What are the odds of winning Rock, Paper, Scissors?

The other day I posted that the odds of flipping a coin heads every time weren’t necessarily 50%.  In the comments I was harassed by YNB and the Friggin Loon to provide insight into the odds of winning at Rock, Paper, Scissors (or as FL likes to say Scissors, Paper, Rock for some reason).  Well actually the timing of the request couldn’t be better because our cartoonist friend Robert Mateicek (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) of Spilled Ink  just did this toon.

Well first a little background.  Did you know RPS was also known as RPS.  OK that was easy.  But it is also known as Roshambo, Roshambow, Rochambeau (but funny enough not Sham WOW!).  See the complete history at the Straight Dope.

Now some people would think their odds of winning RPS would be 33% since there are 3 choices.  But you would be wrong since ties don’t count as a win or a loss but rather a do over (unless you play online or in Vegas where ties lose).  So therefore, conventional wisdom would say you have a 50% chance of winning and if the choices were truly random, that would be right.  However, much like with the toin coss there is the human element which can increase the odds.

According to my crack research, Rock is thrown 35% of the time, Paper 33% and Scissors 31%. 

 Now according to Graham Walker who actually wrote a book on the subject.  Here is your intial strategy:

1 – Rock is for Rookies
In RPS circles a common mantra is “Rock is for Rookies” because males have a tendency to lead with Rock on their opening throw. It has a lot to do with idea that Rock is perceived as “strong” and forceful”, so guys tend to fall back on it. Use this knowledge to take an easy first win by playing Paper. This tactic is best done in pedestrian matches against someone who doesn’t play that much and generally won’t work in tournament play.
2 – Scissors on First
The second step in the ‘Rock is for Rookies’ line of thinking is to play scissors as your opening move against a more experienced player. Since you know they won’t come out with rock (since it is too obvious), scissors is your obvious safe move to win against paper or stalemate to itself.

Now I disagree with Grahams strategy but then again I don’t belong to the World RPS Society.  I say whether you are playing an experienced player or a beginner, THROW Paper.  If a player is experienced and knows your experienced, he may assume you will already know of Grahams trick and you will throw Scissors.  Looking to beat you he is going to pick Rock but you have pulled the switch and won with paper. 

There endeth the lesson.

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  1. spilledinkguy says:

    Thanks for the sweet sweet plug, Mr. B! 🙂

    • Now I just noticed something about your toon. Pizza typically has either 8 or 12 slices. We’ll assume this one didn’t have 12 b/c then there would be an even number. If it had 8 then someone needs to back out b/c they already had 3 slices. The things I notice.

  2. Wow, my head is spinning over RPS. Why can’t we throw a shovel in the mix and just bury all 3 of them? I stopped played RPS when I was 5 because my older brother beat me every time. I just flat out refused to play because I never won.

    Spilled Ink. Love the Cartoon!

  3. Danica says:

    I’m with FL; I say “scissors, paper, rock” too.

  4. frigginloon says:

    Blahahahahah Bearman, that is way funny. You rock, I mean cut…wrap…ah never mind! Thanks Bearman for the plug, I knew you wouldn’t let the loons down!

  5. frigginloon says:

    You know Bearman, next time I have a dinner party I am going to be quoting your RPS strategy. I always love an early night 🙂 .

  6. Nate Fakes says:

    I can’t give away what I ALWAYS use first, but I must say I typically win 5 out of 10 times.

  7. John K says:

    You can beat on rps in vegas!?! Is that for real?

  8. yorksnbeans says:

    Take a look at this….

  9. D. Long says:

    Wow, deep! I’m taking notes, and preparing to go around challenging people.

    And what is the official name?? I thought it was paper-rock-scissors…??? As I put in the following: http://eqcomics.com/comics/nomads-disputes/

    Hey I got the 100-year-old cartoon almost done. Probably get it to you tonight. 🙂

  10. Lynn says:

    wow, so there’s actually a book written on this subject? who would’ve known? bearman you are a vast pit of useless knowledge and for the record i, like you say RPS…. cute cartoon but in my opinion rock usually does win…but that dreaded paper…arrgh!

  11. frigginloon says:

    Hey Bearman, if you aren’t number 1 on Google search for rock, paper,scissors now!!! Geez, what a goldmine of info.

  12. Sheila Deeth says:

    Would you believe I never played as a kid? Played with my kids and lost , of course, but that was parental policy back then. Wonder if I could beat them now you’ve told me how – I’d just better hope they don’t start using shovels.

    And thanks for the blogroll. Nice incentive to keep me blogging 🙂

    • Do what the guy in the article suggests. Play the first round. If you win, you say “I won” but if you lose act like nothing happened. If your opponent questions you, you say, “You always play RPS best 2 out of 3.”

  13. haha. that was hilarious.

    you always gotta go with paper. this is a matter i’ve thoroughly studied and these were my feelings before reading this educational article by the way.

  14. One secret I have with RPS is when I have Rock and my opponent has Scissors, I counter with “Windstorm”, which blows the paper away. Then I bop him in the head with the rock.

  15. Tony says:

    Hmmm… RPS is that similar to a game I have always have called Paper, Scissors, Rock

  16. Tony says:

    I guess it’s still socially acceptable unlike the highly racist Eeny meeny miney moe

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