Rock, Paper, Scissors Champ Reveals Strategy 2008 USA champ Sean Spears is heading to Beijing to compete for the world title. "It's more than just luck," he says.
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Rock, Paper, Scissors Champ Reveals Strategy

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Rock, Paper, Scissors Champ Reveals Strategy

Rock, Paper, Scissors Champ Reveals Strategy

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There are many ways to settle disputes. Deer bang their heads into each other until one runs away. Giraffes bang their heads into each other until one runs away. But we humans, we have a more civilized system. No, not the United Nations. It's Rock-Paper-Scissors. The Rock-Paper-Scissors National Championships took place last Sunday in Las Vegas - where else? - where Sean Sears won the title, along with 50,000 bucks.



MARTIN: He'll represent the U.S. in the first ever Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: This summer in Beijing. I only laugh because I didn't even know this existed. This is very exciting.

PESCA: It's the capital of China, Rachel.

MARTIN: Beijing?

PESCA: Oh, I see what you mean.

MARTIN: I knew Beijing existed. Stay with me.

PESCA: Yeah, right, right, right, the championships.

MARTIN: Stay with me. Sean Sears is a 23-year-old systems analyst from Chicopee, Massachusetts. He joins us now on the line. Hey, Sean.

Mr. SEAN SEARS (Winner, 2008 Rock-Paper-Scissors National Championship): Hey. How are you?

MARTIN: We're doing great. Congratulations!

Mr. SEARS: Thank you.

MARTIN: So, tell us how you ever found yourself in the finals for the national championships of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Is this something - do you take part in a lot of regional tournaments?

Mr. SEARS: No, actually, that would be the first time I ever participated. I was just out with some friends, and there was a free contest, so I decided to enter it on a whim, and next thing you know, I have 50,000 dollars in my pocket.

MARTIN: That's awesome.

PESCA: Did you know you were good at this? Can you always beat your friends in bars and stuff?

Mr. SEARS: No. I usually lose to friends. I think I would pick the longest winning streak I've ever been on when it came to this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So that doesn't help those who argue that it's not just luck, huh?

Mr. SEARS: No, I think they'll - well, it's no - it's more than just luck. You got to be able to read what your opponent's doing.

MARTIN: So, how do you do that? Mike Pesca over here has his own very complex strategy to it, which I'm sure he'll share with you, but do you read people's body language? Do you read their mind? Tea leaves? What do you do?

Mr. SEARS: You kind of more of pick up on some patterns that they tend to have.

PESCA: Uh-huh.

Mr. SEARS: Whether it's throwing the same thing - you know, right after they win, they throw the same throw again, or if they win, they throw what had beaten them, and just picking up little patterns like that, and being able to play against that.

MARTIN: Do you want to tell him your strategy, Mike?

PESCA: Well, you know, there's a lot of things, but I don't know if you've ever used...

MARTIN: Don't feel bad if you don't know these, by the way.

PESCA: I was playing someone once in a pretty high game, and I picked up a tell from him. Whenever he threw rock, he tucked his thumb inside his hand, beforehand.

Mr. SEARS: Oh, OK.

PESCA: I don't know if that's the sort of thing that you've ever picked up. I guess the big competitors would never do that sort of obvious tell.

Mr. SEARS: Right. I always keep my thumb on the outside, so I never can tell that.

PESCA: Yeah. What about others? I mean, in this competition, did - can you - could you almost, at times - were you so in the zone that you knew what people were going to throw, before they threw it?

Mr. SEARS: There was a part during the Elite Eight and Final Four, in which I had six bouts in a row where I won, and I think I lost maybe one, maybe two throws during those six bouts.

PESCA: Are all the - is it best-out-of-three?

Mr. SEARS: Yeah. It's best-out-of-three bouts, and then best-out-of-three throws within each bout.

PESCA: Right.

MARTIN: And people are drinking, right? We should point that out.

Mr. SEARS: Well, you can't drink during the finals...

MARTIN: Not during the finals.

Mr. SEARS: But yeah, during all the other ones, pretty much.

PESCA: Well, that's like you can't dope a horse on race day, but up to the time. Hey, you know, there's one strategy which is like, there's so much psychology, I'm going to eliminate it all by predetermining my throws. Do you ever do that? Just say, no matter what happens, I'm going, you know, rock, rock, rock, or paper, paper, paper?

Mr. SEARS: No. You really can't do that, because that's when you get the patterns, and that's what I could pick up on people.

PESCA: Yeah. And do you - every - I guess all the competitors study all the other competitors in the prior rounds.

Mr. SEARS: Some people tend to.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. SEARS: I try not to, because then you psyche yourself out, because somebody might just switch their strategy entirely on you.

PESCA: Got it.

MARTIN: So you're going to China for the world championships...

Mr. SEARS: Yup.

MARTIN: Are you going to train now? Are you - what are you doing to prepare?

Mr. SEARS: I'm trying not to think about it too much. I'm trying to, you know, take a little time off from it, and then...

MARTIN: You need some distance.

Mr. SEARS: Probably when the time gets closer, you know, have some fun matches, just to get back into things.

PESCA: Do you think the language barrier, you know, between you, and the Chinese, and everyone else, will that hurt your game? Because a lot of people like to talk smack, and get in the competitor's heads.

Mr. SEARS: No. Probably not. Because I'm not a smack-talker. I'm a very quiet...

MARTIN: I can tell that about you, Sean.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. SEARS: I'm very intense when the matches are going on, and I kind of drown everything out.

PESCA: You're more of a read-and-react guy?

Mr. SEARS: Exactly.

PESCA: Yeah. And the smack-talkers didn't do as well in this tournament.

Mr. SEARS: Yeah. Most of them got - went out early.

PESCA: Interesting.

MARTIN: Ooh, let that be a lesson to you, Mike Pesca.

PESCA: Life lesson.

MARTIN: Finally, Sean, you won 50,000 dollars. What are you doing with 50,000 bucks? That's exciting.

Mr. SEARS: Right now, it's sitting in the bank account, until I figure something out, but...

PESCA: Now, to be clear, we should make the point that this is actually 50,000 dollars in scissors, right? 50,000...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEARS: No. It's actually 50,000 in paper.

PESCA: Oh, that's - yeah, I guess.

MARTIN: Good one. Sean Sears, Rock-Paper-Scissors champion. Hey, good luck in Beijing. Very exciting.

Mr. SEARS: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Take care.

Mr. SEARS: You, too.

PESCA: (Chanting) USA! USA!

(Soundbite of laughter)

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