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Want to win at rock-paper-scissors? Here's how


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    Cheryl Santa Maria
    Digital Reporter

    Friday, May 2, 2014, 7:17 PM -

    A new study claims to have figured out how to surpass the one-in-three odds of beating the popular game rock-paper-scissors.

    According to study lead author Zhijian Wang, the key to success isn't to randomize your choice, as classical game theory suggests.

    Rather, it's better to follow secret, predictable patterns.

    The study suggests that winners tend to stick with their winning hand while losers are more likely to switch to the next action in the sequence.

    Anticipating the component's strategy based on this knowledge will provide a competitive edge, researchers say.

    "Our theoretical calculations reveal that this new strategy may offer higher payoffs to individual players in comparison with the ... mixed strategy, suggesting that high social efficiency is achievable through optimized conditional response," the authors write.


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    The theory was tested out at a rock-paper-scissors tournament at Zhejiang University in China.

    There were 360 participants divided into groups of six, with each player participating in 300 rounds of rock-paper-scissors. 

    The "classic" theory, also referred to as the Nash equilibrium, suggests that both players select a hand with with equal probability in each round.

    Upon analysis, researchers discovered that while the players appeared to be selecting each action about a third of the time their choices were anything but random, with winners opting to repeat their hand more than a third of the time.

    The complete study can be found on the Cornell University website.


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