play off against

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play (someone) off against (someone)

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 them off against each other, I might be able to secure some sizeable investments for my own company. Janet has been playing Mary off against her boyfriend, Mike, so that Janet can date him herself. Don't you see? They've been playing us off against each other so that there's less competition for them to deal with.
See also: off, play
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

play someone off against (someone else)

to scheme in a manner that pits two of your adversaries against one another. Bill wanted to beat me up and so did Bob. I did some fast talking, and they ended up fighting with each other. I really played Bill off against Bob. The president played the House off against the Senate and ended up getting his own way.
See also: off, play
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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References in periodicals archive ?
The second round will feature eight bands selected from the preliminary show, who will play off against each other in June.
Runners up Kettering face a play off against Cleckheaton next week to determine whether they will play National League rugby next season and they warmed up well overcoming Leicester Lions 21-15.
The Scots will play off against either Croatia or Ukraine.
Nor, in the romance, does he say enough about the ways in which Urania's experience and views play off against Pamphilia's, nor about the power of the female seer Melissea, nor, especially, about the portrayal of Pamphilia as the most prominent poet and storyteller within the text.
The most immediate task for the new boss will be the relegation play off against Dublin.