Is there a word, or phrase, to express when someone makes a bet with the intent to lose?

I’m looking for one of two things (or both). Either a verb to express the action of making such a bet, or a word that is defined by this specific type of bet.

An example would be in Seinfeld: Elaine makes a bet with a guy, and if the guy “loses” he must buy her dinner (with the assumption being he made a bet knowing he would lose).

I realize this is basically just a swindle, but I’m hoping there is something more specific.

  • I have seen 'donating' used Apr 26, 2012 at 17:49
  • I have seen 'tank' used
    – GBa
    Apr 26, 2012 at 19:51

6 Answers 6


You're throwing it, like a fight.

: to lose intentionally

  • 2
    I like this answer, but how would you write a sentence using the term? "Elaine threw the bet." That's not right, is it?
    – JLG
    Apr 26, 2012 at 17:08
  • 3
    @JLG looks fine to me. Apr 26, 2012 at 17:41
  • @JLG, I think it perfectly cromulent :) Apr 26, 2012 at 17:55
  • "Elaine threw the bet" exactly captures what you're going for here. Apr 26, 2012 at 18:19
  • 1
    @cornbread ninja, humorous comment. (I guess I was just thinking the "it" in your answer stood for something other than "the bet.") +1
    – JLG
    Apr 26, 2012 at 19:57

This may not fit with your example, but sandbagging is a term for intentionally losing (a bet, game, match, etc.) in order to gain advantage later.

  • 2
    Sandbagging is more descriptive of the act of doing badly, while throwing describes the intent of losing a contest on purpose. You might sandbag but still win (for example, to conceal your actual talent level and keep your opponent willing to continue.)
    – KutuluMike
    Apr 26, 2012 at 15:24
  • Sandbags are also used as a ballast in balloons. When a balloon starts to lose some of its buoyancy, due to the cooling of hot air or escape of gas, sandbags can be tossed out of he balloon to lighten the load. It may be from this meaning that the term is derived: an initial disadvantage (heavier aircraft) turns to an advantage later (staying airborne).
    – Kaz
    Apr 26, 2012 at 19:54
  • @Kaz: That's a theory I haven't heard before (and there are plenty of them out there). It would make a good question, I think. Apr 28, 2012 at 4:08

Hustle might work (both as a verb and noun), especially if the context makes it clear that you are being playful. A couple of meanings are:

To misrepresent one's ability in order to deceive someone, especially in gambling; to misrepresent one's skill in (a game or activity) in order to deceive someone, especially in gambling: hustle pool.

You could say, "Elaine hustled dinner from a guy."

  • This is also what leapt to my mind.
    – Luke
    Apr 26, 2012 at 20:14
  • I also thought of hustle but the OP's question seemed to imply the bet was "one and done"; hustling usually means that you do badly for a while and then start doing well after your opponent has underestimated your ability.
    – KutuluMike
    Apr 26, 2012 at 22:34

Deliberately losing a fight or some other contest is also called taking a dive.


I think the closest word or phrase in common usage is long shot (a bet made at great odds). I wouldn't necessarily say that it is used when you intend to lose but rather when you are likely to lose in an honest contest, regardless of intent. If the outcome is certain and the contest is fixed then the betting/gambling aspect is removed and now you're just throwing the bet.

Using your example: Elaine was certain that she was going to dinner with this guy; winning was going to be a long shot for him and she knew it. She just hoped he didn't figure it out first. Elaine had been dying to try the calamari at El Zapato for weeks and this guy was just the window dressing for the occasion.


In gambling terms, backing describes betting 'for' something to happen.

Betting 'against' something happening, e.g. betting a horse does not win is known as a lay bet (or simply laying).

So to use the example in the question, you could say Elaine is placing a lay bet that the guy achieves whatever the bet stipulates - essentially backing him to fail.

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