As one of the oldest settling contests for arguments, debates, and anything else, Rock, Paper, Scissors has become a global past-time. Whether you grew up taking on virtualised editions such as ‘Janken’ in Japan or classic RPS, there are ways to play the game depending on the company you keep. For example, did you know that there are rules regarding when you show your hand?

Rock, Paper, Scissors or Rock, Paper, Scissors Shoot?

Typically, you have two versions of Rock, Paper, Scissors that people play with today – the competitive and non-competitive edition. These can be broken down into two forms:

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors. In standard Rock, Paper, Scissors, you will count to three and then show your chosen symbol on the count of three. So, it would be 1, 2, 3. At 3, you show your hand choice.
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors Shoot. With Rock, Paper, Scissors Shoot, though, you count to 1, 2, 3 and then Shoot. At Shoot, you show off your chosen hand choice, offering an extra indicator to start.

What is the right choice when playing Rock, Paper, Scissors?

Really, it depends on where and when you happen to take part in a game of RPS. For the most part, if you are playing in a professional or in any way competitive match you will use the Rock, Paper, Scissors Shoot style. So, you would show your choice of rock, paper, and/or scissors when the count hits ‘Shoot’, or ‘4’ if you wish. This is known as the 4th Prime, and if you were to go early in a competitive RPS match it could see your choice defaulted upon or revoked.

However, if you were to be playing just for a normal Rock, Paper, Scissor’s match for anything non-competitive, it is common to use the standard 1, 2, 3 counts. This is known as the 3rd Prime. Why does this matter? Put simply, most people are used to showing their choice in Rock, Paper, Scissors when they hit the count of 3, not afterwards. It might seem trivial, but it does have an impact on how the game is played; you want both participants to show their hand at the same time, after all!

Why is the 4th Prime the ideal choice for Rock, Paper, Scissors?

The main reason why the 4th Prime is chosen for Rock, Paper, Scissors is because it allows for a neutral word. This means that your arm is in a neutral position, ensuring that there is the widest variety. When you go on the count of three, you are typically in a less neutral position. This means changing from Rock to Paper, or Paper to Scissors, is typically more telegraphed. In competitive matches, the aim is to make the choice as hard to read as possible.

Therefore, by starting on the 4th Prime the two players can ensure neutral arm positions. This allows for the widest variety of gesture choices, and the best chance of avoiding telegraphing your intentions.

So, if you are going to play Rock, Paper, Scissors competitively, remember that your choice comes after the count of 3, not on the count of 3!