Jorge Zhang

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How to Always Win Rock Paper Scissors (100th Blog Post!)

March 30, 2019

This is the 100th blog post! Thanks to everyone who has been following along with my blog, whether you just joined or were there from the start. That being said, I’m planning to do a yearly overview of the blog on the 102nd post, as that is a multiple of 17. But also because I couldn’t wait to share a video I made:

How to always win Rock Paper Scissors

If you are into game theory, you may enjoy this video. It’s about how you can trick your opponent into choosing Rock, thus winning the game by choosing to play Paper. The video was filmed in the summer of 2016, but I only just got around to making it (kind of shows you how much I can procrastinate at times, ha).

That being said, the origin of this idea was even earlier than that. It came about during one of Chicago’s Code Days, a popular hackathon for teens. Because very few people knew each-other (out of about 100 people), there was an icebreaker where every person would play Rock Paper Scissors against other players while introducing themselves. Losers would be eliminated, and “cheer on” the person who beat them. The last person standing would get to eat lunch first.

In a game like this, the optimal strategy is not to play, as this way you can’t be eliminated. So I spent the time avoiding others and hiding in the corner until it was just me and another player left. We had a final grand match, which was a best of three. I’m not sure what spurred me to do this, but I simply asked him to choose Rock. For some reason, he did this, not just once but twice in a row. I ended up getting to eat lunch first, and I’m pretty sure most people at Code Day thought I was a massive asshole.

It got me thinking though about how it is always worthwhile to ask for something that you want, even if you think the other person will never agree with it. As long as you don’t constantly betray people and lose your reputation, I think that this is good general life advice.

What do you think of my Rock Paper Scissors strategy? Have you tried to do something similar before? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

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