Here’s Why You Suck At Rock-Paper-Scissors

Why do we suck at rock-paper-scissors? Is it an alien conspiracy? Is it our bad luck? There’s got to be a science to it. Let’s investigate further.

The Odds

The odds for rock-paper-scissors is actually 50-50. That is better than house odds in Vegas. Keep in mind there are three choices. Each one coming up one third of the time. The possible results are also three. You can win or lose. You can also tie which leads to a replay and either a win or a loss. Again, 50-50 odds. Still it seems we lose most of the time. How does that work?


Our first reaction when we lose is to think. Only, what are we supposed to think about? Our mind can race or bounce off the walls searching for that one clue or inspiration to help us win. Here is the problem. We are using our brain but our emotions are making the decisions. To logically choose by emotion is an oxymoron. Stop it. Read on to find out why you are losing and how you can win.

We Are Competitive

Rock paper scissors is a game. Games are a competition. Those of us who play games can be at least a little competitive. Some are very competitive. When we get that way, we naturally become aware of our losses more than our wins. Unless we end on a win. Then we can taunt until the cows come home.

If you look at our championship athletes, we can see that same competitiveness on an ultra level. Ask them during the season and they remember their losses and what caused them to lose. Ask them if they win the championship and we hear confidence in their ablilities. That is what drives them to be their best, remembering what things went wrong and fixing them.


It seems we are more predictable than we realize. Instead of randomly choosing either three on an equal and random basis, we tend to choose rock over the others. Rock will either smash scissors or be covered by paper. Remember: rock vs rock is a tie. Our odds should still be 50-50. But, if our patterns become predictable, then our opponent might pick up on it and play paper more often.

We show other tendencies as well. When we win, we tend to keep the same choice because it worked for us last time. We lose and we switch to a ‘downgrade’ or a choice that would have lost to our previous choice. If we tie, then we tend to ‘upgrade’ or choose the item that would have beaten our last choice. Even if we do not do this consciously, these patterns are common. Compete against an opponent who can recognize these patterns and we will lose more often than not.

How To Win

The secret to winning is to always become more like those who defeat us. Make your choices based on what they played last instead of what you chose. If you lose, pick the item that would have defeated their last choice. If you tie, pick the item that would have lost to their last choice. Finally, if you win, pick the item they chose last time. You will still lose some of the time but your winnings should increase—as long as your opponent didn’t read this article.


BTW, Rock Paper Scissors is also known as Ro Sham Bo. What’s your  strategy?

Additional Image: Why My Cat Is Sad