Rock Paper Scissors Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Modified: 31 May 2023

One of the first games you’d learn about as a kid is rock paper scissors. While it may seem like a mindless thing only meant to settle petty arguments, this game is one of the most perfect exercises in probability. Each time you throw a hand in rock paper scissors, you become the subject of three different outcomes. Learn more about the science behind this game and how to win it with these rock paper scissors facts.

  1. Rock paper scissors is commonly played between 2 persons.
  2. Based on history, the game was played since the Han dynasty – the 2nd imperial dynasty of China from 202 BC until 220 AD.
  3. The odds of winning rock paper scissors is one in three or 33.33%.
  4. On average, players use rock and scissors 35% of the time.
  5. Meanwhile, paper is only used around 29.6% of the time.
  1. Rock paper scissors is a hand game.
  2. The game spread to Europe from Japan in the 20th century.
  3. Roshambo was introduced to the US in the 1930s.
  4. To start the game, the players must choose one of three shapes with an outstretched hand at the same time.
  5. If the player wants to use the “rock,” they should form a closed fist.
  6. When using “paper,” the player should form a flat hand,
  7. Meanwhile, a peace sign forms scissors.
  8. Rock paper scissors is a simultaneous zero-sum game.
  9. For these kinds of games, one player’s gain is equivalent to their opponent’s loss.
  10. When playing the game, there are only three possible scenarios ― a win, a loss, or a draw
  1. The game is also used to resolve a dispute/disagreement to create an unbiased group decision or between two individuals.
  2. The players usually verbalize “rock paper scissors” to synchronize each turn during the match.
  3. The game of rock paper scissors originated from China.
  4. Rock paper scissors is also known as ‘Roshambo.’
  5. Many believe that rock paper scissors is comparable to coin flipping or throwing dice.
Table of Contents

Rock paper scissors has other names in different countries.

While the rules stay the same, rock paper scissors takes on many names across different countries. In the UK, it’s known as ‘Paper Scissors Stone/Rock’ and Rochambeau. In Germany, people call it Schnick, Schnack, Schnuck. In Asia, the Chinese call it Jiandao Shítou Bu, while the Japanese know it as Janken.

Rock paper scissors is not completely a game of chance.

Most people believe that rock-paper-scissors is a game of chance. However, research suggests that it’s not just about “luck,” since most people have a tendency for unconscious moves. If you pay enough attention, you could recognize your opponents’ patterns and habits.

rock paper scissors facts, hand
Source: Pixabay

People are most likely to repeat their winning moves.

Upon observing 300 games of rock paper scissors, a Chinese study revealed that players were most likely to stick with their winning moves. On the flip side, players tend to change their losing moves right away, usually in the sequence of rock-paper-scissors.

You can improve your rock paper scissors skills with Afiniti.

The Afiniti website lets you hone your rock paper scissors skills through interactive activities. Afiniti uses a computer algorithm that predicts its opponent’s moves based on their history.

The algorithm operates on the notion that people are not inherently random. That said, it identifies patterns in a player’s chosen hand over the course of the game. The longer you fight Afiniti, the more data it will have – which makes in increasingly harder to beat. Try your hand at fighting Afiniti in a rock paper scissor game here.

You can improve your chances of winning by exploiting non-random behavior.

If you notice that your opponent favors rock, you can always counter with paper. Generally, this applies to all rules of the game. Most rock paper scissors games can be won if you outwit or out-bluff your opponent.

The first national champion of the USA Rock Paper Scissors League won $50,000.

Professional rock paper scissors may sound crazy to you, but the US once had its own league of aspiring pros. In 2006, Mario Anastasov won $50,000 and hjis status as the first professional rock paper scissors player in the US. Sadly, the USA Rock Paper Scissors League has been defunct as of 2014.

The Rock paper scissors tournament in 2014 sets a world record.

On the 17th of August 2014, Oomba, Inc. held a rock-paper-scissors general conference in Indiana, USA. With a total of 2,950 participants, they broke the Guinness World Record for the largest rock-paper-scissors tournament in the world.

This game rewards emotional intelligence, intuition, and observation.

The game of rock paper scissors requires certain skills such as emotional intelligence, intuition, observation, and strategy. However, fighting against an opponent who plays randomly can be much harder to pull off. Without patterns, it would be hard to build an effective strategy.

If two elite players face off, results can be unpredictable.

If two veteran or elite rock paper scissors players match up, chances are, they will get an equal probability of winning, losing, or tying. In the end, it comes down to who can read their opponent’s patterns better.

rock paper scissors facts
Source: Pixabay

The rock-paper-scissors game has many variations

Aside from its name, rock paper scissors also varies in the symbols used for each country. For one, Japan’s Sansukumi-ken frog, slug, and snake in place of the traditional rock, paper, and scissors.

It's advised that if you lose with paper, play rock the next turn.

When you play against someone in a casual game, you can expect their repetition. It’s always important to remember that the winners will usually stick with the same action that gave their success. If you lose with paper (they played scissors), they’ll play with scissors again next turn. As a counter move, you you should go with rock. While it may not guarantee your success, it increases your chances of winning.

Using paper is a good opening against male players.

Scholars suggest that men commonly open with rock because of its association with determination and strength. As such, you may have high chances of winning first throw if you play paper against a man. However, scissors would be your best bet against a woman.

Paper is also a good choice as the match progresses.

Papers are not just handy in the opening, it’s also a strong “weapon” along the way. According to the numbers, people use rock and scissors 35% of the time, while paper is only used 29.6% of the time. Therefore, using paper may give you a slight advantage as it increases the odds of draws and wins.

No player wants to become predictable.

Bear in mind that no player wants to become predictable in the game. If your opponent already threw a double (2 rocks, for instance), the chances of rock to be used for a 3rd time is pretty low. By anticipating it, you now have a 50/50 chance of winning, knowing not to use paper anymore.

You should observe your opponent's hands when playing.

Aside from patterns, observing your opponent’s hand before they launch can also indicate what they’ll throw. Often, a loose hand ends up as  paper. If two fingers are loose, it may hint towards scissors. Meanwhile, a tight hand most likely ends in a rock.

There is psychology behind every player's moves.

For one, players often throw scissors when they’re winning or confident. Compared to rock and paper, scissors are a more useful, potentially deadly tool. This is why scissors also represent managed aggression.

When people are losing, expect them to use rock.

When players fall behind, they would tend to use rock more often. Players subconsciously believe that a rock is a reliable weapon to bring them back in the game. Thus, using paper when you’re already winning will even seize your chances of winning the game.

A losing opponent will not use paper often.

Players subconsciously believe that paper is the weakest hand due to its nature. After all, paper can easily be torn apart and subject to any attack. Furthermore, an open hand represents peace, passiveness, and friendliness. Once you catch your opponent in a losing streak, the chances of them using paper drop considerably low.

There is a game called, "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock."

Sam Kass and Karen Bryla invented the game Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock as an extension of the world’s most famous hand game. According to its rules, rock beats lizard, lizard beats Spock, Spock beats scissors, and scissors beats lizard. Meanwhile, lizard beats paper, paper beats Spock, Spock beats rock, and rock beats scissors.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock has a lesser chances of a tie in each turn.

The creators introduced two new symbols to throw to lessen the chances of draws commonly observed in the standard rock paper scissors. With this modified game, players will enjoy 5 varieties to choose from, reducing the probability of a tie in each turn.

The Big Bang Theory featured the modified game Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.

First introduced in a 2005 article in The Times of London, the modified game didn’t really take off until a few years later. It gained more traction after the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory used it in one of their episodes in 2008.

The Philippines' Jak-en-Poy was inspired by the Japanese's Jan-ken-pon.

In the Philippines, locals call rock paper scissors as “Bato Bato Pick” [Rock Rock Pick (choose)] and “Jak-en-Poy.” The main difference between the two is that Jak-En-Poy involves a certain chant, while Jak-En-Poy is a much quicker game with no singing.

The Malaysian version uses bird, water, and stone.

For the Malaysian version, the “bird” replaces scissors, gesturing with the fingertips of five fingers brought together to form a beak. While stone is self explanatory, the open palm signifies “water“. Stone beats bird (by striking it), bird beats water (by drinking it), while water beats the stone (by sinking it).

The Indonesian version uses human, elephant, and ant.

The Indonesian of the game is named Suten, Suit, or simply Sut. Instead of the traditional rock, paper, and scissors, their symbols include the human (outstretched index finger), the ant (outstretched little finger), and the elephant (slightly raised thumb). In the game, the elephant beats the human, while the human beats the ant. Finally, the ant beats the elephant, since it’s afraid of the ant.

Korea has an upgraded version of rock-paper-scissors.

In South Korea, people call rock paper scissors as ‘muk-jji-ppa‘ (muk-rock, jji-paper, ppa-scissors). This game starts as a regular rock-paper-scissors to determine who is going to attack. Whoever wins has to shout ‘muk-jji-pa’ then the winner will attack and the opponent will defend.

The winner will then reveal their next attack. If the opponent had the same hand as the winner, then the winner will gain points. If their hands are not the same, then the defender will be the one to reveal his or her attack until their hands are the same.

In short, the winner should make his or her opponent use the same hand as them to win the game.

Pokémon uses the rock paper scissors gameplay element.

Several Nintendo role-playing games (RPG) has a rock paper scissors gameplay element. In Pokémon, for instance, the fire Pokémon usually beats the grass-type Pokémon, water beats fire, and the grass-type beats water-type Pokémon.

Most online team battle games uses a rock paper scissors format.

Another concept of rock paper scissors in video games is character classes in RPGs such as ‘melee’ (swordsmen, fighters, tanks), ‘ranged’ (marksmen, archers, mages), or even a ‘flying-type’ character. Depending on the game’s developer, players are usually allowed to pick any characters they desire. With each class having its own weaknesses and strengths, this kind of multiplayer game promotes effective strategizing.

Rock paper scissors once solved a court case.

In 2006, Florida Federal Judge Gregory Presnell became disappointed in the lawyers’ incompetence to solve discovery matters. Thus, he ordered them to settle the dispute through a game of rock paper scissors.