Here's How To Always Win At Rock, Paper, Scissors


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockJun 14 2016, 17:30 UTC
"On the count of one, two, three!" Lolostock/Shutterstock

Variations of the game of rock, paper, scissors has been settling arguments for hundreds of years. But like most thing, this game is more than just random chance – it’s a battle of patterns, psychology, and statistics, as Mic have pointed out.

So while it might be too late to assert your playground dominance, here’s what the statistics, research, and experts have to say about winning the game of all games. 


According to the World Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) Society, going rock first is a rookie move that is a particularly common initial move by men. In their words, they say: “It has a lot to do with idea that rock is perceived as 'strong' and 'forceful', so guys tend to fall back on it.” Therefore, presuming you’re playing someone who knows their stuff, they argue you should go scissors first, as your opposing player will guess you will go rock.

Researchers from Zhejiang University specializing in the field of “game theory” conducted a study looked at the patterns that people tend to play within. They recorded the results of 360 students playing about 20,000 rounds of games. As an incentive, the researchers paid the students money if they won.

Across all the games, the three actions came up approximately a third of the time, as you would expect. However, they did notice a distinct pattern in people’s tactics. The researchers said people who were winning tended to stick more with their action. On the other hand, if people had just lost they tended to follow a cycling pattern of going Rock to Paper to Scissor. If you want to win with this knowledge it also depends whether or not your opponent knows the knowledge as well. But presuming they don’t, it’s safe to say that you should preempt them playing the same hand again if they just beat you.


Then come the mind games. Just like a game of poker, you can easily psych opponents out with your Machiavellian power of suggestion. The World RPS say the age-old tactic of announcing which hand you will play can prove to be a helpful trick. They say: “As long as you are not playing someone who actually thinks you are bold enough to telegraph your throw and then actually deliver it, you can eliminate the throw that beats the throw you are telegraphing. So, if you announce rock, your opponent won’t play paper which means coming out with that scissors will give you at worst a stalemate and at best the win.”

And finally, when all else is lost, your safest bet is paper because it statistically only gets delivered 29.6 percent of the time, very slightly less than the 33.33 percent you would expect.

(H/T: Mic)

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