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Losing all confidence at the Paper Scissor Rock Championship

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I'm waiting for the Paper Scissors Rock World Championship to begin, drumming my fingers on the bar. Bartender slides my beer and I take a nice pull. My confidence soars and I think, This world is mine.

A woman numbered 200 on her competitor's tag singles me out and challenges me to a few practice rounds. The rules are simple: Rock beats scissor beats paper beats rock. She beats me three times straight, no problem. My confidence slumps.

See, I've never been good at rock-paper-scissors - the classic children's game and, later in life, the Great Decider of who buys the booze or who rides shotgun. It's usually me in the back seat with a case of beer in my lap. Most people chalk it up to luck but luck, it seems, has little to do with it.

"There is no luck in rock-paper-scissors because there is no random determining anything... It's a game of pattern recognition," says Brad Fox, grand marshal for the event. "How fast can you recognize what patterns your opponent falls in to and how can you keep yourself from falling into recognizable patterns?"

He takes his role very seriously, describing game history and protocol with such conviction one might think the fate of our world depends on armies of scissors cutting through the planet's entire supply of paper.

Fox says RPS is one of the - if not the - most widely played games in the world, with versions of it existing on every continent, dating as far back as 2000 B.C. in Egypt. In the West however - in Toronto, in particular, at the Steam Whistle Brewery on a Saturday night - it's a sport of true competition, drawing a crowd of 400 players and another 400 or so spectators, many of them dressed in outlandish costume. A bumblebee here. Captain America there.

"It really is the great equalizer in many ways," says Doug Walker, co-founder of the event. "The richest man in the world, the male or female, the most able-bodied or disabled - there's no inherent advantage."

An announcement is made and everyone gathers at the foot of the stage in the main concourse. The costumed drunks yip and holler. Someone had torn off all fingers but the middle of a complimentary giant foam-hand and now he's waiving it in the air. Someone spills a beer on my camera and I think what a fitting sponsor this event has in Yahoo.

So it begins. Each referee is more serious than the last. Ours is a stout woman with a quivering voice. "Welcome to the sport," she says, "you are the elite of your sport, congratulations on making it this far," with no hint of irony.

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