Amanda Gutierrez

Rock-Paper-Scissors Goes Pro

Amanda Gutierrez

One of my best friends and I are constantly taking part in the time-honored tradition of using rock-paper-scissors to make decisions. All either of us needs to do is hold up a fist—the universal sign to engage in a game of rock-paper-scissors.

Even in the professional world the game is sometimes used to make decisions: In 2005 Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses were asked by their potential client to compete in a game of rock-paper-scissors to decide who would handle the sale of a multi-million-dollar art collection. In the end, Christie’s choice of scissors sliced down the competition.

Of course, not everyone uses this game to make choices. For some, it’s purely recreational—children on a playground often play the game to pass time. For others, it’s a sport—the members of the World RPS Society compete professionally (believe it or not) for the title of champion. The society, originally called the Paper Scissors Stone Club, was formed in 1842. The club existed as a space where members could enjoy the game with only their honor at stake. In 1918, the headquarters for the club were moved to Toronto, Canada, and the name was changed to the World RPS Club, then again in 1925 to deem it a “society” to reflect its growing membership.

To this day, the fans of the game hold championships around the word, and it’s not only honor that’s at stake. Championship purses can total thousands of dollars. At one tournament in Las Vegas in 2006, the prize was $50,000! When there’s that much on the line, the top professionals develop techniques to recognize and counter their components’ playing patterns (and in doing so, win the dough).

Some players enhance the tournaments through the addition of costumes and code names. One player, called the Midnight Rider, plays wearing a mask. Another player calls himself Master Roshambollah—eponymous of roshambo, another name for the game.

In 2007, rock-paper-scissors was so popular that the finals for the USA RPS League Championship in Las Vegas were aired on ESPN2. The finalists, Jamie “Landshark” Langridge and David “The Brain” Borne, held their epic battle within the confines of a miniaturized boxing ring. In the end, the shark beat the brain.

Think you have what it takes? Test your skills of predication here.

Did You Know?

Sitcoms love putting their own twist on the traditional options of rock-paper-scissors. In a Friends episode, Joey insists “fire” beats everything, until Phoebe releases a “water balloon.” On The Big Bang Theory, Leonard, Sheldon and gang often leave decisions to “rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.”

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