Penn State Student, Derek Hines, knows it. He's won the right to represent Penn State University in the Rock Paper Scissors National Championship in Las Vegas, June 20-22. The winner will pick up $50,000 and will travel to Bejing for the inaugural International Rock Paper Scissors Federation Championship (IRPSF) to face Rock Paper Scissors champions from Canada, Guam, Hong Kong, Ireland and Malaysia. At stake is world Rock Paper Scissors domination.
If you thought Rock Paper Scissors was a game of chance, you just got snookered. Winning takes a calculating mind and a keen eye for cues about what your opponent will shoot. Players call it picking up on "tells"-- such as the way amateurs start to make the scissors shape a split second before the shoot, the premature tilt of the hand as a signal for paper, or the tell-tale wind up for rock. In an interview with Pennlive.com, Hines revealed that he likes to make use of the "double throw"-- using the same hand shape twice in a row. "This throws people off guard," he claims.
From a purely mathematical perspective, the optimal Rock Paper Scissors strategy is to play randomly. But this achieves equilibrium. Each player should win, lose, or draw an equal number of times. As litigators know, equilibrium is nothing like winning. It turns out that people stink at randomness, no matter how hard they try. Champion Rock Paper Scissors players (and good lawyers) know that people trying for randomness are actually quite predictable.
The trick to winning Rock Paper Scissors is to take one move away from your opponent. For example, if you can eliminate or reduce the possibility that your opponent will shoot rock you will play scissors. Scissors beats paper and stalemates scissors. The real game is in trying to manipulate your opponent to eliminate one of the moves, or successfully to predict which move your opponent will not make.
Rock, they say, is for rookies. Careful observers have noted that males, particularly slightly drunk ones, tend to lead with rock. Perhaps it has something to do with maleness. No matter. Play a rookie male with paper on the first throw and see how much you like winning. Of course if you are playing a non-rookie, you can be fairly sure he won't lead with rock (however much he might want to), because rock is for rookies. So, if you're squaring off with someone who knows the game, scissors is your move. Later in the game, try the double psych on a rookie. Tell your opponent what you are going to shoot. Your opponent will underestimate the odds that you will actually shoot what you said you would. He will not throw the move that beats the move you announced. You can eliminate that one and pick the winner/stalement throw against the other two options.
It all seems obvious after you think about it for a minute. But then, so does law.