If you’re relying on rock – paper – scissors to decide something, the consequences for losing are no doubt extraordinarily severe: Riding bitch on a long road trip. Buying the next round. Being the one to tell your buddy that his girlfriend is a horrible person. Hell, back in 2006 a Florida judge even ordered two lawyers to settle a dispute with a game of RPS. (Seriously.)
Yet as simple as the rules may be — rock crushes scissors, paper covers rock, scissors cut paper — winning is usually pure luck. Thing is, it doesn’t have to be if you employ the correct strategy. Do it well, and you’ll always win rock – paper – scissors. Well, almost.
#1. Expect a beginner to start with rock
New Scientist magazine conducted a study in 2007 concluding that rock was most commonly played first. Why rock? We assume it’s because it’s a fist, which is undeniably more badass than an open-hand slap (paper) or angry pointing (scissors). So lead off with paper when playing anyone you think isn’t a student of the game.
#2. Start with scissors against an expert
Scissors can be a savvy first move when competing against a veteran. He may very well know rock is most common and so throw something else — quite likely paper. If you throw scissors, you win. If he throws scissors, you tie. In cases of a stalemate, throw the same thing the next round.
#3. Read your opponent’s mind
After the average player ties or loses, he’s likely to subconsciously throw whatever would have beaten his last throw. So if he played paper and lost, expect scissors next. Your play: rock.
4. Play the odds
If someone tosses the same thing twice, don’t expect it again. If for example, your opponent threw rock twice in a row, your next play should be scissors — at best it wins if he plays paper, at worst it ties if he plays scissors.
5. When in doubt, throw paper
According to the World RPS Society, Scissors gets played only 29.6 percent of the time, not 33.3 percent like you might expect. So with rock being the most popular and scissors being the least popular, paper is your best bet if you have no idea what to throw based on the other tips.
Want to test your RPS skills? Take on a computer that mimics human reasoning.