Rock, paper, scissors, winner! Fast-fingered champ takes home $1000 prize

Wellington held its second annual Rock Paper Scissors Championship at The Residence bar this week, with winner Zoe Rivera beating 99 fellow contestants and taking home a grand prize of $1000.

The winner of Wellington's Rock Paper Scissors Championship at The Residence bar, Zoe Rivera (C) poses with her cash prize.

Winner Zoe Rivera, centre. Photo: Jordan Erskine Barron / The Residence

The championship was held over the course of four rounds at $5 per entry, complete with a referee – wearing a black and white striped shirt – watching for illegal moves as contestants took turns heading the stage.

Leaning over a table aglow with fairy lights, contestants’ hands were thrown by young partygoers in Y2K miniskirts and middle-aged plaid dads alike, spectators cheering on with jugs of beer.

As the night progressed, the list of names called to the stage grew smaller and smaller, until only Zoe and her nemesis remained.

The winner (R) and runner up (L) of the 2022 Rock Paper Scissors Championship in Wellington

Photo: Jordan Erskine Barron / The Residence

Zoe said she felt “really good” about winning. She had entered the competition last year and lost to her friend, neither of whom had any particular strategy. Both had returned this year for another try.

“I don’t even know what I’m going to spend it on,” she said when asked where $1000 would take her. “I’m going to think about it.”

Answers from other contestants throughout the night ranged from botox, tyres, a $1000 bar tab, a block of Mainland cheese and rent.

Kevin Malagamaalii, head of security at The Residence and MC of the competition, described how the event came to be over a post-event smoko.

“The owner of the bar likes to try new things. I remember him asking me, ‘Kev, what do you think about a Rock Paper Scissors comp?’

“I thought it was nuts at first, but then the more I thought about it – in Wellington, because we’ve got a real heavy base of students – it’s just a fun game that everyone knows, hence the reason I thought, let’s give it a go.

“The first time we did it, it was good, it was a real success, but there were areas which were a work in progress. Those areas we needed to work on were better tonight.”

Players compete in the Rock Paper Scissors Championship

Photo: Jordan Erskine Barron / The Residence

“I’ve been working on this strip of road now for close to 20 years. I’ve worked on almost every bar in town, and it’s these kinds of events that keep Wellington Wellington.

“It keeps it fun and lively and exciting, given that we do have a very vast variety of age groups. We’re very culturally diverse and it keeps Wellington a real fun place […] It’s one of the few games where you honestly do have a 50-50 chance of winning.”

George Shiers, a competitor who placed 5th out of 100, had listened to a podcast on winning techniques in the month leading up to the event, as well as “practising in the car on the way over.”

George told RNZ that “there’s a whole psychology behind it, apparently.”

“In NZ, you usually say paper scissors rock, but in the UK or America you say rock paper scissors. It’s the last thing you say – if you say paper scissors rock, you throw a rock. If you say scissors last, you throw scissors. You have to judge your opponent and where they are from.”

George Shiers, who placed 5th out of 100, competes against the eventual runner-up in the Rock Paper Scissors Championship

Photo: Jordan Erskine Barron / The Residence

George theorised that men are more likely to begin with the “masculine” rock than women, a technique which carried him far into the competition, but not far enough to win the Melbourne party trip he’d envisioned funding.

The runner-up, who didn’t wish to give his name, described the event as a “good sort of random night out”, and said he would be back next year.

A heated game of rock, paper, scissors

Photo: Jordan Erskine Barron / The Residence

Although disappointed at being thwarted in the finals, he said it “doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing at stake. That’s what I like about it.”

Kevin is looking forward to holding the championships again next year.

“In terms of revenue, the number of people we had in there was definitely one of our better nights. In terms of making the money, I wouldn’t be too sure until we see our numbers, but it’s definitely more than what we normally make on a normal Wednesday.”

The entry fee goes back into the bar, where it will be used for upkeep and future events.

* RNZ reporter Asia Martusia King came in 6th place, her downfall coming when her opponent smashed her scissors with his rock .

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