Though the names of the throws are arbitrary, they inherit cultural stereotypes. Rock is the testosterone choice, the most aggressive and the one favored by angry players. The majority of participants in RPS tournaments are male (is this a surprise to anyone?). On your first throw against an inexperienced male opponent, the best choice is paper because that will beat rock.
It’s said that women are most likely to throw scissors. You can supply your own psychoanalysis, but there aren’t enough women in RPS tournaments to make scissors as popular as the other choices.
Naive players don’t like to repeat the same throw more than twice in a row. They can’t accept that as random. That means that a player who throws rock is more likely to switch to something else on the next throw.
This is a big deal in a game that’s nominally luck. The counterstrategy is to choose whatever sign the doubled sign would beat. Should your opponent throw rock and rock a second time; you would want to choose scissors on the next throw. Given that the opponent is unlikely to play rock again, scissors would be unbeatable. In case of paper, scissors wins; should the opponent choose scissors, it’s a tie.
RPS players mentally categorize their throws as winners and losers. A player who loses is more likely to switch to a different throw the next time. Some players unconsciously “copy” the sign that just beat them.
Most good players believe in tells, or at any rate the possibility of tells. You should watch your opponent for any facial expressions or gestures that might betray the next move. Some big winners of Rock Paper Scissors have credited their success to reading the faces of their opponents. As a result of this smart players wear dark sunglasses to make it harder for opponents to read their expression.
Players begin by pumping, priming, their fists to a count of three. The throw usually comes on the fourth pump. Take note of whether the tip of the thumb is tucked in the crook of the index finger. Sometimes this is a giveaway clue of what your opponent is coming up with. The tucked thumb often forecasts rock.
A good and experienced player will know all of the above and will be thinking a step ahead. This is the hall of mirrors that every serious strategist faces.
In summary, here are two major tricks that can prove to be a major winning strategy;
Scissors is the most unlikely choice several players come up with, and men favor rock. Hence, knowing these two facts is a major reason to choose paper in a one-shot match. Announce what you’re going to throw and do it. Most players will never believe you.