Rock, Paper, Scissors

It’s one of those games that can become addictive. Like gambling, it’s almost impossible to stop unless you’re ahead. For most people, rock, paper, scissors was the first competitive game they ever played.

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Rock, paper, scissors is a uniquely simple game – with its high frequency of play, results come fast.

A lot of players think they have a winning strategy, something that will beat the competition. But players don’t stick to their strategy because their emotions start to override any carefully thought out plan very soon after the start –usually within the first five or six moves.

Players fall into the trap of second-guessing their opponents instead of planning ahead their own moves. Moves quickly become irrational as their emotions start to affect their judgement. Players can rapidly resort to the tactic of returning to the same move that was, a very short time ago, a winner.

Rock, paper and scissors have equal status and are therefore of equal value, so one obvious method is to use each item an equal number of times. But players are too often tempted to repeat winning moves, and this can be a mistake. Sticking to a winning move doesn’t always work because the chances are your opponent will spot this weakness and exploit it. When this happens, it’s too late to change your mind.

Players too often change their strategy after a loss, but then it’s also too late. Sticking to the winning strategy may be a double bluff and work after all. But both players will be searching for predictable patterns in the others’ play.

A player’s irrational decisions are driven by an emotional reaction to a negative outcome and that leaves them vulnerable to a smarter opponent. Emotion has a distracting effect that affects the quality of thought. This is especially true in rock, paper, scissors, because the games follow one another extremely rapidly.

Here’s a tip – If you truly want to be victorious, choose paper to start because most people tend to go for rock as an opener. In fact rock is the one item that players tend to use the most. Which is why it makes sense for you to overuse paper.

The other attraction of rock, paper, scissors, is that it is almost impossible to cheat – unless you use psychology, misdirection and suggestion.

Here’s how I do it…

Bearing in mind that most games consist of three ‘goes’ we are only looking for the best out of three to win.

I always give a potential opponent a quick demonstration: “one, two, three” and with each count, I bring my fist down into the palm of my other hand. But after the number three, I show them scissors. I don’t do this in an obvious way, rather at the same height/level of the actual game.

Sometimes I repeat the same move (also showing them scissors) but you can also do this with paper or rock.

The chances are that whichever move you choose for the demonstration, it will be copied by the other player and will become their opening move. They will do this quite unconsciously, so when we start the game for real, if I’ve already shown them scissors, I will open with rock, which beats scissors.

If I win, I give a small celebratory punch in the air and say “yes!” Again, this will unconsciously encourage them to choose rock, while I go for paper… and win again.

Remember, it’s the best out of three so I’ve already won. The problem is, I’m also a show off so I say “OK, one more, let’s see if I can get a hat-trick” and at the same time subtly show them the palm of my hand. When we go again, they’re almost certain to go for paper, in which case I’m going to beat them with scissors again.

This last move is variable. In other words you can choose any one of the three to show them, and you should still get three out of three.

Like successful Poker players, emotions need to be kept firmly under control and minds firmly on the job! OK, ready…? One, two, three…

Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.