Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) is a classic hand game played by millions worldwide. Although often considered a game of luck, employing strategic thinking can increase your chances of winning. This article, written by an expert in the field, reveals the best Rock Paper Scissors strategies to help you defeat your opponents with ease. In addition to our own expert analysis, we also include insights from Chinese game researchers who have identified predictable patterns in human behavior to maximize your chances of victory.

  1. Know Your Opponent

Understanding your opponent’s tendencies is crucial in predicting their next move. Observe their patterns and play style, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Here are some common tendencies to watch for:

  • Novice players: They often throw rock first, as it feels the most natural and aggressive.
  • Predictable patterns: Some players fall into a habit of playing the same sequence of moves, such as Rock-Rock-Paper or Paper-Scissors-Rock.
  • Emotional players: They may make moves based on their emotional state or the outcome of the previous round.
  1. Exploiting Predictable Irrationality

Chinese game researchers have found that people tend to act predictably irrational in RPS. Based on this observation, they recommend the following strategies for a higher chance of victory:

  • Countertactic: If you lose a round, switch to the move that beats the move your opponent just played. For example, if they played rock, play paper in the next round.
  • Mirroring: If you win a round, play the move your opponent just played, as they will likely anticipate you sticking to your winning move.

Combining these strategies with your observation of your opponent’s tendencies will help you stay one step ahead in the game.

  1. The Art of Deception

RPS is a psychological game, and misleading your opponent can be advantageous. Use these deception techniques to keep your opponent guessing:

  • False tells: Pretend to throw a specific move to influence your opponent’s decision. For example, subtly form your hand into scissors before switching to paper at the last moment.
  • Verbal cues: Make comments or use body language to suggest your next move, only to play something else.
  • Change your patterns: Don’t become predictable. Keep your opponent on their toes by changing your sequences and rhythm regularly.
  1. Utilizing Adaptive Strategies

Adaptive strategies involve adjusting your moves based on your opponent’s recent actions. Examples include:

  • Frequency analysis: Keep track of your opponent’s move frequencies and exploit any imbalances. If they throw rock more often, increase your use of paper.
  • Tit-for-Tat: Mimic your opponent’s previous move, capitalizing on their tendency to avoid playing the same move twice in a row.
  • Throw history: Analyze the last few rounds to identify and exploit patterns in your opponent’s play.
  1. The Nash Equilibrium and Conditional Response

In theory, the most mathematically sound way to play RPS is by choosing your strategy at random, selecting rock, paper, and scissors each one-third of the time. This approach is called the game’s Nash equilibrium. However, the conditional response pattern discovered by the Chinese researchers – winners repeating their strategy and losers moving to the next strategy in the sequence – suggests that this hard-wired response may lead to more predictable play.

  1. Playing the Underdog

Since rock is the most commonly thrown move, especially among novice players, playing paper more frequently than the other moves can be a successful strategy. By anticipating the higher probability of rock being played, you’re more likely to secure a win by exploiting this knowledge.

  1. Anticipate Opponent’s Counterstrategy

As you become more skilled at RPS, you may face opponents who are also familiar with advanced strategies. In these situations, anticipate the counterstrategy your opponent might employ and plan your moves accordingly. For example, if you expect your opponent to use the countertactic, play the move that would beat their expected choice.

  1. Best-of-N Strategy

In games where you’re playing multiple rounds, like best-of-three or best-of-five, you can use the round structure to your advantage. Start by playing conservatively and observing your opponent’s patterns. As the game progresses, use your gathered information to make informed decisions and adjust your strategy based on the rounds remaining.

  1. The Gambit Approach

A gambit is a predefined sequence of moves that you follow consistently throughout the game. By committing to a gambit, you minimize the risk of becoming predictable while maintaining a strategic focus. Some popular gambits include:

  • Fistful of Dollars (Rock-Rock-Paper)
  • Scissor Sandwich (Paper-Scissors-Paper)
  • Avalanche (Rock-Rock-Rock)
  1. Reading Microexpressions

Skilled RPS players can sometimes gain an advantage by observing their opponent’s microexpressions – brief, involuntary facial expressions that occur when a person is attempting to conceal their emotions. By studying these subtle cues, you may be able to deduce your opponent’s next move before they make it. This strategy requires practice and a keen eye for detail, but it can be a powerful tool when mastered.


With these additional strategies – playing the underdog, anticipating counterstrategies, using the best-of-N approach, employing gambits, and reading microexpressions – you can elevate your Rock Paper Scissors game even further. While RPS may be a simple game on the surface, mastering its intricacies and strategic possibilities can provide a satisfying challenge for players of all skill levels.

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