What is the Likelihood That I Will Win a Game of Rock, Paper, or Scissors?

Michelle Wilson

I made a post a few days ago in which I stated that the probability of getting heads when flipping a coin does not always equal fifty percent of the time. I used the phrase “does not necessarily equal” in that post. YNB and the Friggin Loon pestered me in the comments section for information on the odds of winning at the rock, paper, scissors (or as FL likes to say Scissors, Paper, Rock for some reason). Robert Mateicek of Spilled Ink, our good friend, and fellow cartoonist, has just finished drawing this cartoon (don’t ask me how to pronounce it). As a result, the request couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Let’s start by going over some of the background information. Did you know that RPS was previously referred to as RPS? That wasn’t too difficult, was it? However, it is also known as Roshambo, Roshambo, and Rochambeau (though, surprisingly, not Shamwow!). Go to the Straight Dope to read a detailed account of the history. 

Given that there are three options, some people may believe that the probability of winning RPS is equal to 33 percent, but this is not always the case. You would be mistaken, however, because ties are not considered a win or a loss; rather, they are considered a new beginning (unless you play online or in Vegas where ties lose).

As a result, conventional wisdom would suggest that you have a fifty percent chance of winning, and conventional wisdom would be correct even if the choices were completely arbitrary. Conventional wisdom would be incorrect if the choices were made completely logically. However, just as there is a human factor that can increase one’s chances of winning with a coin toss, there is also a human factor that can decrease one’s chances of winning. 

My investigation into crackling led me to the conclusion that the rock is thrown 35% of the time, the paper 33% of the time, and the scissors 31% of the time. The situation now, according to Graham Walker, who has written a book specifically about the subject, is as follows. Your primary plan of action will be as follows: 

1. Only Novices Should Listen to Rock Music 

Within RPS communities, the expression “Rock is for Rookies” can be heard quite frequently. This is because men tend to begin their opening throw with a Rock in the lead position. It has a lot to do with the idea that rock music is “strong” and “forceful,” which is why guys tend to rely on it. The genre known as rock music has been around for quite some time. The category of music known as rock has been around for quite some time.

If you put this information to good use, your very first game of Paper will be a piece of cake, and you will come out on top. Because it is most effective when used in casual matches against an opponent who does not play frequently, this strategy is not recommended for use in tournament play because it is played so infrequently. However, it is most effective when used against an opponent in a setting where neither party is taking things too seriously.

2. Place the Scissors in Front of the Shirt 

The second step, if you subscribe to the school of thought known as “Rock is for Rookies,” is to play scissors as your opening move when going up against an opponent who has more experience. The next step is to practice cutting with the scissors. Rock music, according to one school of thought, is the genre with which newcomers should launch their careers as musicians. You are confident that they will not play rock because it would be ridiculous for them to do so given their reputation. Therefore, if you want to win against paper or draw yourself, playing scissors is the obvious safe move. You can’t go wrong with scissors.

It is important to point out that although I am not a member of the World RPS Society, I do not agree with the strategy that Graham has chosen. Nevertheless, I feel the need to make it clear that I do not belong to that organization in any capacity. The paper should never be skipped, regardless of whether you are going up against an opponent with years of experience or someone who is just getting started in the game.

If a player is experienced and knows your level of experience, he might assume that you are also experienced and are familiar with Graham’s trick if he knows you have experience and knows your level of experience. In this particular scenario, he may be anticipating that you will play Scissors because he is aware of your extensive experience and the fact that you are familiar with Graham’s trick. He’ll likely go with Rock in an attempt to defeat you, but you’ve got a cunning trick up your sleeve, and you’ll prevail with paper.