Some time ago, my cousin and my brother sat down and decided to hash out a comprehensive strategy guide for the first throw of the game Rock-Paper-Scissors. They report that by using the tactics in this guide, they lose the game much less often than they used to (except to each other). The trick is to judge accurately where on the tactics scale your opponent sits. I promised to post their work on my blog, so here it is, the second ever post written by someone other than me.
Please feel free to use this guide, if you dare. Personally, it makes my mind melt into mush, but I'm not studying to be an engineer like they both are and I don't rank very high on their tactics scale. If you do choose to use it, please report back on the results. My brother and cousin would find your success or failure very interesting to analyze.
Rock Paper Scissors Strategy
Developed by Justin and Jared
Written by Jared
Edited by Carla
Developed by Justin and Jared
Written by Jared
Edited by Carla
1. Scissors is the most natural. People do not expect you to throw rock, plus they have just finished saying "scissors."
2. Rock is thrown by moderately smart people because they think you won't expect it.
3. Paper is the least likely. It seems weak and so only an extremely smart person would throw it. If the person you are battling is not smart then they won't throw it.
People tend to think in order:
Will my opponent throw rock? Not likely.
Will my opponent throw paper? Maybe... not sure.
Will my opponent throw scissors? Maybe.
Therefore the average person (we say "average" intelligence, since we assume no one is stupid) will choose scissors unless they are rushed, in which case they will choose rock (their hand is already in a fist). So, a good strategy is to rush your opponent, then choose paper. But only do this with someone who is not spontaneous. If they are not spontaneous but a planner (like you), rush them and do paper. They will break down.
If your opponent is spontaneous but also smart, tell them what they are going to do. This will confuse them. They will think, "Should I do what my opponent said?" They will most likely leave it until the last moment to decide, in which case they will choose rock because their hand is in a fist. However, since they are smart, they will catch on quickly, so don't try this tactic twice, and you may not want to suggest they throw rock. This would only alert them of their subconscious and make your plan less likely to succeed. Try telling them they will do paper or scissors or that they could do either. Telling them they can do either makes them feel good and like they have a choice in the matter.
However, if your opponent is both smart and knows you are also smart, they will loop through the whole list and throw scissors first, expecting you to throw paper like only a really smart person would do. They will probably be unaware that they are even employing this reasoning. Rarely will anyone loop through the list more than once.
Part Two: Psychological Description and Analysis of the Tactical Scale
E/N: Your opponent's thought pattern in italics. Commentary in normal typeface. Advice in bold.
1. Level One (Average):
What is a good item to choose? I know, scissors! Why? Because I don't expect them to throw rock. Will I win with scissors? There's a good chance, especially if they do not throw rock.
Notice that this person makes good choices, but does not make advancements based on how smart they think you are. There is also a good chance that they don't care as much about the game as you, but they do still value their own dignity in at least making a "smart" choice. Choose rock to beat this person.
2. Level Two (Smart):
My opponent knows that I won't throw scissors, and so will expect me to throw a rock. But will they have the guts to throw paper to beat my rock? Probably not, so I should throw a rock, because even if they also throw a rock, I'll still be safe.
Notice that this player assumes you are smart, though not smart enough to throw paper. They subconsciously realize that the next item you would think about is "rock". And they want to be safe, so they don't throw scissors. Choose paper to beat this person.
3. Level Three (Quite smart):
My opponent would not expect me to throw paper, because they do not think I am smart enough to do that. They will probably choose rock. At any rate, they certainly will not choose scissors, because that would be too natural.
Notice that this person takes an offensive strategy and things of something you "would not expect". The only problem is that they do not expect you to be smarter than them. Choose scissors to beat this person.
4. Level Four (Very smart, patient, and knows that you are smart):
They race through and reject the first three options and then decide as follows.
Why not do something that my opponent would never suspect? It would be sneaky to choose scissors. Would they throw rock to beat my scissors? Well, they think I will not expect them to throw paper, because we both know that is the easiest way to fool a smart person. So he will try to take advantage of that by using paper and will therefore lose to my scissors.
Choose rock to beat this person. Be careful when battling people at this level. They are extremely smart and it may be very difficult to discern the difference between this person and a person who would do several cycles through the list. Also, you have a mutual understanding that the other is smart, which makes it even more difficult. Yet, these people are probably the most fun to play with, because they treat you with respect and you do the same for them. You should respect all players, but these people deserve a different kind of respect.
5. Level Five:
It is this level where things get mucky. These people have an understanding that you have a mutual bond of smartness. They relish in that bond of smartness. Some may call it overkill, but these people deserve a lot of respect and are extremely smart. Their logic is more complex than the logic of others. They take a great deal of time and drag and drag on, struggling to come out on top. And they might. These people are unpredictable.
They think like this:
My opponent knows that I don't care about the fact that rock and paper are dangerous, so they also know that both of those are fair game for me. Therefore, they are just as likely to pick something to beat either of those as they would be to pick paper. If they were to pick paper or scissors, which would they pick... ah... hmmm... grrr... (This would be a good time to rush their decision)... hmmm errrr...(long trails of logic later) I think rock is my best option because I've been spending enough time thinking about paper and scissors that I am worn out and need a fresh idea. I have proven it through in my mind.
Choose paper to beat this person. Notice that as time goes on, sheer determination will play a role in how far along the list they cycle. Sometimes these people may cycle through further than rock, so scissors may not be a bad idea, though it is a risky move. Choose scissors only if you are quite sure that they have passed to the next level.
6. Level Six (Characterized by efficiency, brains, confidence, and belief that you have confidence in your decision as well):
This is the level that nearly no one will make it to. Not many people care enough to even get to level four or five unless you hype the game up. Level six is, interestingly enough, usually characterized by less thought than level five. If a person bridges into this level, then they all of a sudden seem to stop struggling to find the right item. Instead, they grin. They have a confidence that is not foreboding, but instead makes you feel accepted. Their confidence is well earned. They are the best there is, and they think you are, too. So why would they stress more than they have to? They already have your respect. These people are good to play with and a lot of fun. It's only the level fives that will drag on.
These people think like this:
I have dragged on before, but I am above that now, thankfully. Let's skip over a few if-thens (A/N: I do not want to say too much aloud and give away the secrets of how I think). Let's start this at a random point where I choose... rock. Randomness may be an asset to me this game since my opponent is so worthy. He or she expects great things from me. I see that my opponent is about to do rock, but he or she will do rock anyway because they are confident in their decision. I choose paper.
Choose scissors to beat this person. They will not see it coming. Notice that this person chooses a "random" entry point, speeding things up, and creating a quick, efficient, and barely traceable trail of logic. This person is extremely hard to track.
The best method is to find their entry point and go either two or three items deeper than the place they started. Their entry point is often based on what they think you will do, in which case, they will choose the item that will beat the one they think you thought of. If their entry point is paper, they will chose scissors in order to beat it. Then you should choose rock. It is important to notice that their entry point could also be what they intend to do, not what they think you will do, but usually the higher level players will chose an entry point based on what they think you will do.
The entry point is hard to find. The major instance where it will not be rock is when the player has their mind on paper or scissors for some reason. Perhaps if they are a secretary or janitor, they will be more likely to chose paper or scissors as an entry point. If their entry point is based on their own personality, rather than what they think you will do, they will most likely choose that item themselves. Adjust your choice accordingly.
Part Three: Equation
Level of opponent smartness on a scale from 1 to 6
Level of opponent determination on a scale from 1 to 6
Your choice = opponent smartness + ceil((determination-smartness)/2)
("ceil" means if it's not a whole number, round up)
1 = throw rock
2 = throw paper
3 = throw scissors
4 = throw rock
5 = throw paper
6 = throw scissors
The methodology assumes that people are as determined as they are smart, but if there is a large difference, it will affect the choice as shown in the equation.
A/N: This equation is more of a guideline than a perfect algorithm.
Part Four: Closing remarks
Good luck! It is usually safer to assume that the person is not as smart as you think. When in doubt, make your choice -1 in the list (applies mostly to levels three through five).
No instructions have been made for subsequent throws, but our hypothesis is that they will tend to choose the item that is one or two after the one they just chose (add cycles acordingly to your discretion). They will probably add an item for two rounds, then go back an item for 2 more rounds, then be tricky and try to act based on what you have been doing, often consecutively repeating an item. When you suspect this, just go backwards in the list instead of forward. They will lose, and it will frustrate them, so be nice to them. People usually will not repeat an item choice after they have just lost a battle in the first of a best-of-three. They do not want to repeat a losing item because they are subconciously repelled from it. You should make sure you pick the best of the remaining two items after winning if their loss is the first of a best-of-three.
By the way, there is a level zero. These people are actually not smart. They pick rock. But you should lose to them by picking scissors. You will be doing them a huge favor in life. Always think of others and use your wins responsibly. Let others win too! (It will also make your method harder to trace if you win only most of the time, not all the time.)
I enjoy this as much for Jared's charm as for the analysis.
Man in black: "All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun."