Rock, Paper, Scissors Strategy

Rock, Scissors, Paper feels like a simple game of luck. This is great, because most of your opponents will feel the same way. Although you can’t always win, there is a way to increase your chances of winning. It is all about Psychology.

When I was younger I often lost the first play. It was frustrating because my winning probabilities were way worse than 50%. So, I started watching what people did. Here is what I found.

  1. Plant suggestions in their mind
  2. Randomize if you win
  3. Choose the odd one if you lose

Psychology of first play

Growing up, I called this game, “Rock, Scissors, Paper” but most people call it “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. When I didn’t have time to think about what to play, I would play paper, and they would play scissors.

What was happening here? Our brains have two parts, the thinking part and the feeling part. When you use logic and reason, the thinking part is active and we logically choose what to do. This is much more slow and methodological. The thinking brain needs time to process.

That is why we have a feeling brain. The feeling brain reacts quickly to stimuli and makes quick decisions or knee-jerk reactions.

In Rock, Scissors, Paper you can trigger the feeling brain by doing the following.

  • Say to your opponent, “What do you call this game?”
  • They will say “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
  • You then quickly start the game.
  • They will automatically play Scissors because that is what their feeling brain is thinking.
  • You should play rock.

This strategy works more than 80% of the time! (unless they read this blog, then they will be expecting it, then you have to go back to random play)

Randomize when you win

Some Cornell researchers found that people often play the same thing if they win, and play the next down the line if they lose. (if they lose with Rock, they play Paper, Lose with Paper, play Scissors, etc).

So if you win with Rock, play Paper more often, but don’t get predictable. Randomization is key because if you follow a pattern, they will figure it out.

Switch if you lose

If the other player isn’t following this blog, then they will tend to play the winning strategy again. In that case you should  play the odd one. (the one no one played last time.)  But, if they are following the recommended strategy above. You will often tie.

Once again, randomizing is key.


Or, if you are like this guy. Always play rock.


Try it out and let me know how it works!

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