A new study revealed that people attempt to win rock-paper-scissors using hidden patterns, not random guesswork.

Players can predict the patterns and eventually gain more wins in the popular game.

The idea is simple: once a player wins a round, he or she tends to maintain success by repeating winning moves. But upon losing, he or she will find a way to win by shifting strategy and, therefore, switching to the next action in the "rock-paper-scissors" game sequence.

The strategy was revealed as a result of a massive tournament in China's Zhejiang University, involving around 360 students. The researchers divided them to form several groups made of six members each.  Each member of the group played 300 rounds of rock-paper-scissors - winners gained monetary prizes according to the number of W's gained.

During the tournament, scientists observed that players in all the groups repeated each action one third of the time, exactly what they expected if players made random choices. But upon closer observation, analysts noticed that after winning a round, players tended to repeat their pattern more often, as opposed to playing randomly. 

The strategy of patterned play between winners repeating their moves and losers switching to a different action in the hope of winning the next round was dubbed the "win-stay lose-shift" strategy. Otherwise known as a conditional response, this game theory suggests that playing rock-paper-scissors shows collective cyclic motions that are not defined by the Nash equilibrium strategy - a pattern of random choice in which players show equal probability in their selection of rock, paper or scissors during each round.

This study was published in the arXiv.org database of the Cornell University Library.