Sometime between adolescence and adulthood we give up the things we seek only to return to them in middle-age. Childhood games are one of those and the biggest one beyond the popularity of Texas hold ’em right now is Rock-Paper-Scissors.
Several years ago I pursued the passion of hosting a tournament here in Boise. I still do. I contacted the World RPS Society which sanctions these tournaments, authorizes officials and establishes the standards for the rules used, and got all the details. Recently, the popularity of this worldwide competition has made an appearance on ESPN2, where commentators announced the rounds with all the seriousness of a prime-time football game.
If you missed out on childhood, Rock-Paper-Scissors (also known as RPS) is a game where two competitors show either a rock, a pair of scissors, or a piece of paper using the appropriate hand signal. The winner is determined by which of the three beats the other. Rock dulls scissors. Scissors cut paper. And paper covers rock. Rounds are usually two out of three and in the case of a tie, competitors throw again.
While you might think that RPS is a game of chance and luck you may be surprised to know that there are several strategies involved.The Official Rock Paper Scissors Strategy Guide, by Douglas Walker and Graham Walker, the founders of the World RPS Society, present eight gambits, a series of three strategic moves designed to win. Among the eight are the avalanche, three rocks in a row; the bureaucrat, three papers in a row; paper dolls, a paper followed by two scissors … you get the idea.
Not only are there offensive strategies, there are defensive ones as well. The Urbanus Defense, popularized by a U.S. player named Urbanus at a world championship tournament involves the intentional loss of the first throw in a round of three to instill a sense of false confidence in the other player. If one is extremely quick with their hands then a player can employ a defensive strategy known as cloaking where the throw is made a split second after the competitor, thereby forecasting the opponents throw. This strategy is dangerous as a judge can overturn a throw and award it to the loser if this type of rule bending is used.
Of course, most experienced players utilize psychological tactics such as the staredown, psychobabble, and misleading the competition such as threats of throwing rock and then throwing scissors. It is also interesting to note that most inexperienced players tend to throw rock the first throw in a round.
At a recent staff tournament BW News Editor Nicholas Collias used several psychological strategies to win the tournament.