Rock Paper Scissors Meta-Strategies.

“Meta-strategies” go beyond selecting your throw. In fact, in many cases, their purpose is to let you select your opponent’s throw! Meta-strategies are as numerous as shells on the beach, but they are all based on one of two principles.

Get in Their Head

The first goal of meta-strategies is: “If you can make your opponent believe what you want him to, you can make him behave how you want him to.” This is usually accomplished through pre- game conversation or in-game banter. No one ever said RPS was played in silence!

Getting under Your Opponent’s Skin

The second principle of meta-strategies is: “If you can make your opponent react to you, you can play the game for her.” Many players will slip into reflexive habits and strategies when angry, frustrated, afraid, or confused. If you can get your opponent into that condition, you have the control of the match.

Classic Meta-Strategies

If your opponent figures out what you’re up to, meta-strategies can backfire horribly. Worse than if you’d never used them, they can leave you confused and give your opponent control of the match. A good trainer can help you create and hone new meta-strategies as well as show you when to use them and when to leave well enough alone.

Here are a few well-documented meta-strategies to use as examples or as a starting point for building your own:

Old Hat

This is one of the oldest and most well-known meta-strategies of all time. Its effectiveness is minimized by the fact that nearly every player nowadays will recognize the “Ol’ ‘Old Hat’” but as it is the foundation of many more developed meta-strategies, this guide would be incomplete without it.

The purpose of the “Old Hat” strategy is to demoralize an opponent into feeling inferior or intimidated. Common “Old Hat” banter may include:

“| knew that would be your next move.”

“This time, actually think before you throw.”

If you can successfully frustrate, anger, or make your opponent feel inferior, you may be able to drive him into a reactive game and take control of the match.

Crystal Ball

One of the more clever meta-strategies, “Crystal Ball” is a ploy to confuse an opponent and derail what might be an otherwise effective strategy. Like “Old Hat,” this is a simple and time-tested strategy that is more effective as a foundation on which to build than used in its virgin form.

To employ “Crystal Ball,” tell your opponent what she is going to throw: “You’re going to bring Scissors again, aren’t you?” If your opponent is unfamiliar with this ploy, you can now be certain she will not throw Scissors. That makes Paper a safe throw.


“Rusty” is a dubious meta-strategy at best. A player using this technique will claim to be “out of practice” and predict their own defeat. This may put an opponent off her guard or instill a false sense of confidence, but this rarely has a significant effect on a match. Still, some players swear by it and continue to include it in their repertoire.

The Boy who Cried Wolf

When you’re playing against someone who’s highly intelligent or more experienced at Janken than you are, pretend to be a novice. They will automatically play paper to counter the perennial newbie favorite, rock and at the last minute play scissors, beating them easily. Although an effective strategy, this can only be used once or twice to a new opponent.

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