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RPS 2004 Training Blog

Welcome to the All Too Flat Rock-Paper-Scissors Team Training Blog. The ATFRPS Team is once again heading to Toronto to compete in the 2004 International RPS Tournament on October 16th. This is our 3rd time qualifying for the world championships, and hopefully one of us will win it all this year!

By keeping this Blog, we hope to give amateurs some insight into the world of competitive Rock-Paper-Scissors, without giving away too much of our strategy. With 1 month to go until the tournament, we are setting off on a rigorous training training program. This blog will contain some of the most cutting edge (no pun intended) strategies in the game today.

To see how the entire trip up to Toronto went, check out the main RPS 2004 ATF Site.

For more information about RPS, visit the World RPS Society.
To learn more about the International competition, please visit the RPS Champs Site.
You can also see how the All Too Flat team fared in 2002 and 2003.

Let the Countdown Begin!Posted by Ben at 9-16-2004 1:44 PM
Alrighty. We have 1 month before the Tournament. I've started to compile a To Do list:

  • Finalize competitive strategy
  • Physical training program
  • Mental training program
  • Perform statistical analysis of last year's tournament (throw distribution, gambit frequency, etc)
  • Build up tolerance to Canadian beer (cheap canadian beer, that is. Way more Molson than La Fin Du Monde, I imagine)
  • Costumes
  • Mapquest directions to Toronto

    That's a lot of stuff to do. Not an impossible list, but maybe we should have started training 2 months ahead of time.

  • Comments (5)
    Physical Training ProgramPosted by Ben at 9-16-2004 10:09 PM
    Began practice by playing online today. Played alright for being so out of shape. I beat the computer about a third of the time, which isn't too bad. I had the difficulty set to "Easy" so I definitely have a ways to go before the tournament.
    Comments (2)
    A Monkey's UnclePosted by Ben at 9-17-2004 10:16 AM
    I spoke to my Uncle about strategy yesterday. He suggested throwing Rock, then Scissors, then Paper. Then repeating the sequence.

    I thought about it a lot. At first is seemed too simplistic, but after a while I started to see the brilliance in its simplicity. As a proof-of-concept, I tried it out against some elementary school children on the subway, and it seemed to work fairly well.

    I'm concerned about bringing it into the tournament though - an experienced player would probably counter with Paper then Rock, and I'd be eliminated before I could even make the third throw!

    Back to the drawing board.

    Comments (0)
    Superhero StorePosted by Ben at 9-17-2004 12:17 PM
    I recently learned about a store in Brooklyn that sells everything one needs to become a superhero. It might be time for a trip.
    Comments (0)
    DE-FENCE! DE-FENCE!Posted by Ben at 9-18-2004 11:18 AM
    Defense. That's the ATF key to winning RPS. It's the same way in most sports. A good defense generates offense.

    This is best illustrated with an example:
    Player A throws rock.
    Player B, playing offensively, only has one winning throw: Paper.
    Player C, playing defensively instead can throw Rock to tie, or Paper to win!
    By simply changing your goal, you can literally (and mathematically) double your chances of success!

    If you're like me, you're probably asking yourself "That sounds okay in theory, but how does this work in practice?" Again, I will use an example to demonstrate my point. Follow closely:

    Player B (the offensive one) thinks Player A is going to throw Rock. Therefore Player B will (obviously) play the only winning throw: Paper.

    On the other hand, Player C (the defensive one) also thinks Player A is going to throw Rock. But Player C takes it a step further and realizes Player A might instead throw Scissors. Suddenly the appropriate throw is crystal clear: Rock! Remember, Player C is going for a tie. Everything else being equal, Player C has the same chance of tying as Player B has of winning. But (now here's the kicker), Player C has the added advantage of also being able to win about a third of the time if Player A does indeed throw scissors!

    To make matters worse, if Player A did decide to throw scissors, Player B (the offensive player who threw Paper) would have lost outright!

    Once you understand, it seems so obvious, but making the mental leap to a defensive game is not a trivial endeavor.

    Comments (3)
    "But They're Amateurs"Posted by Ben at 9-19-2004 12:15 PM
    Had a party at our apartment (The All Too Flat) in Manhattan's Lower East Side last night. Drank a whole lot of La Fin Du Monde. Late night conversation eventually turned to RPS and the tournament. We watched the promotional video on the projector, which was pretty amazing.

    After lots of trash talk, we started playing. I literally lost 7 games straight to a room full of amateurs. It was horrible. Not quite sure what that means at this point. I'm definitely not ready for tournament play. I guess I need to train more? And not play drunk? Or possibly train while drunk?

    Either way, it was a demoralizing evening.

    Comments (1)
    Who was that Masked Fish?Posted by Ben at 9-19-2004 2:29 PM
    Costume ideas. What a difficult decision. Here are some of the ideas we've had thus far:

  • Giant Halibut - Yeah, we know it's the obvious costume, but it's definitely the most appropriate. There are logistical problems though. We contacted US Customs about this idea, and they told us that it's not the proper political climate to be smuggling 350lb fish over the border.

  • Refrigerator Box with Arm-Hole & Eye-Slit - Competitively speaking, this is probably the possible costume. Practically speaking, it would be almost as difficult to maneuver as a giant halibut. Nixed this one.

  • Superheros - this could be good. We need to make it to that superhero store in Brooklyn and start pricing utility belts.

  • Sumo Suits (clearly this would be brilliant, but we have been saving the Sumo Suit idea for another ATF Adventure. Kennyb and Ben have been planning for some time now to put on Sumo Suits and march (well, rollerblade actually) in every single parade in New York City over the course of a year. Macy's Day Parade. Gay Pride Parade. Puerto Rican Day Parade.) It's still on the ol' To Do List, but has been pushed to the back burner for the time being.)
  • Comments (0)
    Disguised as a Mild-Mannered ProgrammerPosted by Ben at 9-19-2004 9:30 PM
    Made it to the superhero store today.

    It was possibly the most amazing place I've ever been. The store had absolutely everything one would ever possibly need to be a superhero: capes, masks, utility belts, grappling hooks. You know, superhero stuff.

    There were lots of goggle-type things too. Like X-Ray Goggles and Night Vision Goggles and Underwater Goggles:

    Possibly the coolest part was that the dressing room has a giant fan blowing so you can see how your cape will look in action:

    Needless to say, I think we have a costume winner! (Actually, I used the term "costume" while we were in the store and the woman working there got really pissed off: "We do NOT sell costumes. We sell uniforms.")

    Comments (1)
    A Flick of the WristPosted by Ben at 9-19-2004 10:55 PM
    One of the most common questions we get from amateurs is about the efficacy of playing online against the computer. It actually is an integral part of our physical training program for a number of reasons. Playing against the computer (on the Easy setting, that is) allows the human competitor to focus purely on the physical aspects of the game, setting aside the mental strain that usually accompanies competitive play.

    Playing against the computer builds muscle in your dominant arm, and helps with your form and timing. If you're not confident in your timing, you are easily susceptible to your opponent Priming the Chump, and throwing you off your game.

    Keeping good form is also critical. Tournament rules dictate that throwing "vertical paper" (a paper throw that looks like you're offering a handshake) is an automatic loss. (In less competitive circles, vertical paper is at best gauche, and at worst just plain insulting.)

    Amateurs are often confused about this, because throwing vertical paper seems strange. This of it this way though: throwing paper properly requires you to turn your wrist 90 degrees mid-throw. An astute player can easily notice this motion and counter with a scissors.

    ATFRPS Team has been practicing 2 new techniques to gain an edge in this area:
    1) Throwing horizontal everything - rules do not dictate the proper throw of Rock or Scissors. Throwing everything horizontally will eliminate the slight edge that most opponents gain from the vertical paper rule
    2) Quick Wrist Flip - by holding the vertical position until the last moment and quickly rotating the wrist, it is possible to not give any hints to your opponent

    Whichever technique we decide to go with, we will require quite a bit of training to get it correct. Neither motion is natural, so playing against the computer allows the dedicated player to improve his or her muscle-memory to the point that vertical paper is a non-issues.

    Comments (2)
    Sell OutsPosted by Ben at 9-20-2004 11:19 PM
    We're still looking for corporate sponsors for our team. We'll be happy to wear your logo on our (potentially superhero) costumes and even link to your web site from the ATFRPS blog. This event garners tons of international media coverage. Interested parties, please contact rps(a)
    Comments (2)
    That "Evil AI" Gave Me an Idea...Posted by Ben at 9-20-2004 11:56 PM
    I'm just about finished playing online. It turns out that the free version is stateless, which means it doesn't remember previous throws. I'm going to look into writing my own version of the game with some sophisticated artificial intelligence. By remembering previous throws and running statistical analysis in real-time, I should be able to create quite an impressive training program.
    Comments (2)
    Defensive ReadingPosted by Ton at 9-21-2004 2:18 AM
    Defensive reading is a strategy that uses keen observation skills and fast reflexes to win a match. It is well known that the three RPS throws require different execution distances in the approach1. For example, the paper throw needs a longer distance to execute since it requires a twist of the wrist and the extension of the fingers. This makes the paper throw easy to read in the approach. On the other hand (ha!), the scissors are harder to read because they can be "cloaked" until the very last second. If you can read your opponent's paper throw, then you can easily win the match by reading defensively. If you see that your opponent is throwing paper, then you counter with a quick scissor throw. Otherwise, you simply throw rock, which will tie or win against your opponent's rock or scissors. Throwing rock is the default throw from the approach, so you only need to concentrate on reading your opponents throw and reacting with scissors!

    The benefits of defensive reading are inconclusive. Ben and I tested defensive reading against each other, but we kept getting stalemates. Eventually we got bored and went out to get a beer (okay, several beers).

    Note that defensive reading will only work if you can reliably read the paper throw. If you have never seen your opponent throw before, I suggest beginning with an avalanche gambit to entice them to reveal their paper throwing style.

    1 The approach is defined as the time from highest point of the final throw of the prime to the delivery of the throw. Here we assume the standard approach of a closed fist.

    Comments (0)
    EgoPosted by Ben at 9-21-2004 8:13 PM
    Came across the Ben Stein RPS Trading Card today on the Players to Beat section of RPS Champs. Totally Sweet.
    Comments (0)
    A Rock By Any Other Name...Posted by Ben at 9-21-2004 11:26 PM
    Superheros need names. That goes without saying.
    The problem is that we need badass names and after 3 days I've only come up with the following possibilities:
  • Super Rock
  • Super Paper
  • Super Scissors
  • Rockman
  • Paperman
  • Scissorsman
  • Comments (6)
    Help Me Name My...Posted by Ben at 9-22-2004 9:57 PM
    How about "Hard Rock"?? Or possibly "Classic Rock." That has a nice ring to it. It sounds tough, and has a double meaning. Hopefully the humor won't be lost on the Celine-Dion-loving Canucks.

    "The Paper" is another possibility. It turns out that by capitalizing the word paper, and preceding it with a definite article, it suddenly acquires superhero stature.

    Uh-oh! I just realized we're going to need super POWERS too. Maybe we bit off more than we can chew in a month with the superhero idea.

    Comments (0)
    The HustlerPosted by Ben at 9-23-2004 1:29 PM
    I played against a guy at the office today to determine who was going to buy lunch. I'm such a jerk.
    Comments (0)
    My Babe-Magnet has a low Tesla rating (for some reason)Posted by Ben at 9-23-2004 9:21 PM
    Went out drinking tonight in a pretty posh and expensive club. I decided to impress a girl at the bar by challenging the guy she was with to a quick game. I beat him in 3 throws (trivial), but she wasn't so impressed. For the life of me I can't figure out why not. I don't understand women at all.
    Comments (1)
    InsomniaPosted by Ben at 9-25-2004 2:36 AM
    I can't sleep. I've been laying awake at night playing RPS in my head. Every time I close my eyes, I see myself playing. Just playing and replaying matches. Over and over again.

    Actually, this has been going on for the past few nights. Tonight was different though. For some reason I kept trying to figure out what animals you could train to play RPS. Obviously you could teach a monkey to play. That's a piece of cake. In fact, I've heard that's what Jane Goodall did to pass the time.

    But what about the other animals? Dolphins are smart, but they don't have the appendages to make the throws. Same with dogs - they can make rock, and possibly paper, but ain't no kind of dog I've ever seen that can throw scissors.

    Comments (0)
    RPS QuizPosted by Ton at 9-25-2004 6:22 PM
    Opp:  R R R S P  |  P R S  |  S P P ?
    You:  R S P S S  |  R R P  |  R P R ?

    You are playing a best of 3 of 3 match with your opponent. In the first round, your opponent opens with Avalanche, while your opening is Denouement. You split the opening gambit and eventually win the round with Scissors over Paper on the fifth throw. In the second round, your opponent wins easily in 3 throws with Paper, Rock, and Scissors. In the third round, you win the first throw with Rock over Scissors. After a Paper draw, your opponent counters with Paper over Rock.

    What throw (or throws) should you use next to win the match?

    Comments (2)
    Media WhoresPosted by Ben at 9-26-2004 10:33 PM
    Met with the press today to discuss strategy and what it's like being up-and-coming stars in the RPS world.

    By the way, here's a current picture of our whiteboard:

    Comments (0)
    RPS for HalloweenPosted by Ben at 9-26-2004 10:45 PM
    Kennyb and I were shopping for superhero uniforms this weekend. We spent some time in K-Mart looking for this and that. At some point we noticed a Superman costume in the Kids' Halloween Costume department, so we went over to get some inspiration.

    But then Kennyb noticed the strangest thing - The baby Superman Costume was throwing Rock:

    I were like "Dude, you just have RPS on the brain. You see Rock everywhere you look."

    But then he was like "No! Look! That Yu-Gi-Oh Costume is throwing Scissors!"

    And sure enough! He was throwing Scissors! The next costume we picked up? Glinda, the Good Witch. And what do you know? SHE WAS THROWING PAPER!!

    Check it out. Every single costume in the store has a picture of a kid playing RPS.
    Here's Ninja Costume (illegally) throwing vertical Paper.

    And another Ninja throwing Rock:

    Raphael is an aggressive Ninja Turtle and obviously favors Rock:

    And Dino Thunder Power Ranger throwing Paper:

    So I really don't know what to make of this whole thing. It's way too much to be a coincidence. Possibly some conspiracy? Maybe some RPS players have managed to infiltrate the ranks in the Costume Industry?

    Any investigation on this will be greatly appreciated.

    Comments (0)
    The Tao of RPSPosted by Kennyb at 9-28-2004 5:02 PM
    In talking to some press over the past couple of days, one of the things I've been forced to really think about is: Why RPS? Just what is it about the sport that draws me to compete, to push myself, to really give my all? It's allowed me to develop. . . well "philosophy" isn't the right word, but it's the first one that comes to mind. If you'll please let me indulge:

    I believe that RPS is the coalescence of three distinct spheres of being, the intersection of mankinds three aspects. It is out of the interplay of the physical, mental, and spiritual from which RPS has grown. I believe this is what explains the draw of RPS to people from an early age, and across cultures. The forms of the game resonate with everyone at a deeply visceral level, demanding appreciation and commanding awe.

    Here, the ontological aspects recapituate the structural (or in a more metaphysical sense, 'As above so below'). The game (if game it be) has two opposing players, a clear indicator of a Manichean ideal. They each have at their disposal three weapons: Rock (a material object, representing the gross, or physical sphere of being). Scissors (a tool, representing the mental sphere). Paper (the blank white sheet - representative of the soul, the spiritual sphere). Each RPS battle, whether it be for money, honor, or the passenger seat of a Honda Accord, is actually a recreation of a timeless and epic battle held on the physical plane with incredibly powerful symbols and signifiers.

    The parallels between the structure of the game (if you'll indulge me: the physical) and what I like to see as it's deeper meaning (the spiritual, natch), also has it's analogy with the way that a player must approach the game (the [and I recognize that this perhaps is a stretch] mental). In order to be a complete RPS player, one must excel in all three aspects of the game. To reach the peak of the RPS world, one must be in top physical condition: the endurance to handle marathon sessions, keen eyesight to note kinesthetic changes in ones opponent, and lightning fast reflexes to effect changes in mid-throw. Mentally, you must be sharp as well: The ability to read ones opponent and figure what their next throw will be and having the psychological background to force them to a specific throw are challenging mental goals, requiring great amounts of study. Finally, in order to reach the highest orders of Rock, Paper, Scissors proficiency, one must truly be at peace spiritually. The player at peace recognizes that his own inner state is what will ultimately decide the outcome of the match, and if one can reach harmony with the world, one need not ever lose even a single throw.

    There's a lot more to be said about this, but maybe I'll go ahead and leave it for the commentors.
    Comments (2)
    A New LowPosted by Ben at 9-30-2004 1:18 AM
    I've been reading up on AI and computer gaming. Turns out that one of the reasons that Chess Grand Master Gary Kasparov lost to a computer is because he couldn't get the mental edge that he usually gains over human players.

    Fascinating stuff.

    If I have time before the tournament, I'm going to try to write a Natural Language Parsing algorithm to allow human players to Type Trash to the computer.

    Comments (0)
    on the DLPosted by Ben at 9-30-2004 10:22 PM
    Crap. I jammed both of my scissors fingers playing basketball today. They've swollen up and I can't fully extend them to make a proper scissors. I don't want to re-injure them, so this is going to set me back a couple days.
    Comments (0)
    GeomorphologyPosted by Ben at 10-4-2004 10:37 PM
    So in an effort to come up with a good Rock Super Hero Name, I called my contact at the Geomorphology Lab at Berkeley University, Kenny Freedom.

    Our conversation went as follows:

    Ben: We need a good name for our Rock Super Hero. Seeing as you are getting a PhD in rocks, you seemed like a good person to ask.
    Freedom: What's wrong with Tectonicus? It's cool, plus it sounds like "tech" which makes it even cooler!
    Ben: Possibly something starting with "R" so he can have the letter "R" on his chest and not the letter "T"
    Freedom: How about Rhyolite?
    Ben: "Lite?" I dunno. That doesn't sound very tough.
    Freedom: Are you kidding me? Ryolite is one of the largest contributers to tuffs in the world. You might say rhyolite is the tuffest rock there is!!

    Editor's Note: For those of you who didn't get this AT ALL, read about Our Dynamic Desert at the USGS.

    Comments (0)
    Media WhoresPosted by Ben at 10-9-2004 12:08 PM
    Check out recent RPS articles about us in the New York Sun and the New York Press.

    I wish I could say that the limelight isn't distracting us from the task at hand, but it most certainly is. The plan for today is to stop reading the article over and over again long enough to buy some superhero power bracelets and a couple more capes.

    Comments (0)
    Erev Erev RPS TourneyPosted by Ben at 10-14-2004 10:00 PM
    It's 2 nights before the tournament. Spent the evening drunk and practicing. Trying not to stab myself with scissors or the sewing kit I'm using to sew my superhero uniform. Business as usual, I guess.
    Comments (0)

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