From Academic Kids

Gamesmanship is the use of dubious (although not technically illegal) methods to win a game, often a sport, such as golf or football.



The most common techniques of gamesmanship are the following.

  1. To break the flow of your opponent's play.
  2. To get your opponent to take the game less seriously or to overthink his position.
  3. To intentionally make a "mistake" which gains an advantage over an opponent.

While the first method is more common at higher levels of sports, the last two are more powerful in amateur games.

Breaking the flow

Examples of "flow-breaking" methods include:

  • Feigning injury to delay the game.
  • In billiards, intentionally standing in your opponent's line of sight, and then suddenly moving when you "realize" you're in the wrong place.

Causing your opponent to overthink

Examples of methods designed to cause your opponent to overthink or to not take the game seriously enough include:

  • Giving intentionally vague and harmful advice in hopes of making your opponent focus on his play.
  • Claiming that the game you are playing "just isn't my sport", or claiming less expertise than you actually possess.
  • Indirectly impugning your opponent's sportsmanship.

Intentional "mistakes"

Examples of intentional "mistakes" designed to gain an advantage:

  • In bridge, intentionally misdealing and then engaging in chaotic bidding, knowing that the hand will be void anyway.
  • In poker, intentionally raising out of turn, to induce players to give you a free card.

It should be noted that all of the above are considered very close to cheating, and the abuser of gamesmanship techniques will find himself penalized in most serious sports and games tournaments, as well as being deemed (if caught) a "bad sport".

Usage outside of games

The term "gamesmanship" is also used for similar techniques used in non-game situations, such as negotiations and elections.

Each form is frequently used as a means of describing dubious methods of winning and/or psychological tricks used to intimidate or confuse one's opponent.


  • The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating is a book by Stephen Potter, from which most of the above derives, although it must be emphasized that Potter was being humorous, and always suggested that one should be a good sportsman first and foremost.

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