Ask LH: Is It Possible To Cheat At Scissors, Paper, Rock?

Dear Lifehacker, Whenever me and my friends are fighting for ownership of something, we "rock off" for it. (i.e. - We play a game of Scissors, Paper, Rock with the victor getting the spoils.) Are there any cheats or tactics that can increase my odds of winning? Yes, I'm trying to game the SPR system — hundreds of contested donuts and final slices of pizza are at stake! Thanks, Scissor Sister

Scissors, Paper, Rock image via Shutterstock

Dear Scissor Sister,

It's likely everyone has been in a situation where winning a game of Scissors, Paper, Rock was of great importance — or at least where losing would be embarrassing — and most people will likely have a certain strategy already in mind. Successfully winning a game of RPS is all about successfully reading the other player, and a number of studies have been done on successful strategies to do so.

First Throw

First off, not all throws are thrown equally. The Telegraph cites this breakdown of throw prevalence from the World RPS Society:

Rock: 35.4pc Paper: 35.0pc Scissors: 29.6pc

It also notes that there are a number of symbolic factors to take into consideration with the three types of throw — as rock, a fist, is traditionally seen as more masculine and aggressive, male players are more likely to throw rock on their first turn. Female players are more likely to throw scissors, along with male players who would be likely to think beyond that first 'masculine' instinct — rock is considered by some to be too 'obvious' for a first move.

Subsequent Throws

Everyone who plays Scissors, Paper, Rock will have a tendency to categorise their throws by whether they win or lose, meaning that a loser will be more likely to switch up their next throw. Some people will also subconsciously copy the throw that beat them. If you win the first throw, ideally use the move that would have beaten your last move, or the other move that you did not throw in your last turn. If you lose the first throw, then throw the move that would have beat your opponent on their last turn — players are likely to stick with the same move if they see it as a 'winner.'

There is a limit to this, however. Many players are unwilling to throw the same hand three times in a row, as that kind of repetition feels unnatural in a game where being unpredictable is an advantage. If your opponent throws the same move twice in a row, on the third move use the symbol that would have been beaten by their repeated move (ie, if they throw rock twice in a row, throw scissors on the third turn) as they will be highly unlikely to repeat it a third time, meaning your turn will be unbeatable, even if it turns out to be a tie.

Of course, these tips assume that your opponent is an inexperienced or amateur RPS player, and are also unaware of the strategies listed here. For a simple game of Scissors, Paper, Rock between friends over the last pizza slice, however, these tips will vastly increase your chances of winning.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    What about “Rock paper scissors lizard Spock?

    Derren Brown has this down (low quality video)

    The Telegraph cites this breakdown of throw prevalence from the World RPS Society:

    Wait...there's a "World RPS Society"? Why is that a thing?

    Last edited 26/02/16 8:35 pm

    Lisa's Brain: Poor predictable Bart; always takes Rock.
    Bart's Brain: Good ol' Rock, nothing beats that!
    — The Simpsons

    "You forgot one thing: rock beats scissors. But paper covers rock... And scissors cuts paper! Kif, we have a conundrum. Search them for paper, and bring me a rock."

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