Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper and paper beats rock. But rock, paper, scissors is not just a children's game. Jason Simmons, a professional player, schools Steve Inskeep in the game's finer points. Simmons will be attending the sport's world championship Saturday.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And the election may be over, but several House races are still too close to call. Recounts are likely, but how about a different way to settle things - by playing rock paper scissors. It's quick, simple and has the charm of being non-partisan. Rock smashes scissors, scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

With so much at stake, the campaigns may want to bring in a consultant like Jason Simmons. He is a professional rock, paper, scissors player. And tomorrow he will attend the RPS World Championship in Toronto.

Mr. JASON SIMMONS (Professional Rock, Paper, Scissors Player): Under the name Master Roshambollah, I've competed on three separate continents, both in North America. I've competed in Asia. I've also competed in Australia. And over the last couple of years I've been retired.

INSKEEP: Is there money at stake here?

Mr. SIMMONS: Absolutely. Not only is there, you know, the $10,000 coming up in Toronto, I was at a tournament in Vegas earlier this year where $50,000 was on the line. I've heard of an Israeli tournament that had a quarter of a million dollars on the line.

INSKEEP: Let's play a game, shall we?

Mr. SIMMONS: You know, actually, I'm retired and I have to clear all of my matches through my manager. And I actually get an appearance fee for actual matches that I play.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Okay, hold on, hold on. We have to clarify this. You're retired under the name Master Roshambollah.

Mr. SIMMONS: Correct.

INSKEEP: You're going to play under another name at this forthcoming championship.

Mr. SIMMONS: I have no idea what you're talking about.

INSKEEP: Explain to me what's happening here.

Mr. SIMMONS: When I retired in 2004, it was to let some of the younger players have their shot at some of the glory that I've achieved. There is a player who goes by the name of the Midnight Rider and...

INSKEEP: In fact, I'm looking at a photograph here from the New York Rock Paper Scissors Association of someone named Midnight Rider. He's wearing a mask but seems to have your hairstyle.

Mr. SIMMONS: That is correct. And although he's put up a tremendous stream of tournament victories over the last two years, I personally find his style of play to be very derivative.

INSKEEP: Derivative of?

Mr. SIMMONS: Of my own.

INSKEEP: By the way, there are people who call it paper, rock, scissors?

Mr. SIMMONS: There are. But you can even do a Google search. Rock, paper, scissors tends to be the most common.

INSKEEP: Scissor, paper, rocks?

Mr. SIMMONS: Never hear it.

INSKEEP: Scissor never gets to start.

Mr. SIMMONS: It never gets to start, and that's primarily because scissors is very rarely used as an opening throw. During my professional career, I noted that female players tended to open with scissors a lot more often than their male counterparts. In a lot of the media interviews that I did before my retirement, a lot of reporters invariably opened with paper.

INSKEEP: Aren't you curious what I'd open with?

Mr. SIMMONS: If I had to guess just based on, like, if I was facing you in a match of rock, paper, scissors right now, I would guess scissors.

INSKEEP: Shall we play one game?

Mr. SIMMONS: Let's play one quick one.

INSKEEP: Okay.

Mr. SIMMONS: All right. Do you have any requests for my opening throw?

INSKEEP: A request for your opening throw?

Mr. SIMMONS: Yeah, what would you like for me to open with?

INSKEEP: What would I like - and I don't know that you're actually going to do this? I'm just going to say...

Mr. SIMMONS: I'm just asking.

INSKEEP: ...and you're going to get information from me asking you what to throw, what you think I might throw?

Mr. SIMMONS: I've already heard enough. Let's go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SIMMONS: Heard everything I need to hear.

INSKEEP: OK.

Mr. SIMMONS: (Unintelligible)

INSKEEP: All right. One...

Mr. SIMMONS: One, two, three...

INSKEEP: ...shoot.

INSKEEP: Oh! He beat me. I did a rock, he did paper.

Mr. SIMMONS: Paper over rock.

INSKEEP: OK.

Mr. SIMMONS: (Unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Two out of three, two out of three.

Mr. SIMMONS: All right, let's see what else you got.

INSKEEP: OK.

Mr. SIMMONS: One, two, three, shoot.

INSKEEP: Oh!

Mr. SIMMONS: When I say what else you got...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

Mr. SIMMONS: ...that subtly encourages you to go against me by throwing the same throw twice...

INSKEEP: But instead I lost again. I did rock again and you did paper again.

Mr. SIMMONS: Exactly.

INSKEEP: All right.

Mr. SIMMONS: The game started long before we actually threw the first throw (unintelligible).

INSKEEP: I'm not sure I was manipulated into throwing the rock. But you feel that you did.

Mr. SIMMONS: Good, yeah, that's fine. You always want to leave your opponent feeling good after a loss. Now I will say that doubling your throws the way you did is typically the sign of an intermediate or better player.

INSKEEP: Are you just praising me so I'll feel good about being defeated (unintelligible).

Mr. SIMMONS: It was a great match. It was a great match. I was honored. I broke a sweat. As possible as it is for, you know, getting taken out in two consecutive throws, it was a tough match for me.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Singer: (Singing) Rock, paper, scissors; scissors, paper, rock. Tryin' to keep the hunger, but the hunger never stops.

INSKEEP: Jason Simmons is a professional rock, paper, scissors player who bears a strong resemblance to a competitor in the World Championship this weekend in Toronto. And, Renee, we need to end this part of the program by reading the credits. Who's goes first?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Who goes first? Scissors.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: I had rock again. I got you this time.

(Soundbite of banging)

MONTAGNE: OK, start.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: OK. From NPR News, this is MORNING EDITION.

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