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Xanatos Gambit / Real Life

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This is a list of Real Life examples of Xanatos Gambit.

  • Winning strategies in games simple enough to be completely "solved" are like this: your opponent is usually left with several options, but none that allow them to stop you from winning by following a preset rule each turn.
  • In the casino business they say that the house always wins, and indeed, it's true. When gamblers lose all their money, the house gets rich, but when someone has a lucky streak and wins big, this only serves to encourage others to take more risks, which means the house will actually get even richer in the long run for having "lost" some money to a big winner. The law of large numbers is on their side, after all. This is, in short, how casinos can stay in business—they virtually always turn a profit on the actual gambling, because their payouts will never exceed their income. Casinos do go bankrupt, but that's generally a result of the combination of overhead—paying all the cocktail waitresses, dealers, croupiers, security, janitors (casinos need a lot of janitors), managers, etc., and the cost of simply maintaining a large building (both repairs and costs of owning land like mortgages and taxes)—and the fact that casinos tend to be combined with other non-gambling business with narrower margins (that is, they tend to have hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues, some of which cost additional money and all of which are strongly dependent on having large numbers of people show up);note  the gambling itself, as an isolated activity, is always profitable.
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  • Using the Power Of Math, insurance companies can calculate with very high accuracy how much in insurance claims they will have to pay out in a given time frame. Insurance premiums are calculated to be higher than that number so the company will always come out ahead. They don't need to know what accidents happen to which of their clients at what time. For any of the trillions of scenarios that can happen during one year, the premiums they'll receive will cover for virtually all of them. note  In the few cases that insurers would lose money they have in turn taken out insurances with companies like Munich Re (the company formerly known as Münchner Rück) who insure insurers against bigger risks such as tsunamis, earthquakes or major flooding.
  • Chief Justice John Marshall pulled one on President Thomas Jefferson with the historic Marbury v. Madison case by claiming the power of judicial review and using it to give Jefferson exactly what he wanted. This left Jefferson in the position of either accepting Marshall's power grab, or handing Marbury the job that he was so intent on withholding in the first place. "Marbury v. Madison: A politician covering his ass, or the most masterful usurpation of power in the history of America?"
    • You should be reading the other wiki's excellent explanation of it, but in case you find it too full of legalese for your taste, we'll do our best: One day before leaving office, President John Adams got Congress to approve the appointment of a bunch of his Federalist friends to circuit judge/justice of the peace positions, in order to keep as many posts as possible under Federalist party control when Thomas Jefferson, of the Democratic-Republican Party, became the new President. As soon as he was sworn in, President Jefferson instructed his new Secretary of the State James Madison not to deliver any commissions still in their possession; Madison complied. William Marbury, a supporter of Adams and one of the men appointed as Justice of the Peace, got really angry about it and sued Madison in a case before the Supreme Court, in order to force him to deliver the remaining commissions (without the commissions in their hands, the appointed officers could not legally take their posts). Then the Supreme Court ruled 4-0 against Marbury, but the bombshell came in the court's opinion, written by John Marshall, where he explained that Marbury had a right to his commission, and the Court could force Madison to deliver it, but the law that sustained that commission (the Judiciary Act of 1801) contradicted the Constitution and was, therefore, unconstitutional; that meant the Supreme Court, as the entity authorized by the Constitution to say what the law is, had a duty to strike down that law, and that's why Marbury could not receive his commission. That put Jefferson on the receiving end of a Xanatos gambit: he could either (1) accept the Court's decision and deny the nomination to Marbury (what he wanted), but at the same time accept that the Supreme Court would forever hold power to strike down any laws that in its opinion contradicted the Constitution, or (2) ignore the Court, but at the same time be forced to deliver the commission to Marbury and the other Federalist appointees. He chose number 1.
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  • Similar to the above, the Lawyer paradox, of no relation to the Liar paradox. A teaches B in rhetoric and the law, payment to be given when B wins his first case. B finishes his teachings but never takes a case, instead becoming a transactional lawyer. A gets upset and sues B for his payment. A argues:
    If I win, then B must pay me for teaching him.
    If I lose, then B has won, and must still pay me.
  • Contrariwise, B argues:
    If I win, then I do not need to pay A, for I have won.
    If I lose, then I have not won my first case, and need not pay him.
  • Who is right?
    • The judge dismisses the case as frivolous, because you can't sue to collect a debt that isn't due yet, and, because B winning his first case was an express condition of the contract, the debt was not yet due (when there is an express condition to a contract, the party's duties do not become due until the express condition occurs). Since the case doesn't actually go to trial, B has not actually won the case.
    • B could also hire another lawyer to defend him, and thus avoid paying either way, due to not winning his first case.
    • Alternately, the court could rule that the agreement's express condition that payment would be due when B won his first case created a duty of good faith for B to at least try to find a first case, which B breached when he failed to seek a case to litigate. This, incidentally, is the most boring way to resolve the dispute—and the most likely one for a modern court to adopt.note 
  • When there's a secret, the goal is usually to keep the secret, but leaking the truth can also be made into a "win".
    • The creators of lonelygirl15 tried to pass it off as a real girl's videoblog; when they were caught, it was a firestorm of publicity.
    • Likewise, the revelation that the Cormoran Strike series were actually written by J. K. Rowling under a pseudonym shot the first book in the series, and all subsequent ones, up the bestseller list.
  • Creators seeking Refuge in Audacity who are aware that there's No Such Thing as Bad Publicity might be seen as using this trope - the "bad" publicity that might be seen as a loss actually results in more sales for them.
    • This applies to every effort any individual or organization makes to discourage people from watching a movie, reading a book or playing a game; the controversy resulting thereof causes a huge spike in sales (which is just fine by the creator(s) of said movie/book/game). Sometimes overlaps with the Streisand Effect.
    • Worked like a particularly obvious charm for promoting Grand Theft Auto. The UK publicists told the tabloid The Daily Mail which whipped itself up into a frenzy quicker than you can say "BAN THIS SICK FILTH!" Result: publicity you couldn't buy if you wanted to.
  • Why baseball has an Infield fly rule. Before the rule, if the batter hit a fly ball into the infield with a force play at third or home, the runners had two choices. If they ran towards their next base, one of the fielders could just catch the ball and throw the ball to second base before the runner could tag up. If the runners stayed at their bases... the fielder would just let the ball hit the ground and then pull off an easy double play.
  • Also in sports, the "pick and roll" play in basketball, where a player moves up from the post to set a screen for his teammate who has the ball, separating that teammate from his defender. The defender is then forced to make a decision: guard the screener, leaving the ballhandler with an open shot or an easy drive to the basket, or get around the screener to stop the ballhandler, leaving the screener to move into shooting position and receive a pass for an open shot.
    • The defense can always Take a Third Option: have defenders switch who they're guarding. How well this works depends on the relative abilities of the players and coaches for both teams.
  • Gridiron football has two:
    • The option play, where the opposing defensive end is not blocked as the quarterback runs toward him with the ball. If the DE decides to try to take out the QB, he just pitches the ball outside to a running back and takes the hit himself.note  But if the DE decides instead to attempt to prevent the pitch or tap it away, the QB instead keeps the ball and runs it for a few more yards. Executed consistently, particularly from a wishbone formation which adds the prior option of handing off or faking to the fullback diving up the middle, this can be exciting to watch and make you glad you're not the defending team.
    • At higher levels, when a team has third and inches from a little bit past midfield in the fourth quarter (or sometimes even the third) in a very close game, it may come out from its huddle with the intention of not actually snapping the ball at all before the 45-second clock runs down, instead hoping that a hard count will draw the opposing team offside and give them another first down. If they do get called for delay of game, as happens most of the time, the ball gets moved back five yards and they punt. The increased distance gives the punter a chance to pin the opposing team down much closer to their own goal than they would be if a touchback was called on the punt, and raising the possibility that a turnover might result in a score or good field position for one for the kicking team.
  • Samsung's Galaxy Pad faced down the iPad 2 at launch. Apple sued Samsung to stop selling Galaxy Pads. Samsung makes the chipsets for iPads.
  • Israel's "Galantgate" scandal of Summer 2010 played out as one of these. While the minister of defense was trying to choose the next Chief of General Staff (Ramatkal), a memo was leaked to the media describing an elaborate PR campaign to show the incumbent Ashkenazi in a bad light and promote positive media coverage of one candidate, Galant, so that he would be the one chosen for the job. Police investigation revealed that the document was a forgery, and that Ashkenazi had actually held a leaked copy of this document for several months without blowing the whistle, probably because it would have made him out to be a paranoid nut. When this came out it showed Ashkenazi in a bad light, promoted positive media coverage of Galant and led to the latter being chosen for next chief of general staff. No matter what Ashkenazi would have chosen to do, this would have blown up to reflect badly on him and positively on Galant. To be clear, the police had found Galant to have no connection to the whole ordeal, but you can't help but wonder. note 
  • The Thirty-Six Stratagems is a list of Xanatos Gambits in the form of Chinese Proverbs.
  • What do the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 have in common? IBM makes the CPU for all of them.
    • Speaking of Playstation, back when Sega was introducing their Sega CD to the US, Sony Imagesoft came out as a big supporter of it (Sega even helped produce some of their games). At the same time Sony was working with Nintendo to make their own CD based add-on for the SNES called the "Play Station". Sony was developing games for the Sega CD to gain experience, before turning around and backing Nintendo. As it turns out, Sony had already pulled another Xanatos Gambit on Nintendo in their contract for the SNES sound chip that guaranteed any CD-ROM software royalties would be theirs. Nintendo, upset at having discovered this later on, backed out of the deal, and Sony went ahead with the Playstation, dominating the market for the next decade. So, if Sega won they'd have a spot as one of their big developers, if Nintendo won, they'd be the creator of their own CD-based game system, and would have taken a huge chunk of the profits, and if Nintendo turned their back on them, they'd use everything they learned from both Sega and Nintendo, and crush them both. Neither of them saw it coming.
      • In a minor example, Sony invented the major optical disk formats. Even though they're all handled by a consortium group, everyone who follows the specification has to indirectly pay Sony a fee.
      • This led Microsoft to formulate a gambit of their own with their support of HD-DVD over Blu-ray in the high-definition optical disc Format War. If HD-DVD had won (an unlikely scenario given that Blu-ray had the support of more movie studios and electronics companies, but still one worth considering) then Microsoft had backed the winning format, and one that was more suited to its interestsnote . In the (more likely) scenario of Blu-ray winning the format war, then by backing a rival in a Format War Microsoft still delayed the adoption of Blu-ray because customers would wait it out to see who won the war. This accomplished two things for Microsoft; it hurt both Sony as a whole and their PlayStation 3 console, both of which had bet heavily on Blu-ray, and helped shift customers towards what was arguably Microsoft's real horse in the race, Digital Distribution, both through Microsoft's own platforms and others that it had heavily invested in, such as Netflix.
    • Possibly unintentional, but Microsoft's 360 being a jack-of-all/master-of-none means it still mildly succeeds in places the PS3 falters, and if Sony does succeed they just buy the devs away anyway. Sony typically compartmentalises, so few if any of those making Vaios and the like worked with the PS3.
    • AMD now has a hand in a majority of the hardware for The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games, they make the CPU and GPU for the new Xbox and PlayStation 4, and the GPU for the Wii U.
      • Things have changed with the release of the Nintendo Switch, as those contain a Nvidia chip.
  • Related to the above, what does nearly every sophisticated electronic gadget have in common? They all use the ARM architecture. Granted, ARM doesn't actually make chips, they just design them and license it to people who can build them.
  • This is actually a fundamental component of combined arms warfare. The entire point of using combined arms is to confront your opponent with more than one type of weapon, and forcing your opponent into a position where defending themselves from one kind of weapon exposes themselves to another. For example, pinning an enemy behind a wall with small arms fire and then following up with an artillery barrage to that area. Either the enemy moves from cover to escape the artillery and exposes himself to direct fire, or he remains in place until the artillery zeroes in and wipes him out. Also the idea between self-propelled artillery, though Rommel infamously inverted this, turning what was supposed to be specialised AA into effective artillery and anti-tank weapons. Look, it's a tank! Now it's a tank destroyer! Now it's anti-infantry! Now it's shelling! Now it's a tank again! PzH2000, anyone?
  • The Battle of Cannae was this for the Romans. They kept pushing back the Carthaginian line until they went past its flanks. Suddenly, they're cut off in every direction. Hannibal wanted them to push his line back. Sphere of Destruction but with soldiers.
    • Later the Romans, and we mean the very ones who survived Cannae, paid him back with interests by invading Africa and getting the Numidians (allies of Carthage that provided a formidable light cavalry) to switch sides, because at that point whatever happened Rome would win the war: if Carthage fell before they could recall Hannibal, then Hannibal's army and his Italian allies suffered a devastating morale blow and became easier to finally defeat; if Hannibal was recalled, he had to cross the sea, that was dominated by the Roman Navy and there was a good chance he would be captured or killed in transit, and without Hannibal his Italian allies were easy picking; if he managed to come back home and defeat the Roman army in Africa, then he still had to deal with the Numidians, who could be reinforced by further Roman legions, and even if he defeated them he could not invade Italy again as the sea route was blockaded and the ground route passed from Spain, now firmly under Roman control. In the end Hannibal was recalled, successfully crossed the sea, tried to convince his government to sue for peace and failed, and when he faced the Romans was (finally) defeated, and in the meantime the Romans had defeated his remaining allies in Italy.
  • During the Great Roman Civil War, Julius Caesar managed one with regards to a developing political situation in Rome. A movement toward debt abolition was gaining steam, carrying politicians who were against his regime to power. Caesar cut off their movement by taking out massive loans of his own, to the tune of his existing (and extremely substantial) worth, and then publicly condemning the debt abolition on the grounds that he himself would benefit unfairly. If the debt-abolitionists continued their push, they would lose the support of those out to harm Caesar. If they then succeeded anyway, they would make Caesar comically wealthy. If they dropped the debt abolition, (which is what happened,) it would completely undermine the faction's rise and allow Caesar's faction to stabilize control in the Senate.
  • One has to wonder if AMD buying ATI was one of these. Since one is a processor company, and the other a graphics chip company, if one or the other loses to the competition (Intel and NVIDIA, respectively), not only do they still have a product lineup they can produce, but it also effectively means neither company can do anything about beating AMD. Beating AMD means they would have an effective monopoly, which the US and EU (especially the EU) don't take kindly to. Any sort of "exclusive" practice that NVIDIA will do with Intel can be decried as a trust by AMD. AMD effectively secured itself a place in the computer world because nobody can do anything to destroy each other. Intel and NVIDIA eventually found a way out: mobile devices. Both of them have a hand in the mobile system-on-a-chip market (which competes with Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm), which AMD has yet to enter.
    • AMD may be trying this again, but from a PR standpoint. It appears they're conceding the higher-end processors to Intel since they've been pushing the APU family instead of the FX family. But with that, they're pushing a graphics API known as Mantle. This reduces CPU overhead and allows games to perform better, effectively lowering the CPU performance requirement bar. In theory, going with a more expensive Intel CPU with a high end graphics card would yield minimal performance gains over an AMD APU with a high-end graphics card, as the GPU is loaded with stuff to do already. This makes AMD's systems more attractive for gamers. Even if this doesn't fall through, it already has pressured Microsoft and others to think about making their graphics API have less CPU overhead. AMD takes the credit either way for pushing this.
  • Malware and malicious popups that appear to give a "Yes" and a "No" option; in reality, the entire popup is one giant "Yes", including the supposed "No" button. Take a Third Option if possible.
  • Osama bin Laden thought he was doing this with the 9/11 attacks. At first, he thought the US would not have the stomach for a fight and would remove troops from Muslim lands, his primary goal. But then he considered that if the US stayed and fought a war, then it would bleed itself dry, collapsing over internal disagreements and bankrupting itself over the cost of fighting a war. So whether the "coalition of the willing" stayed in the Middle East or left, he would achieve a major goal.
  • The Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik appears to have tried to pull off his own twisted version of this. Either he would be arrested by the police and use the ensuing trial and media storm to preach his beliefs, or he would be killed and become a martyr for the far-right, his message conveyed through his manifesto. He lived, and was allowed to explain his motivations and beliefs in court (to the surprise of some foreign nations). "Unfortunately" he was not much of an orator, as people fell asleep during the trial and even his own defense had trouble appearing interested.
  • A similar problem for justice systems all over the world are people who want to go to jail for some reason or another. For instance, late in 2019 an elderly homeless German man took the only thing he had left - his Alleged Car - and purposely rammed the first random bicyclist he came across, inflicting serious harm on the completely innocent man, because he knew the German prison system would provide him with decent food and shelter for the rest of his life. The perp was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison, Just as Planned. Justice will never be served in situations like these - either the perp gets off scot-free, or he gets exactly what he wants.
  • Terrorist organizations in general can be quite good at setting these up when they are centered in and around population centers. Either no military action is taken against them, and they continue activity unmolested, or the collateral damage inflicted by those attempting to harm their positions and interests earns them new allies among the local populace, who have lost innocent loved ones due to the actions of the terrorist organization's enemies. Additionally, people who lost their loved ones might get their revenge (either personally by committing similar acts or indirectly through police or military actions), giving the terrorist a possibility to present themselves as victims to get the favor of more pacifistic audiences.
  • If a country accuses a person for being a spy (regardless of whether or not he or she is one), then the country representing the accused cannot get a convincing argument otherwise. The defending country cannot disclose the person is a spy and denying it just makes it all the more suspicious. Thus the defending country cannot win in this situation.
  • President Richard Nixon going to China can be seen as one: his goal being to 'open it up' to the west, but a secondary goal achieved regardless of the first is fanning Soviet fears of a China-America alliance, which he exploited in later summits.
  • In Real Life Magic Tricks, there is a technique called "Magician's Choice", which combines this with the Indy Ploy. The point is, as with most magic tricks, to make it appear like a Gambit Roulette. Penn & Teller managed to load every card in a standard 52-card deck while performing on a beach. Some were hidden on their persons, some on nearby sunbathers' possessions, one in a potted palm tree...
  • In Baseball contracts, there is a stipulation called a player option. If the player thinks he is worth more than the option, he can decline it and get a better deal. If the option exceeds the player's value, he exercises and gets maximum profit. This is the main reason why the option is rarely given out.
    • The super-charged version of the player option is the player opt-out, which covers multiple seasons. For example, a seven-year contract will include an opt-out after the fourth season, meaning the player can choose to void the remaining three years and become a free agent or play out the remainder of the deal. He'll do the former if he's played well, which means he can make more money and the team is forced to give him a rich new deal or lose a good player. He'll do the latter if he hasn't played well, forcing the team to pay a crummy player for three more seasons.
  • The Minnesota Vikings used a loophole in the transition tag to do this to the Seattle Seahawks over Steve Hutchinson. A player with the transition tag could be offered a contract by any team, but their current team could retain the player by matching the contract. Hutchinson was tagged by the Seahawks, so the Vikings created a contract which would be guaranteed if Hutchinson were not the highest-paid offensive lineman on the Seahawks. Since the Seahawks had already paid lineman Walter Jones more than what was offered to Hutchinson, their choice was to match and pay a boatload of guaranteed money to Hutchinson, or relenquish him to the Vikings, who would take Hutchinson as the highest paid lineman on the Vikings. They chose the latter...then got even by offering the Vikings' transitioned player, Nate Burleson, a contract that would become guaranteed if Burleson played more than four games in one season in the state of Minnesota, which would be unavoidable for the Vikings but easily avoidable by the Seahawks. After this war, the NFL closed the loophole and forbade wording any contract in such a way that the transitioning team would be more inconvenienced by the contract than the offering team.
  • Psychics, mediums, and other such frauds use a technique known as 'multiple outs' where they phrase their statements in such a way that they can be made to seem accurate no matter how the sitter responds.note  For example:
    • Turn a question about the past into a prediction for the future ("Does the name Bob mean anything to you? No? It will")
    • Phrase the question so it's ambiguous whether you're making or discounting a claim ("You don't have a blue car, do you? No? I thought not/Yes? I thought so")
    • Turn a literal statement into a metaphor ("Is it your father? No? But he was like a father to you, wasn't he?")
  • Polls are notorious for asking questions in such a way that your true intention can be twisted to the opposite, and thus giving the poll the data they wanted, justifying the existence of Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics as a trope.
  • Any well-designed, successfully-executed scientific experiment should teach you something of value, whether it winds up supporting its underlying hypothesis or disproving it. For example, when asked about the failed experiments to develop a light bulb, Thomas Edison stated that he didn't fail, he discovered 200 ways to NOT design a light bulb. This is a rare type of Xanatos Gambit that is totally honest and above-board.
  • Attempted by Josef Stalin, according to a French biography of the dictator. The author explains that in 1939-1940 Stalin viewed the conflict between Germany and the French-British alliance (in which he was officially neutral - but the reality was more complicated) as a gift for the USSR, since whichever was the victor would be too weakened by a long war to turn against the USSR. This plan happened to be a huge failure when Germany overwhelmingly crushed France and repelled Great Britain from continental Europe in a few weeks, keeping most of its military potential.
  • In game theory, this is known as a dominant strategy, a strategy by one player that yields the best possible outcome regardless of what the other player(s) do. If there really is no way to counter it, it's a Game-Breaker — after all, if your choices are "play the dominant strategy" or "lose", it's not really a game, is it?
    • The Minimax algorithm is designed to produce results like this, by picking the strategy that ensures that no matter what the opponent does, the current player will either get some benefit or the loss won't be as bad as it could have been (minimizing the maximum loss). The tricky part is determining what the dominant strategy is, and (for a Game AI) doing it fast enough that the human on the other end doesn't get bored and stop playing while the AI is plotting their next move.
  • President Barack Obama and the American Democratic Party pulled one during the 2010 lame duck Congress. At the time, a major issue up for vote was renewing the Bush tax cuts, which Democrats wanted to let expire, and Republicans wanted to renew. After a lot of wrangling, a deal was worked out where the Democrats voted to extend the tax cuts for another two years, in return for the Republicans giving way on several other issues, including the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", allowing Obama to get a lot of other things done. Had the Republicans refused the deal, the tax cuts would have expired, and Obama would still have won. Even more cleverly, the extension was only for two years, putting Obama in a position to do the same thing again in 2012...
  • When comedienne Lisa Lampanelli heard that the Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest her show, she pledged to donate $1,000 to the Gay Men's Health Center for each protester that showed up. So the WBC could either cancel the protest or cause money to be donated to gay people. She ended up donating $50,000.
  • When a branch of the Ku Klux Klan volunteered to adopt a stretch of highway in Missouri for litter pickup, the authorities tried to block them, but the courts ruled that to do was discriminatory. In response, they renamed road "Rosa Parks Highway" after a major African-American civil rights figure. If the group kept the road clean, then they'd be symbolically serving the legacy of racial equality. If they rejected the road, or failed to keep it clean, then there would be grounds to drop them from the program.
  • Vladimir Putin pulled a clever one on the United States during the Syrian Civil War. The Obama administration had found the Assad government to be responsible for a deadly sarin gas attack against the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on 21 August, 2013, and was preparing to take punitive military action. When Secretary of State John Kerry sarcastically said that Assad would have to give up all his chemical weapons to the United Nations if he wanted to avoid a U.S. attack—obviously assuming that Assad would refuse—Putin jumped at the statement and motioned for a deal with Assad to do just that. On one hand, if the US refused this overture and attacked Syria anyway, Putin could use this as proof that they were warmongers who had just been looking for an excuse and made the ultimatum in bad faith. And even if Syria would lose some military assets to US missile strikes, they would not have to give up their chemical weapons. The alternative was that the US would back down from conflict and go to the negotiating table, which is what actually happened: the American people opposed getting into another war in the Middle East, so getting rid of Assad’s chemical weapons seemed like a face-saving way out. Putin won all around: he made himself look like a peacemaker who averted a war, and at the same time he preserved his longstanding partnerships with Syria and other allies in the Middle East, which would have been threatened if a U.S. attack had happened. Furthermore, the Syrian government was ultimately able to violate this agreement with impunity, as they saw that the U.S. had grown weary of dealing with the situation and would not renew its threats.
  • Jack Thompson thought he had done this when he said that he would donate $10,000 to a charity of Paul Eibeler's choosing on the condition that a video game be created in which the player mows down members of the video game industry. His reasoning was thus: if such a game were made, then it would prove his point about video games being nothing more than violent Murder Simulators, while if the game is not made, then he could say that gamers care more about their own reputations than about the needy. It backfired on him when such a game was made, but he refused to give the money to the charity because of a technicality. Which was promptly sidestepped by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the creators of Penny Arcade and founders of Child's Play, a charity dedicated to donating toys and games to children's hospitals, who successfully pulled off one of these on Thompson when they stepped in to donate the ten grand themselves on his behalf (with the phrase "For Jack Thompson, because Jack Thompson won't.") Consequently, Thompson found himself in the position of either accepting the donation that had been made in his name, thus proving that he was wrong about gamers being heartless murder-happy psychopaths, or try to fight the donation and make himself look much worse than the gamers he'd been accusing. He chose the latter. Thompson's attempts to have Seattle Police Department and the FBI investigate Jerry and Mike on shaky grounds afterwards didn't accomplish anything, besides perhaps making him look even more like a tremendous fool.
  • In 2011, Disney and Sony announced a deal that would see Disney give up their percentage of the gross on future Spider-Man films in exchange for Sony giving up their percentage of the gross on future Spider-Man merchandise. At the time it was seen as an incredibly stupid move on Disney's part (given how lucrative the film series had been up to that point), but it ended up turning out like this - if the new Spider-Man film series was a hit, then Disney would make a ton of money off of merchandising; if it flopped, then Sony had no merchandise money to bail them out and Disney would have a huge bargaining chip when it came time to renegotiate the contract. Apparently Sony executives didn't see this coming: when the company's emails were hacked and leaked in December of 2014, it was not only revealed that Sony was losing money on the new Spider-Man films, but also that Sony's chief Amy Pascal (who made the deal) had no idea just how much money Disney was making on Spider-Man merchandise regardless of how well the movies did, and was pretty shocked when she found out.
  • Southern Democrat Howard W. Smith, a politician who was a leader of the "Conservative Coalition", pulled this on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Smith was basically a white supremacist and considered an "archconservative" by other members of Congress, but broke with other traditional Southern Democrats on the issue of women's rights, which he supported. So when the Civil Rights Act came to his desk he added sex as a protected category in the bill at a time when many people were opposed to women's rights. If the bill failed due to his added provision then he would succeed in maintaining segregation but if the bill passed then he would instead succeed in getting protection for women. It passed.
    • There were three additional aspects to it as well - because Republicans supported women's rights, they couldn't very well vote against the amendment to the bill, because that would make them look bad and lose them support amongst women, so they had to allow it to be added to the bill. Likewise, Northern Democrats who opposed equal rights for women but who supported equal rights for blacks would be embarrassed if they didn't vote for the final bill, because then they would be voting against equal rights for blacks. And he could get it into the bill by presenting it as if it was a poison pill to his fellow Southern Democrats, a means of preventing the bill from being passed; as such, between the Republicans and the Southern Democrats, he managed to get the amendment into the bill, and between the Northern Democrats and the Republicans, the bill could be passed.
    • For his own part, Smith claimed that the amendment was offered in good faith and that his goal was to protect white women, because otherwise colored women would have more protection than white women did. All told, a very shrewd ploy indeed.
  • In campaign finance, it is very common for some large entities to donate to all politicians running in a particular race, so that no matter who wins, they have an "in."
  • In the German town of Wunsiedel, neo-Nazis annually marched through the town in honor of the policies of Rudolf Hess, who was buried there. In 2014, the group Rights versus Rights pledged to donate $12.50 per meter marched to Exit Deutschland, an organization that helps neo-Nazis leave the subculture. Residents cheered on the marchers with some quite creative signs.
  • The consolidation of British control over South Africa (and its lucrative diamond resources) began with a number of actions on the part of High Commissioner Sir Henry Bartle Frere to either cripple the Zulu Kingdom's power or force them to start a war the British government didn't want to be seen starting, culminating with an ultimatum to which he knew the Zulu king Cetshwayo would not agree.
  • During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King would select cities known for their bullying racist authorities. That way, if they tried cracking down on peaceful protesters, King would be able to have national TV news coverage of this brutality to gain political support for the cause. However, while it would not help as much politically, if the authorities backed off and caused no trouble, then at least the protesters would be safe and King could praise the authorities for being reasonable and advanced in their thinking and thus give a political incentive for them to listen to his movement's demands.
  • The Ellen Pao debacle on Reddit. Ellen Pao was forced out of her job as CEO by the board in July 2015 following a controversy over the dismissal of "Victoria", an important liason between the website's community moderators and the staff of Reddit itself. While Pao publicly admitted the fault of administrators in the relationship to the moderators, Pao herself had since the beginning of her tenure as CEO been the target of much thinly-veiled racist and sexist hatred from many members of the Reddit community. Pao was already a known controversial figure at the time of her hiring for suing her former Silicon Valley employer for sex discrimination. Pao also was suffered renewed focus after the banning of the subreddit /r/fatpeoplehate, which administrators claimed was banned for encouraging hateful acts in the real world, rather than just hateful expression in the subreddit. To her critics, this was evidence that Pao was intent on cleansing Reddit of all disagreeable opinions in favor of turning Reddit into a politically correct safe-space where free speech was discouraged, instead of the "bastion of free speech" that its original creators intended. Pao was fired after intense calls for her resignation. Yishan Wong, a previous CEO, revealed after her firing that Pao was hired in part specifically for the purpose of immunizing the site against claims that it supported racist, sexist or otherwise hateful speech because of her reputation, but that Pao was the lone member of the board who OPPOSED the banning of hateful/distasteful subreddits. The rest of the board who supposedly believed in the "bastion of free speech" were actually in private constantly pressuring her to purge hateful speech on the site- pressure that she refused except in extreme cases such as /r/fatpeoplehate. In fact, Wong stated, the earlier policy of reddit's management had been to ban anything racist, sexist, or homophobic, but as the community grew, the management became unsure if this was the best policy. Ellen Pao was hired in part to manage this issue. However, with the firing of Ellen Pao, the secret champion of the "bastion of free speech" model, the new CEO planned to purge the site of hateful communities, just as the rest of the management board had always wanted. In other words, had Ellen Pao remained as CEO, the site could withstand any criticisms that the site existed to promote racism, sexism, or other hatred by Ellen Pao's reputation alone. But the hateful members of the community created such pressure through their irrational hatred for her that they unwittingly destroyed their own champion, allowing the management to purge the site of hateful groups as it always desired. Well played, Reddit management...well played.
    • Wong also suggested earlier that even this plan was part of a larger plan hatched by the Reddit board to wrest control of the company away from Conde Nast, its former majority shareholder. The company was acquired several years prior, but it became immediately clear to Reddit's original management that Conde Nast's management was inappropriate for the social media site. The site's creators then formed a plan to "recruit[] a young up-and-coming technology manager with social media credentials" (i.e., Ellen Pao), rejecting all other candidates. This manager would then only take the position on the condition that Conde Naste dilute its ownership; the manager was instated with the goal of raising funding outside of Conde Nast, to further dilute the parent company's ownership. After it was sufficiently diluted, the plan was to manufacture a series of "otherwise improbable leadership crises" (e.g., the banning of /r/fatpeoplehate, firing Victoria) so that the board would have justification to demand the ouster of this new manager. Now that Conde Naste was relegated to a minority role, the original managers of Reddit could use their renewed board influence to re-instate Reddit's founders into primary leadership positions. Had this failed, the site would have still retained all other advantages of Ellen Pao's leadership, including dilution of Conde Nast ownership and control, and immunization from anti-hate attacks.
  • Burger King's McWhopper proposition to McDonald's for International Peace Day can easily be considered this. Either McDonald's accepted, earning both (but especially Burger King) a lot of free publicity for the event by putting aside their differences to create a match practically made in burger heaven, or (as what happened) McDonald's rejected the offer, coming off as grumpy and arrogant while other companies gladly jump at the chance to take McDonald's place for a chance at publicity by putting aside differences to make a different but equally epic Peace Day Burger for International Peace Day.
  • Vox Day claimed to pull one of these (by name) with the 2015 Hugo Award. The already "Sad Puppy" movement and his derivative "Rabid Puppy" movement, both of which claim that authors at the awards show are treated differently based on their political beliefs, got enough voting members of the Hugos to affect the vote outcomes, which they used to vote en masse for their preferred candidates. The theory is that the Puppies would win no matter what happened: either their votes are honored and their chosen authors get the awards, or else the show refuses to honor the votes, which would show the ceremony to be a sham. In the end, the organization chose "No Award" in many categories, allowing Day to claim victory.
  • Airlines have gotten in the business of either teaming up with or buying shares in High Speed Rail operators. If the high speed rail operator fails, that means more business for the airline. If the high speed rail operator succeeds, that means its shareholders and business partners profit. Some airlines also enter into alliances with high speed rail operators, because short flights are becoming less and less profitable and having trains as your "feeder flights" makes a lot of economic sense. In the United Kingdom, bus companies have done the same, buying franchises for different "Train Operating Companies".
  • The Canadian company Bombardier has a very diverse portfolio of things on offer (they started out as a snowmobile company), but their two most high profile products are regional jets and high speed trains. No matter what the secretary of transportation of any given country does - Bombardier can sell them the goods. Build a new rail line - Bombardier sells the train. Don't build a new rail line, people will continue to fly and Bombardier will sell the planes. However, this has not kept Bombardier from sometimes losing contracts - both trains and planes are made by other companies as well.
  • The Turnip Day Session. In 1948 the Republican National Convention passed a Platform containing a lot of progressive policies the Congressional Republican leadership opposed, but which Democratic President Harry Truman supported. At the Democratic convention, Truman responded by calling a special session of Congress for "Turnip Day" (July 26th) to put this progressive legislation to a vote. Either the Republicans could follow the Platform, in which case Truman had the legislation he wanted (and could hopefully claim credit) or they could do what they did do, and do nothing, thereby making their party look two-faced and strengthen Truman's election campaign focus on "the Do-Nothing Congress".
  • During the 2008 Presidential Election in the US, one restaurant set out two tip jars, one with Barack Obama's face, and the other with John McCain's. At the end of each day, they'd announce who had "won" this ad hoc poll, causing partisans to tip heavily to tip the scales for their preferred candidate. No matter which candidate won on any given day, the restaurant saw a sizeable increase in tips.
  • A Dutch Book is a strategy that is employed by people who accept bets. The idea is to have bets with total odds that are greater than one. This means that if the bookie can get one person to accept each bet they will never have to pay out more than they took in from the gamblers. Critically the individual bets appear to be fair since paying out in accordance with the odds. Its only when you can see all of the bets and the odds given that the Dutch Book is apparent.
  • Milo Yiannopoulos, and other right-wing personalities like him, like to apply to speak at events on college campuses, knowing that their views are strongly opposed by most left-leaning college students. Either (1) left-leaning students protest them and get the administration to change its mind, thereby giving Yiannopoulos free publicity and giving support to the claim that his opponents are SJWs who must resort to silencing him because they have no legitimate arguments against him, or (2) they don’t protest, therefore allowing him to discuss and expose his views unimpeded. Either way, he is able to spread his beliefs while making his opponents look foolish and irrational.
    • It also helps that he (and others like Ben Shapiro) is a fast-talker, a fast-thinker, very well versed in his arguments and very skilled at baiting, trolling and such (he used the fact that he's an openly gay right-wing supporter to enormous benefit), which makes debating him a very difficult task unless you're very well prepared and can handle yourself at the same level of rhetoric. Then again, it's been argued that their fast-talking technique is not so much putting out a prepared, multi-faceted argument as it is spamming their opponent with so much nonsense that it's impossible to refute all of it.
  • The French Directory attempted to pull one on Napoleon Bonaparte when they agreed to launch his expedition to Egypt. After their decision to send him to Italy resulted in a Reassignment Backfire that culminated in Napoleon decisively defeating the Austrians in a year and forcing an end to the First Coalition that left him incredibly popular in France and the Army of Italy incredibly loyal to him, the Directory was terrified that the popular and ambitious general would attempt to overthrow them. As a result, when Bonaparte proposed his invasion and colonization of Egypt, and by extension, the possibility to attack India and cripple Britain's wealth, they seized on the chance to get rid of him. Either Napoleon would die in battle, by a deadly tropical disease, or get captured by the British or the Ottoman Empire, or against all odds, Napoleon actually successfully conquers Egypt and moves on to India, France gets a new colony that the Directory could take credit for, and Napoleon goes on to India, far away from France, which allows the Directory to cement control. Unfortunately for them, this both backfired and worked a bit too well. Napoleon's success in Italy had made him a terrifying figure, and the reactionary monarchs of Europe did not wish to face him again. Once he was stranded in Egypt, they promptly declared war on France, pretty much undid all the gains Napoleon had made two years ago, and left the Republic facing bankruptcy, and they practically were begging for Napoleon to come back to save them. Furthermore, Napoleon's success in Egypt and Syria had left France desperate for his return. Upon returning from Egypt, Napoleon overthrew the Directory, turned the war around and actually left France prosperous, while the disaster in Egypt was thrown on Jean Kleber and General Menou.
  • After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary was itching to go to war with Serbia (whose government they believed had masterminded the plot), but in those days flat-out invading with no declaration or anything was Just Not Done. To resolve this quandry, they sent an extremely harsh ultimatum whose terms would basically turn Serbia into an Austro-Hungarian vassal, with the threat of war if Serbia rejected any of it. Serbia, of course, refused, and the rest is history.
  • After Boris Johnson became the British Prime Minister in July 2019, it was argued that his support for the 'Leave' side in the 2016 EU Referendum was an example of this trope. Boris was one of remarkably few politicians who could conceivably have backed either side (he is said to have drafted a newspaper article arguing for 'Remain' before deciding to go the other way) and, according to this argument, he backed 'Leave' not out of political conviction but with an eye on his chances in the event of a future Conservative Party leadership election. Regardless of which side won the referendum, by backing 'Leave' Boris earned the support of anti-EU members of the Conservative Party (who make up either a large minority or a slim majority of party members) which would stand him in good stead in the event of a party leadership election. Admittedly he failed to pull this off in the 2016 leadership election, in which Theresa May came across as the Only Sane Person, but three years later it worked - and, as the Conservatives were still in power, he achieved the ambition of every British politician and became the Prime Minister.
  • A common strategy in American politics is to author, sponsor, and put forward a bill that addresses a perceived problem in an irrelevant, draconian, or outright illegal way that is almost guaranteed to fail. No matter what happens, this can be spun to the advantage of the sponsors. If the bill dies without ever getting to a vote, then the sponsors can spin it as them being the only ones 'brave' enough to be 'doing something' about the problem. If it gets to a vote but gets voted down, the sponsors can tar anyone who voted against it (usually the opposition party) as either profiting from the problem the bill was ostensibly designed to address, or as obstructionists who don't want to see anyone accomplish anything. Both of these things play well with people who favor what the bill was designed to do, often the sponsors' political base, getting the sponsors and their allies more votes and money in the next election. If the bill passes and is signed into law, opponents can then take it to court, which costs those opponents time and money while costing the sponsors nothing. If the bill then gets struck down in court as illegal, the sponsors can blame judges for 'ignoring the will of the people' or 'legislating from the bench,' playing to their political base again. If it stays as the law, then they get what they originally wanted. Notably all of these things will also frequently get large amounts of media coverage - the more outlandish the bill the greater the coverage - increasing the visibility and profile of the sponsors.
  • Attempted by The Mafia during the Cuban Revolution. The Mafia supported the Batista regime, so if the Rebels were defeated, they would continue to operate. They also supplied arms to the Rebels in hope that if they won, they would be grateful for the help and be open to allowing the Mafia to continue to operate. In the end, the Rebels won and threw the Mafia out of Cuba.
  • Attempted by Louis XVI during The French Revolution. Having lost much of his power because of political reforms of the Revolution, he went to ostensibly supporting the Revolution's plan of declaring war to the neighboring countries (to spread French Revolution's ideals to the rest of Europe). Louis XVI estimated that he would benefit from the situation regardless of the result: a French defeat would have resulted in the enemies ending this mess and giving him back his power (one of those enemies being Austria, whose rulers were relatives of his wife), and a French victory would give him more prestige and more authority. It failed, as during Summer 1792 a Parisian crowd marched on his palace and overthrew him before arresting him with his family.
  • A video from Wendover Productions called "The Art Market is a Scam (And Rich People Run It)" includes Israeli businessman Jose Mugrabi as an example of this. Mugrabi is the world's leading collector of Andy Warhol, who owns over 800 Warhol works with a total paper value of about $1 billion, and was responsible for buying about one quarter of all Warhol works sold at auction between 2005 and 2013. The hypothetical value of Mugrabi's collection depends on how hot the market for Warhol is, so he has an incentive to encourage prices to stay high. Therefore, whenever a Warhol goes up for sale, he jumps in the auction and is usually among the first to bid on it. On one hand, Mugrabi benefits in terms of his collection's value if his up-bidding causes someone else to buy the work for an inflated price. On the other hand, Mugrabi is also willing to pay an inflated price to obtain the work himself, because this will still increase his collection's value, and he can always privately sell his new acquisition for more money later. This works in part because the rich collectors who own most of the world's Warhol pieces all know each other, and implicitly agree that no member of this informal cartel will do anything that would decrease the price of Warhol.
  • Similarly to the art example above, some owners of highly-valuable Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have one of these. They will set up an auction for an NFT then, using another account or a proxy purchaser, place a large bid well above market value on their own product. This is a win-win for them since if someone else outbids them they make a lot of money but even if they wind up 'selling' it to themselves their token will gain an increase in perceived value for when their puppet account or proxy puts it up for auction next time.