play one against another

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play one against another

To manipulate two opposing sides of an argument, conflict, competition, etc., against one another for one's own benefit or advantage. My father and my uncle are engaged in a bitter business rivalry. If I can play one against another, I might be able to secure some sizeable investments for my own company. Janet really dislikes Mary and wants to date her boyfriend Mike, so she's been playing one against another to get them to break up.
See also: another, one, play