There is a lot of advice on how to win at Rock Paper Scissors, but much of it is not very good. The best strategy, from a mathematical perspective, is to play randomly. A simple trick is to predict what your opponent will throw after a loss and then choose the opposite. For example, if they play rock and lose, you should throw paper.
Go Paper First
Rock Paper Scissors is a game of chance, but it’s also one where you can use a little strategy to improve your odds. By anticipating counterstrategies, using gambits and reading microexpressions you can elevate your RPS game to the next level.
A study from Zhejiang University found that if you lose a round of rock-paper-scissors, your opponent will probably try to beat you the next time by throwing the gesture that beat you. This means that if you lose to a rock throw, you should play a paper throw, and vice versa.
You can use this to your advantage if you’re playing against someone who isn’t experienced in the game. Unless they’ve played the unblocked games 67 before, they’ll likely assume that you are going to lead with rock. This makes a paper throw a great first move, as it is the only one that can win against a rock throw and give you at least a stalemate with scissors.
Mirror Your Opponent’s Throw
According to Graham Walker, organizer of the World Rock Paper Scissors Society, expert players have noticed that inexperienced people tend to start with rock. He speculates that this may be because men tend to view it as a strong, forceful move. If your opponent starts with rock, then you should go paper.
After an initial win or loss, your opponent will be inclined to change to a throw that would have beat or tied their previous move. For example, if they played rock and lost, expect them to play scissors next. Your best play will be to counter them with paper, as it is unlikely that their hand gesture can beat rock.
You can also mirror your opponent’s throwing style to predict their moves. For example, a tucked thumb in the crook of the index finger may indicate a rock throw while a loose, unclenched hand is likely to be scissors. This strategy will only work a few times before your opponent catches on.
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Rock Paper Scissors is an easy game to play but there’s a lot of strategy involved. By predicting your opponent’s next move, using verbal cues and reading microexpressions you can elevate the game to new heights.
Mathematicians from Zhejiang University conducted an experiment that shed some interesting light on human decision-making in competitive situations. They found that players who win tend to stick with their actions, and those who lose try to change their tactics.
Walker notes that inexperienced (and flustered) opponents will often subconsciously change their throw to the one that would beat their last action. For example, if they lost to Rock, they will likely follow up with Paper because the two are equal in power.
To take advantage of this behavior, eliminate one of your opponent’s options by subtly suggesting a throw. For example, you can gesture with your hand towards the throw that you want your opponent to play. Alternatively, you can say something like “Scissors beats Rock, but Rock ties with Paper” as a way to influence their choice without them knowing it.
The game seems simple enough, but behind the seemingly random choices there are surprising logical-mathematical considerations. These, in turn, open up a variety of strategies for players to employ.
For example, many expert RPS players notice that inexperienced opponents tend to lead with Rock. This is probably due to the fact that the name of the game begins with “Rock,” and the word itself has connotations of strength and immovability. If you can anticipate that your opponent is naive, then at the outset of the match you can take advantage by throwing Paper.
It is also possible to subtly manipulate your opponent’s choice by taking away one of their options without them noticing. For instance, if you know that your opponent likes to play Scissors, then you can subtly suggest they play Paper (since it beats Rock) or a variant of Scissors (which wins against Paper and ties with Rock).