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

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
References in periodicals archive ?
On 14 May, Famazz Attak will play off against RUN N.
Australia go into Tuesday's second leg virtually certain to go on to play off against the fifth-placed South American team for a spot in the finals.
The company holds an annual hockey event where 80 to 100 people play off against various regions.
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.