#956 Using Rock-Paper-Scissors to settle anything

What beats what

[digg=http://digg.com/comedy/Rock_Paper_Scissors_Is_Awesome] While traveling on a road trip across the US last year, my friends Ty, Chris, and I ended up staying at a hotel that had two beautiful double beds cordoned off in private rooms, and one thin piece of felt spread over a hard metal frame in the middle of the common area. Clearly, there were two good places to sleep and one joke of a pull-out bed that came with a free Day Full Of Back Pain at no extra charge. So we stood in the front hallway and surveyed the situation, bags in hand, stern looks on our faces. We knew decisions needed to be made, and quick. After sleeping in basements and on motel floors for a week, we all finally had a chance at getting a good night’s sleep. We had to settle it.

Well, first of all, we ended up giving Chris one of the rooms, since he actually found the place and we were driving his car. It was a gift and Chris took it immediately, without a word, leaving Ty and I to fight over the remaining room. Well, we were through being nice guys. We both wanted that room bad. So we agreed to settle it the only way we knew how — with a long, drawn out best-of-seven Rock-Paper-Scissors war.

Almost always solid

Quickly, we took care of logistics. We agreed to ‘shoot’ on the count of three instead of right after it. Any double-clutching would be interpreted as a rock, no questions asked. We ruled out celebrating each win with the ceremonial action move, where you snip your scissor-fingers across their palm-paper or smash their scissor-fingers with your rock-fist. No need for any of that gloating. And lastly, we of course made doubly sure that it was a best of seven. Nothing more, nothing less, and no extensions. Whoever got four wins first got the good bed and that was that.

With that we dropped our bags, steadied our fists in front of us, and sized each other up, cracking our necks and loosening our shoulders for the big game.

And so it began.

I opened with rock, soundly shattering Ty’s flimsy scissors. Ty then countered with scissors again, falling immediately once more to my sturdy rock. Then Ty switched gears to paper, but I was ready, this time employing his very own scissors to slice him to bits. Down 3-0 in a flash, Ty called for a quick pause. “I need to think,” he said. And I’ll never forget it. He looked me square in the eye for a moment, squinted a bit, laughed, then said “Alright, I’m ready.” The next three rounds were a nightmarish blur — his paper smothered my rock, his scissors snipped my paper, there were a couple of draws, and then he completed the comeback with a fateful suffocating of my once-sturdy rock with his murderous sheet of airtight paper.

Will suffocate you cold

He had quickly tied it up with that move and so it all came down to the final toss. Before we threw our fists I peeked behind me at the open bedroom door, the setting sun casting warm shadows across the shiny, silk bedspread, a flatscreen TV propped up on the wood dresser, a little loot bag of mini toiletries laying across the fluffy pillows. I looked and I dreamed and I drew…

“And a one, two, three!”

Ty took it with a quick slice of the scissors. I was left holding my open palm in my hands, wondering why I didn’t go back to my faithful old rock. I could have shattered his scissors to smithereens, and I would have, too. I could have, too. But it never happened.

Ty retreated gleefully to the private bedroom, slamming the door shut hard, sealing my mind-boggling loss with a brain-piercing bang. And so it was. Of course, I couldn’t sleep that night. And it wasn’t just because of the metal prongs stabbing my kidneys. It was because of the way I went down.

But I can’t blame the game. No, Rock-Paper-Scissors was there, settling an undebateable debate. It answered our big question, shutting the lid, closing the door, sealing the deal. You can’t argue with Rock-Paper-Scissors. When it’s over, it’s really over. Sure, you can beg for that extension, but the victor never needs to take your bait. They played by the rules and they won.

Slice and dice

Rock-Paper-Scissors helps you decide between pepperoni or sausage, the freeway or the back roads, the drive home or the sleep home. It answers the little daily decisions that freeze us up. Which team starts the game? Who gets to shower first? Who pays for pizza? And who gets to change baby’s diaper?

These are all tough, challenging questions. And they are all easily settled once and for all with a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. But if you do enter the arena, then take my advice.

Just go for two out of three.


Good club but huge membership fees

Photos from: here, here, and here

78 thoughts on “#956 Using Rock-Paper-Scissors to settle anything

  1. Wow. I do this all the time. Of course, I go by the shorter best of 5 action move using variation, but a debate solver nonetheless.

    Great post, by the way. Truly inspiring. And, oddly suspenseful.

    1. Don’t ask me how I know this…but in the bigs, vertical paper (like shaking someone’s hand) is NOT ALLOWED.

      You can still lose if you are met with scissors, but you can not win if you face rock, it’s a do over.

      Also, makes for the best 3 person drinking game ever.

  2. Awesome post! My husband and I use RPS all the time to make decisions many of which are covered in your list.

    Biggest RPS decision: it was 1996. We needed a new car. We did the research, the test drives, the visits to the dealerships, all that. Two cars came out on top: one preferred by me, the other by him. No woosie best of 7 for us. It’s single play. One shot determines what kind of wheel you’re sitting behind for the foreseeable future. I can see in his eyes he’s thinking “Good old Rock. Nothing beats Rock.” Except for maybe, I don’t know, PAPER. I am happy to say that I’m still driving that sturdy Ontario-made Toyota Corolla to this day. Awesome!

    1. having a tape player means being able to use a tape deck adapter. tape deck adapters play ipods.


  3. Couldn’t agree more. This is always used among my group of friends. In fact, I ended up having co-bestmen in my recent wedding. Everything was shared, and equal throughout the time leading up to the wedding, but then it came time for the ceremony, and my two best-friends realized that one of them was going to get to stand right next to me (and thus appear to others to MORE of a best-man) and the other would have to be relegated to standing a bit further away. How else was it settled but by a classic best-of-seven series of RPS.

    We tend to expand the length of the series to the importance of the debate. Things like which football game to watch when two are televised are usually settled by a best-of-three. What order to shower in up at the cottage (and thus risking cold water) are settled by a best-of-five. And getting to appear to be the best-man in wedding pictures? Best-of-Seven.

  4. Also – for those looking to improve their games, you should check out Roshambot: http://chappie.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/roshambot

    This is a Stanford-based artificial-intelligence experiment, where the Bot will start out randomly, and “learn” based on patterns in your play, to inevitably crush you over the long run. Good luck beating the dreaded Roshambot.

  5. In my house we do rock paper scissors when it comes to washing up time. Whoever losses have to do the dishes and we’ve all figured out that dad always does rock first.
    I almost feel sorry for him…

  6. I won the first time I tried ;) (with paper):
    Results so far
    You have won 1, lost 0, and tied 0 games

    Statistics for 1 game
    winning percentage*: 100.00%
    won : 100.00%
    lost: 0.00%
    tied: 0.00%

    * winning percentage is (wins – losses) / total games

  7. Turning the tables and learning how the bot plays…

    Just copy his moves and you’ll win best of seven before it wises-up.

    Take that evil bot!

  8. I prefer the coin flip method. It’s more fair. It eliminates the temptation to gloat when you win. It doesn’t keep you up at night when you lose.

    Results so far
    You have won 6, lost 5, and tied 6 games

    History: L-T-W-T-T-W-L-L-L-W-T-W-W-L-T-T-W

    Muahaha take that roshambot!

  9. Update, after 35 games I was still able to evade the inevitable crushing by the roshambot AI with a record of 12 wins 11 losses and 12 ties. Then I figured out how to cheat…

  10. Best article yet, though I’m only reading in order and haven’t got to the next ones.

    My friends and I were playing an epic soccer match at Uni, and after a shootout leaving things all square we settled it…with Rock Paper Scissors.

  11. Rock-paper-scissors was used on Survivor: Gabon last night. Paper beat rock. Then the team that was formed by this win went on to win everything in the episode. It was awesome!

  12. I hate the guy who never throws their rock-paper-scissor on time… there should be a major penalty for that. It just f-‘s me up. I go right to a coin flip with that guy. Ass!

  13. You have won 4, lost 0, and tied 1 game

    Statistics for 5 games
    winning percentage*: 80.00%
    won : 80.00%
    lost: 0.00%
    tied: 20.00%

    roshambot got nothing on me

  14. Rock-Paper-Sissors is used all over Korea to decide anything. They love the symplicty and clearness of the game that allows them to get out of any sort of negotiation or comprimise.

  15. paper does not beat rock, I don’t care what planet you are from. That is why I take a nod from Demetri Martin and play Rock, Dynamite with cut – able wick, and Scissors.

  16. We have 5 kids and use PRS to solve just about anything. My hubby and I have been best friends since we were 11 (almost 21 years) so we have used it forever. My hubby is in Iraq right now and he told me his soldiers use PRS to solve everything from who cleans up oil spills to who has to work late and who gets to go to bed on time.

  17. I have always thought RPS was a good way to decide who gets stuck with the nasty chore, but one of my favorite sitcoms, Big Bang Theory introduced me to the super complicated and hilarious Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. This was to help reduce the predictability inherent in RPS. But as you might guess, the nerdy physicists always picked Spock!


    1. I gotta agree with you there. Best version ever.
      Although, there is always this one.
      …that is if you can remember the rules.

      Great article, as ususal.

      One question though…I get how rock crushes scissors, how scissors buts paper, but how in the name of Science, does paper beat rock?

      1. It covers it up so you can no longer see it. Yeah, kinda flimsy logic, but hey, who’s to argue with tradition! hehe

  18. It’s how we chose the color of our new car. I wanted silver, my husband wanted charcoal. He won. Our next car will be silver :)

  19. at my work, we share tips and often there is an extra dollar after everything is doled out, so we always,ALWAYS utilize this great and 100% fair way to do it, i think its funny that we do but its been a tradition basically since we opened, haha! love it

  20. I have heard it called RO-SHAM-BO, too. I heard an article on NPR not too long ago about a school that teaches kids to use it in their negotiations.

  21. Haha, I was going to bring up the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock version as well, but someone beat me to it.

    Love the list, by the way!

  22. I use Rock Paper Scissors all the time. In fact there is even a tag game that takes full advantage of the awesomeness of RPS! It’s called Everybody’s It and thus everyone is it and when you tag someone they sit down or if they tag you, you sit down. If it’s a tie you RPS just once and the loser sits down. When the person who tagged you gets tagged you get back up. Now, this game is filled with controversy as to who tagged who first and who won at RPS or if someone “cheated” so my reply to that is either RPS or redo the RPS! It gets to the point where my summer camp kids don’t even have any big drama that they come to me with (during the game) so then I don’t have to mediate all of those. Plus RPS solves just about anything with campers in about 1 minute or less!

    Yeah, so funny story. I’m so used to telling people/children to RPS that a couple nights ago I was trying to decide which movie to watch and I said, “RPS” and then realized the flaw in my thinking. I was alone in my apartment…:D

    1. oh, and there are other games that we play too, including one called Evolution. Basically everyone starts as an egg and plays RPS against another egg. If you win you evolve into a chicken and play against another chicken. If you lose you remain an egg and play against another egg. As a chicken or anything higher, when you lose you go down a level. Figure out some sort of motion and/or noise to show your status.The evolutionary journey is egg to chicken to dinosaur to superman. Yeah… don’t ask how that came to be as I don’t know, and feel free to change them to whatever you want! As superman you have officially won and you fly around waiting for the others to become superman until you can no longer play because you don’t have any 2 people in the same evolutionary stage. :D

  23. It doesn’t make sense that a thin sheet of paper can beat a hard rock.
    Rock should crumple paper.

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    1. I too love “The Big Bang Theory.”
      I recently found a Christmas special where Sheldon gets a napkin from Penny, used by Leonard Nemoi…hilarious!!!

  25. I love a good Rock-Paper-Scissor match. You can solve pretty much anything with one, and people don’t ever try to argue with the results. It’s just that simple. Anytime there is a choice to be made all I have to do is hold out my arm, ball up my fist and everyone understands what is about to happen.

    I remember in middle school we had a school wide Rock-Paper-Scissor contest. It was pretty intense, and everyone would gather around at lunch time to watch. There was a stage and everything. I made it into the final rounds and everything, only to doubt myself and whip out a pair of scissors when I should have trusted good ol’ rock. Luckily I was able to overcome my failure, and can still be found using Rock-Paper-Scissors to solve any and every problem you throw my way.

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  27. I laughed my butt off at this. With me and my hunny, absolutely everything is settled with rock paper scissors. What movie to pick, who lets the dog out for a pee. Its so ingrained in our relationship that one of us will say something like, “Oh the dog needs to be let out.” We both throw up the initial rock, do the count of three, and then the victor points and laughs at the loser. All of this is done without saying a single word, and best thing is no keeping track of whos turn it is to let out the dog, cook supper, clean dishes, or roll the garbage out to the curb.

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