How To Win at Rock Paper Scissors

Rock Paper Scissors

Takashi Hashiyama is the president of a Japanese electronics company called the Maspro Denkoh Corporation. He owns a collection of Impressionist paintings that include master pieces by Picassos and Van Gogh. The collection is worth £11 million.

In January of 2005, Takashi decides to sell his entire art collection. But he is in a conundrum: He doesn’t want to break his collection. So which of the 2 world’s best auction houses should he select to handle the selling of his collection without breaking it?

  • Christie’s?
  • Sotheby’s?

How To Decide Between 2 Things That Are Equally Good?

To solve the conundrum, Takashi comes up with a solution: both the auction houses should play a sudden-death game of rock-paper-scissors! A representative from Christie’s and Sotheby’s has to show up for a meeting and write their choice down on a piece of paper: rock, paper or scissors. The winner of the game takes the gig.

Sotheby’s decides that this is a game of chance. There is a 50% chance of winning and a 50% chance of losing. And so they go in without considering any strategy.

But Kanae Ishibashi – the president of Christie’s Japan spends an entire weekend surfing the internet and asking friends for suggestions on how to improve her odds of winning.

She hits jackpot when she talks to the 11 year old twin daughters of her colleague: Alice and Flora.

The twins recommend that Kanae could improve her odds of winning to above 50% by going with scissors while playing with a beginner.

Sure enough, on the day of the game, Sotheby’s writes down paper. And Christie’s scissors cut through Sotheby’s paper!

The Explanation:

Rock, paper, and scissors – all 3 don’t have an equal probability of 33.33% of being chosen. Rock is the most popular choice because we perceive rock as being strong and forceful. So while playing a game of rock, paper, and scissors – we go with rock more than 33% of the time!

But because Sotheby’s and Christie’s were going to play a sudden death game, Sotheby’s would try to be one step ahead. They would go with paper thinking that Christie’s would go with rock.

So to win a sudden death game with a beginner, the safest choice is to think 2 steps ahead and go with scissors.

“Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper.” Flora piped in. “Since they were beginners, scissors was definitely the safest,” she said, adding that if the other side were also to choose scissors and another round was required, the correct play would be to stick to scissors – because, as Alice explained, “Everybody expects you to choose rock.”

6 Strategies to Win At Rock-Paper-Scissors

  1. Start with scissors. Because rock is the most popular choice, your opponent will start with paper more often than not – thinking that you’ll go with rock.
  2. Play the double bluff. Tell your opponent what you’re going to throw. Then throw it. Because no one believes you’ll do it, they won’t play the throw that beats the throw you’re playing. Eg: If you say you’ll throw rock, most people won’t play paper because they won’t believe you. So they’ll either throw rock or scissors. So by sticking to your rock, you’ll either win the round or have a draw.
  3. In case of a win or a loss, throw the move that loses to your opponent’s previous move. This works because we humans are bad at randomization. And unconsciously, we’ll try to beat our own last move. Eg: If your opponent went with rock in the previous round, chances are higher he’ll go with paper. So by going with scissors, you’ll tilt the probability in your favour.
  4. In case of a draw, go with the same throw. Eg: if both of you threw a rock in the previous round, go with rock in your next round too. Because after a draw, your opponent will think that you’ll throw paper. And so chances are higher of her throwing scissors.
  5. Look out for the “double run.” When your opponent throws the same move twice in a row, go with the throw that’ll lose to her last 2 moves. For eg: if your opponent goes with rock twice in a row, go with scissors the 3rd time. Because as we humans don’t want to be predictable, chances are higher that your opponent won’t go with rock again. He’ll either throw paper or scissors. And so if you throw scissors, you’ll end up winning or in a draw.
  6. If in doubt, throw paper. Rock is the most popular choice in the game as people perceive it to be strong and powerful. And because rock is the most popular choice, scissors is the least popular choice. Statistics show that people throw scissors only 29.6% of the time, instead of the expected 33.33% of the time. So by going with paper, your chances or losing decreases.

All bets are off if your opponent knows some of the above strategies too.

The Ultimate Strategy: Never Losing a Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors

Here is how to play the game so that you never lose:

  1. Only play it against the person you like / have a crush on.
  2. Play for kisses. The loser kisses the winner.

While rock-paper-scissors is extremely useful when you’re having a tough time selecting one out of two equal choices, its become the favorite game of pick-up artists too. Because it allows them to cozy up with the opposite sex in record time. It enables one to go from hello to kiss-kiss in less than 10 minutes (even quicker if one or both of you are drunk).

You’ll win even when you lose!


Did you know that rock-paper-scissors is adapted from a very ancient game? But what did people call it before scissors were invented?

There are two other names of the game:

  • “Earwig, Man, Elephant”
  • “Bear, Hunter, Woman.”

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