Rock-paper-scissors (RPS) is a simple game in which players simultaneously choose one of three options: rock, paper, or scissors. The game is widely played among children and adults alike, but it has also attracted the attention of researchers and game theorists.

In recent years, several studies have investigated optimal RPS strategies and the patterns of play in real-world RPS tournaments. These studies suggest that RPS is not a completely random game, but rather a game with predictable patterns and possible strategies.

One commonly studied strategy in RPS is the “win-stay, lose-shift” (WSLS) strategy, which means that a player will stick with their winning move but switch to a different move after a loss. This strategy is based on the idea that players are likely to repeat their winning move because they believe it to be the most successful, but they will switch to a different move after a loss to avoid being too predictable.

While the WSLS strategy may seem intuitive, studies have shown that it is not always the best strategy in RPS. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that a better strategy is to choose each move randomly, with an equal probability for each option. The study’s authors argue that choosing moves randomly makes it harder for opponents to predict one’s next move and can lead to long winning streaks.

Another factor that can affect RPS strategy is the likelihood of each move being played. For example, in a tournament setting where players are trying to win as many games as possible, players may be more likely to choose rock because it is perceived as the strongest move. This means that players who know this may be more likely to choose paper, which beats rock, as their opening move. Similarly, players who believe their opponent will choose paper may be more likely to choose scissors, which beats paper.

One study published in PLOS ONE analyzed the results of 200 rounds of RPS played between two players and found that players tended to stick with their winning move for longer than their losing move. The researchers noted that this pattern suggests that players may be using the WSLS strategy, but they also found evidence to suggest that players were adjusting their strategy based on their opponent’s previous moves.

Overall, the data tells us that RPS is not a completely random game and that certain strategies may be more effective than others. However, the game is also highly dependent on the behavior and preferences of individual players, making it difficult to develop a one-size-fits-all strategy. Ultimately, the best strategy in RPS may be to mix things up and keep opponents guessing.

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