shaft the human Duke, after DECADES of extortion, into releasing the Wild Hunt, and another to raise the princeling's own status in the Unseleighe Court and to debase a family enemy from the Seleighe court by forcing his enemy's daughter, Lady Absinthe, to ride the wild hunt for him. This led to the whole thing rather famously blowing up in his face.... with good evidence that Lady Absinthe had known the score all along and had helped set Dolan up for his fall.
    • Quentyn himself managed to do this with a group of people who tried to repossess half his home village, including his parents' farm: upon realizing that the covenant clause the group used to pin the debt on him, specifically, fails to specify the number of successors beholden to the debt (which by racconan law, it must or be limited to a single generation), he takes the quest specified in the contract, saving the village and ending the matter with him — and no one can do a thing about it.

    Web Video 
  • 5 Second Films shows why you never switch a switcher.
  • Mr. Gibbs: In "Mr. Meseeks Hide and Seek", Brock tells Ledger he is hiding in cFNf, with the intent to blow him up upon entry. Ledger outsmarts this by putting a camera into cFNf first and seeing the bomb wall inside, only for Brock to outsmart this by shooting Ledger dead while he is distracted with the camera.
  • In There Will Be Brawl, Ganondorf attempts to overthrow the Mushroom Kingdom by using the Butchers to create fear among the residents. Unfortunately, he also underestimates the amount of influence that Kirby still holds over them...

    Western Animation 
  • In one American Dad! episode, Steve's mildly retarded friend Barry turns out to be a criminal mastermind kept in check only by powerful anti-psychotic "vitamins". After he goes off them and causes havoc, Steve challenges him to a game involving two cups, one of which contains his medication. The scene that follows is a parody of the one from The Princess Bride, and naturally Steve put Barry's meds in both cups. Unlike Westley, however, Steve has no immunity to the meds.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Long Feng and Azula are savvy enough to know they are BOTH attempting this, but Azula's Hannibal Lecture is just too good and he concedes.
  • In Beast Machines, Tankor/Rhinox is Out-Gambitted by Megatron when he reveals that Tankor/Rhinox can't actually hurt Megatron thanks to the Restraining Bolt Megatron hardwired into him when he first implanted Rhinox's Spark into the Tankor body.
  • Big City Greens:
    • In "Harvest Dinner", Cricket and Gramma end up buying a papaya instead of the intended paprika for the family stew, so they distract Tilly and switch the groceries; however, when they get home, Bill reveals the jar is empty. Turns out, Tilly knew they would switch the groceries, so she hid the paprika in her pocket to throw them off.
    • In "Bleeped", Cricket overhears a (kid-friendly) cuss word "blort" from Gramma and becomes so amused by it he ends up passing it to the rest of the choir children but Tilly; Bill goes to great lengths to stop the potty-mouths, to the point he ends up going "full dad" and outright frightening the kids into no longer cussing and leaving the room in silence. But it turns out Cricket only pretended to be scared because he didn't like Bill controlling his language, and plots to drop a B-bomb at the end of the concert.
  • In the Season 3 finale of Carmen Sandiego, Roundabout sets up a gambit to bait Carmen into attempting to steal St. Edward's crown so that she'll get arrested and he'll be able to steal the crown easily afterwards. Unfortunately for him, Carmen and Shadow-san knew him well enough to know that he'd pull something like this and so set up their own gambit to work around his. The result: Roundabout's cover as a member of Her Majesty's secret service is blown out of the water, leading to his arrest.
  • DC Animated Universe
    • Batman: The Animated Series:
      • In "Mad Love" (adapted from an issue of The Batman Adventures), Harley Quinn actually gets Batman to fall for one of her traps, but then Batman (rather expectedly) uses a Batman Gambit to exploit both her feelings for the Joker and how the Joker would react.
        Batman: She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs shackled, dizzy from the blood rushing to my brain... I had no way out other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the honor of killing me, though I have to admit she came a lot closer than you ever did... Puddin'.
      • In "You Scratch My Back", Catwoman should have known better that to try and play Nightwing, Batman's protege. He has after all been taught by the best.
    • Justice League:
      • In "Injustice for All" the Injustice League has captured Batman, and begins working on different ideas to tear the league apart to defeat them. What they don't realize before it's too late is that a) Batman's manipulating THEM into screwing up, and b) He can escape whenever he wanted. Naturally, The Joker — the member who actually caught Batman for the team — is the only guy (except for the Ultra-Humanite) who fully expects Batman to escape, and pleads for the right to kill him immediately. Lex Luthor doesn't listen, and the team listens to Lex, which means, of course, that The Joker was the Only Sane Man in that situation. The real man who Out-Gambitted the Injustice League, though, was the Ultra-Humanite, who had already agreed to help Batman return for a generous donation in his name to his favourite public broadcast station.
    • Justice League Unlimited:
      • The third season revolves a great deal around the conflict between super villains Lex Luthor and Grodd. In their final confrontation, Luthor manipulates Grodd into using his own powers to destroy himself, resulting in this exchange:
        Luthor: Goodbye, Grodd. It could have gone the other way.
        Grodd:: It really could have, couldn't it?
        Luthor: No. But why speak ill of the dead?
      • Green Arrow versus The Question in the Gail Simone-written episode "Double Date". Arrow spots Question pocketing evidence, and confiscates a locker key. Once he's gone, Question then reveals that the key was a fake-out, and the real evidence he palmed was a shipping manifest. And then we find out that Arrow knew he was being conned, and hid outside so that he could follow Question when he chased up the real lead.
  • Gargoyles: David Xanatos in episode 12, "Her Brother's Keeper". No, seriously. His plan is to woo Elisa's brother to his side, first taking advantage of the fact that she can't tell him about the gargoyles (and hence why she thinks Xanatos is an evil mastermind) and then tell him his own version to make sure not even their testimony will help anymore. He even orders Fox to tell Elisa this outright, because with her brother no longer believing her, it will do her no good. Except that it does, because she brought a tape recorder. Duh. This plan is hardly Xanatos's best anyway, since it involves setting hypercompetent killers on himself with serious lethal intent and real weapons.
  • In Generator Rex, all of the villains who spent the entire series scheming to obtain the Meta-Nanites, the keys to godhood, were outmaneuvered before the series even began. The Salazars — Cesar and his parents — had programmed the Meta-Nanites in such a way that only Rex could tap into their full power.
  • Throughout the first season of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021), Evelyn and Kronis have been plotting behind Skeletor's back to betray him and take the power he had promised but failed to deilver on for themselves. They eventually convince Skeletor to share with them the power of Havoc to counter the Masters of the Universe, who beat them soundly before because He-Man shared the Power of Grayskull with all of them. After successfully stealing Kirbinite to improve Skeletor's staff, he gives them and R'Qazz, recruited by Evelyn to help the coup, Havoc to become the Dark Masters. After Skeletor brainwashed the entire Red Legion and sent them to conqure Eternos, the Dark Masters attack Skeletor to usurp the throne for themselves. Skeletor then reveals he never needed the Kirbinite to empower them with Havoc, but to control them with Havoc, proving he always suspected their treachery and placed them completely at his mercy.
  • Looney Tunes
    • Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam are "masters" of this trope.
    • As is "super genius" Wile E. Coyote, at least in those shorts where he's pitted against arch Karmic Trickster Bugs Bunny. (In the Road Runner shorts, he's not really outwitted so much as victimized by fate, gravity, poorly designed ACME products, and his own ineptitude.)
    • Daffy Duck is a victim of this due to Hoist by His Own Petard. ("Wabbit season!" "Duck season." "Wabbit season!" "Duck season." "Wabbit season!" "Wabbit season." "Duck season! Fire!"
    • The theatrical compilation film 1001 Rabbit Tales starts with Bugs and Daffy as door-to-door booksellers. After they get out of the opening meeting with their boss at the publishing company, they take the elevator down. Daffy switches territories with the utterly apathetic Bugs about six times.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Discord has seemingly won, having broken Twilight and brainwashed her friends so they can't use the Elements of Harmony against him. What Princess Celestia does next is send back all of Twilight's friendship reports, and the memories sparked by reading those old letters convinces Twilight to fight for her friends and the bonds they share. That way, Celestia outwitted a Reality Warper spirit of chaos by mailing a bunch of letters.
    • In "Keep Calm and Flutter On", Discord tries to ensure his safety by driving a wedge between the Mane 6 and getting Fluttershy to promise never to use the Element of Kindness against him. However, Fluttershy knew this was happening and managed to reform him by threatening to withdraw the friendship she had been building with Discord throughout the episode, which made Discord realize that her friendship did matter to him.
    • In "The Cutie Map Part 2", Starlight Glimmer is hit with this when the Mane Six use a Fake Defector gambit to turn her attempt to brainwash them against her and ultimately set up an Engineered Public Confession.
  • In one Rick and Morty episode, Rick is kidnapped and put in a simulation of his life by alien scammers who are, once again, trying to steal his formula for concentrated dark matter (a powerful spaceship fuel). Rick knows he's in a simulation, but this time the aliens are prepared for this, and allow Rick to think that he's escaped the simulation and is returning home, and then enter the code to his safe filled with scientific secrets... before revealing that he was still in the simulation, they always had his formula, but now they have the code to his safe too. Rick tries countering this by escaping and attempting to fly home to change the safe code, but while being chased in the flight back to earth he needs to mix up some more of his special high-power fuel to escape. But as soon as he instructs Morty on which ingredients to mix, it's revealed that — once again — he's still in the simulation, and now the aliens have his formula. The aliens, flush with pride and having finally gotten what they wanted, let Rick leave. As Rick flies back to Earth, the aliens throw a party for their success and prepare the first batch of concentrated dark matter, only for the formula to result in a volatile compound that instantly destroys their entire ship.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Twice in Season 4, a scheme involving Double Trouble leads to this happening to someone. In "Mer-Mysteries", Double Trouble gets caught because Adora and Glimmer set a trap in the dining room, baited it with a lie about a backup communications unit that DT would have to destroy, and staged an argument to provide a "distraction" that DT would be able to exploit; even though that specific job of DT's was a success because it distracted the princesses from the conquest of Salineas, being captured takes them out of play until they switch sides out of self-interest. After switching sides, they blow open Catra's manipulation of Hordak by tipping him off about the real reason Entrapta disappeared; Hordak's resultant rampage sets a decent chunk of the Fright Zone on fire and is only stopped when Catra destroys his Arm Cannon and crushes him under a pile of metal, which combines with the Hordes' forces being stretched thin and Catra being rendered virtually catatonic by DT's Breaking Speech to leave the Fright Zone virtually undefended when Glimmer and Scorpia infiltrate.
  • South Park: Scott Tenorman. He thought he was getting around Cartman's Batman Gambit, thanks to some sabotage by Stan and Kyle. Instead, Cartman caused all three of them to run straight into another one that was far, far worse and ended with Scott crying the delicious tears of unfathomable sadness.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars had Obi-Wan and Anakin negotiate for a captured Count Dooku. The negotiations concluded, they celebrate by having a party. Our heroes are wise to the fact their drinks are spiked, and use the Force to switch theirs with some nearby partiers. Not to be outdone, Hondo poisons all the air in the room.
  • Star Wars: Rebels: In Grand Finale "Family Reunion -- and Farewell", an outgambit gets defeated by another outgambit. The Rebels take the main dome of the Imperial complex and make preparations to launch it into space with all hands on board, essentially wiping out the entire occupying force of Lothal in one swoop. Thrawn arrives and puts his own Star Destroyer right above the dome to prevent the launch, while secretly sending his own team to disable the city shields, and then fires upon the city until Ezra agrees to surrender himself. However, Ezra realized that Thrawn might arrive and made a contingency plan: summon a gigantic pod of purrgil that he'd previously befriended and use the Force to direct them to disable the Star Destroyers' hyperdrives, then use the purrgil's own natural abilities to hyperspace the entire fleet to somewhere they can't return from.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), Robin creates the identity of Red X so he can finally meet with Slade. Slade figures this out and not only does Robin only meet with a Sladebot, but this causes tension between him and his friends.
  • In Young Justice (2010), this happens to the Light on a few occasions. Near the end of the first season, they try to use blackmail to get Artemis, Superboy and Ms. Martian to join them, but they defuse the blackmail by telling the other team members their secrets. Then they manage to create a cure and vaccine to the mind-controlling Starro-Tech, and catch the Light by surprise, allowing them to free the JL from the Light's control. Then, in Season 2, not only does Aqualad get the Light and Reach to admit their actions, he also revealed how they had double-crossed each other at multiple points, utterly shattering their alliance. Then in the third, for Vandal Savage, a 50,000-year-old immortal himself says that no one has ever upset his plans like that in his entire life. Then the Team shows up, and not only did the Light fall for Aqualad and Artemis's fake deaths, the Team managed to infiltrate the assassins and capture nearly half the Light.

    Real Life 
  • A well-known military example is the Battle of Midway. By mid-1942 Japan was seeking to lure out the American carriers, which at that point were the only major threat to Japanese naval domination in the western Pacific. Admiral Yamamoto figured that attacking Pearl Harbor a second time was now too risky because land-based aircraft from the US mainland had been transferred in; hence, an attack on Midway Island was decided as Yamamoto figured the US could not afford to let that island fall to Japan but it was out of range of land-based aircraft, forcing the US to send their carriers out where they would be targeted by Japan's own carriers. However, unbeknownst to Japan the US Navy had already broken the Imperial Japanese Navy's communication codes and so learned of the plan, allowing them to craft a counter-trap at Midway that resulted in the IJN losing four carriers while the US lost only one, losses the US could eventually replace but Japan couldn't.
  • Why Roman emperor Tiberius remained in power 'till his natural death in spite of being widely hated by the Senate and surrounded by untrustworthy allies: he could easily play them against each other without even leaving his villa on the island of Capri. Best shown by the fall of Sejanus, the chief of the Praetorian Guard who was using his role as Tiberius' representative in Rome to prepare for a coup: upon learning of his treachery, Tiberius started sending out letters and orders made specifically to confuse the situation and undermine his authority in general and over the Praetorians in particular while at the same time showing the utmost respect for Sejanus, then, once the groundwork was laid, he sent to Rome a man named Macro and had him summon the Senate and Sejanus for the public appointment of Sejanus to tribune (thus effectively making him as powerful as Tiberius himself)... Except the letter, before announcing the appointment, suddenly ordered the arrest of Sejanus and two senators loyal to him, and while the letter was being read the Praetorians guarding the place had been replaced by vigiles (Rome's police force and firefighters) and Macro had announced the Praetorians that Tiberius had just appointed him to their command.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Vizzini Gambit, Gambit Loses To Better Gambit, Out Gambit


Fake Moustache

The hero has disguised himself to expose a gang of con-men in the bazaar. However, the seasoned con-men turn the tables on him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / OutGambitted

Media sources: