Rock paper scissors is officially gambling
April 27, 2020 6:24 AM   Subscribe

As bad as things are, at least you're not the guy who had to go all the way to the Quebec Court of Appeal to void a $517,000 bet on three games of rock paper scissors.

Edmund Mark Hooper signed a contract with Michel Primeau, and they had it notarized, and yet, the court ruled that RPS (or "roshambo") simply does not feature enough skill to be a valid wager (as opposed to the more heavily regulated gambling on games of chance), and that the amount was excessive. The decision partially overturned a lower court ruling that designated RPS a game of skill, but still ruled that the wager was excessive.
posted by Etrigan (39 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only fair way to handle two adult humans wagering a half million dollars each on rock paper scissors is to make them both pay, then give the money to charity. Because jeez, dudes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:27 AM on April 27, 2020 [37 favorites]


two adult humans

For some definition of 'adult'.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 6:41 AM on April 27, 2020 [10 favorites]


Counterpoint: law exists because shitty people exist.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:06 AM on April 27, 2020 [9 favorites]


I'd argue it's much closer to a game of skill than poker. That's not a high bar. But, it is possible to win well over 50% of the time against strangers. I suspect many individuals in Quebec spend a lot more on Poker every year. But, I guess that's a regulated and properly taxed way to take advantage of people with serious mental health problems. (If casinos offered a rock paper scissors table, I might be in trouble.)

If you ever want to enliven a long elevator ride, challenging strangers to rock paper scissors works pretty well. It's better if there are at least two of you in on it and you're not threatening looking. Better still if it's late at night on a weekend near the clubs.
posted by eotvos at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


Capitalism sucks, but this isn't a capitalism situation. This is a "laws against excessive gambling exist because some people have problems, and others will exploit those problems" situation.

Greed exists outside of capitalism.
posted by explosion at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2020 [9 favorites]


The article seems to contradict your summary re gambling?
The game, Chatelain ruled, could, "in certain precise circumstances, call upon the skill of the parties, particularly in the speed of execution, the sense of observation or the putting in place of a strategic sequence."

But she invalidated the contract nonetheless, judging the amount wagered to be excessive.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:33 AM on April 27, 2020


The original game occurred In January 2011. Way to lose a decade - with stress, legal fees, notoriety for being idiots, etc. There has to be more of a back story here. Does anyone know what drove them to make this bet (I couldn’t find the court summary anywhere)?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 7:40 AM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


eotvos: I'd argue it's much closer to a game of skill than poker. That's not a high bar.

Eh?! I couldn't disagree more. Poker is a highly skilled game that involves elements of mathematics and probability, psychology, performance, persuasion, etc. Just try playing against some really good poker players if you don't think it's a skilled game and see how that works out for you.
posted by slkinsey at 7:41 AM on April 27, 2020 [26 favorites]


Quebec has different rules on wagering compared to the rest of Canada, and those Canadian ones are likely to be quite different from the ones you might be used to. The careful contract work and lengthy legal challenge afterwards might suggest an attempt to bring Quebec's laws into question.

"skill-testing question" seemed so earnest and quaint when I first arrived here.
posted by scruss at 7:42 AM on April 27, 2020 [6 favorites]


The article seems to contradict your summary re gambling?

That was the previous ruling from the lower court. The Superior Court ruling partially overturning that decision is (I assume) what the OP's summary is describing:
While it found the game may call up a certain measure of skill, "it seems evident … that the game also involves a large part of chance, so that it does not take 'only skill or bodily exertion on the part of the parties,'" the court concluded.
posted by solotoro at 8:03 AM on April 27, 2020


The article seems to contradict your summary re gambling?

The game, Chatelain ruled, could, "in certain precise circumstances, call upon the skill of the parties, particularly in the speed of execution, the sense of observation or the putting in place of a strategic sequence."


Chatelain sits on the Superior Court and ruled in 2017 that RPS is skill, but the wager was excessive.

The Court of Appeal ruled in 2020 is that RPS is not skill, but agreed that the wager was excessive.
posted by Etrigan at 8:05 AM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


How does this happen? I want to read the story of how this wager and debt came to be. I'm imaging some bar argument and he's like "oh yeah I'll bet you half a million dollars". And then they drunkenly throw roshambo and one of them lost. Only instead of "ha ha I was just kidding bro" it turned to "pay up, get a mortgage you owe me". Huh?!

The game is absolutely skill based. I have a method that lets me win probably 75% of the time in a one-off against an unprepared stranger. I mean I haven't tested it carefully, but it seems to work.

It's gotta be slightly rushed. I just say "you're going to throw rock" as confidently and arrogantly as possible right before the throw. In the two or three seconds they have to process that surprise statement they subconsciously think "he wants me to throw rock, which means he's going to throw paper to beat me. so I throw scissors". That's all the time they have to evaluate. I anticipate this chain of logic so I throw rock betting on my opponent throwing scissors. It seems to work more than chance. But like I said, it relies on a one-off interaction where I can plant a poorly evaluated idea in their head just before the throw.

The other way to win is just to cheat and throw late. Or have a shill working with you, like eotvos suggests.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


To answer my own question, I found the 2017 Superior Court decision (in French). If that link doesn't work you can find it by using the keyword search of "Hooper Primeau" here.

Chrome inbuilt translation (which is a little rough - "rock, paper, chisel", etc) suggests it is truly an omnishambles.
[4] The factual framework in this case is nebulous and punctuated by numerous contradictions, in particular as regards the relationship between Mr. Hooper, Mr. Primeau and Ms. Iwanow. At this point, suffice it to say that since 1995, Mr. Primeau has maintained a constant presence in the lives of Mr. Hooper and Ms. Iwanow. Both their personal and professional lives are intertwined.

[5] Today, Mr. Hooper believes that Mr. Primeau and Ms. Iwanow had had an intimate relationship for many years, possibly even since before his marriage to Ms. Iwanow in 1994. He claims to have discovered the true nature of their relationship only recently. The entire theory of Mr. Hooper's cause rests on this claim since, according to him, it is the reason why Mr. Primeau refuses to confirm the simulation and instead seeks to appropriate the residence.

[6] In defense, Mr. Primeau alleges that the debt recognized by the Mortgage and the Special Agreement is real. It would be a gambling debt.

[7] He explains that he and Mr. Hooper were involved in various bets and games from 1995 to 2011. In 2011, he won $ 517,000 following a series of three parts of "rock, paper, chisel" . The residence serves as a pledge for the repayment of this debt. Mr. Primeau denies any intimate relationship or collusion with Ms. Iwanow.

[8] Even after six days of hearing, the evidence presented by both sides remains riddled with contractions and improbabilities. The credibility of all the witnesses is severely tested and the path to the search for the truth is strewn with pitfalls. The institution in May 2014 of divorce proceedings between Mr. Hooper and Ms. Iwanow and their deep animosity are probably not unrelated to this situation. This is in addition to the impact of the romantic relationship that Mr. Hooper began with his current spouse in the fall of 2012 and of which Ms. Iwanow was informed in the summer of 2013.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:24 AM on April 27, 2020 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: The credibility of all the witnesses is severely tested and the path to the search for the truth is strewn with pitfalls.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:30 AM on April 27, 2020 [14 favorites]


Here's the decision. If I understand correctly, the context for the game was that Hooper owed a substantial gambling debt to Primeau and made a double-or-nothing bet on this game of rock paper scissors.

My guess on how it went down: Primeau was probably getting annoyed by the fact that Hooper owed him a couple hundred thousand and wasn't paying. He goes to Hooper and says, "Look, it's time for you to pay up." These were likely debts incurred informally around a poker table, and legally enforcing them would probably be impossible. Hooper says, "Alright, you know I'm a honest man who pays his debts. I'll make a binding written contract with you on one condition - let's have one last double-or-nothing bet." Primeau agrees, and they draw up a contract that includes payment terms (a not-very-extortionate $1,000 per month) and security (a mortgage on Hooper's house).

He made the payments for several months, then stopped. At time of the wager, Hooper was not in great financial condition - he had been the president of a tech start-up that had failed. It's possible that he just could not afford the debt. Alternatively, perhaps he stopped payment out of spite after he discovering that his wife was cheating on him with Primeau. It's also possible he simply concluded that the debt was not legally enforceable and that he didn't want to pay it because he didn't have to.
posted by vathek at 8:34 AM on April 27, 2020 [13 favorites]


I almost always win my first game of RPS with someone who hasn't played me be before. My strategy is simple, I always play rock AND I was always tell my opponent that before we play. Sometimes it works several times in a row. I was pleased when one of my really good friends beat me immediately.
posted by thedward at 8:45 AM on April 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


/me dusts off this story I told last year
One chilly night in the fall of 2004, I chanced to find myself upon the streets of Toronto. I represented one half of the august top-rated debate team from a small upstate NY liberal arts school (*cough* named after a man shot by Aaron Burr), recovering from a day in which we had arrived at a debate tournament and discovered, 11 minutes before the commencement of Round 1, that we would be competing using a format heretofore unknown to us. A lot of hemming and hawing ensued, before we ultimately turned to face the task awaiting us, and swaggered to the podium to stare down the fate bearing down on us like a hawk on a rabbit. The night was not kind to us, and by 11PM, we had succeeded in drowning our sorrows in a heretofore unimagined selection of Labatt's higher-gravity options available at the corner pub.

Which is when we were wholly taken aback to encounter none other than Syracuse University's internationally ranked (!!) team of rock-paper-scissors players, fresh off their top-32 finish in that year's invitation-only (!!!) tournament. I admit I was skeptical as to the provenance of their accolades, but a quick glance at the large medallions hanging off two team members' necks was enough to assuage any doubts; these were our fellow Upstate New Yorkers, and they had come to win RoShamBo rounds and chew bubblegum, and they were all out of bubblegum.

Naturally, we did what any self-respecting half-in-the-bag Americans would do upon meeting so-called champions of the rock-paper-scissors arena on the streets of a foreign nation, and challenged them to a duel on the spot. We proceeded to go a spectacular 0-24 against our fellow countrymen, before realizing that maybe there's more to the metagame than we had previously considered. It's only now, 15 years later, upon reading this description of the algorithm, that I have come to understand the instrument of our demise.
No mere game of luck, rock-paper-scissors.
posted by Mayor West at 8:49 AM on April 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


Thanks Vathek.

I'm reading the context section (paras 33-59) of the 2017 case I linked above. Folks, if you have 10 minutes today and want to make your own life seem simple and carefree - go read it. This is not some bar room bet. I don't mean to make light of people's misfortunes, but holy cow that's some complicated background. Chalets and lost friendships. Marriages canceled and deaths of Aunts. Rolls of parchment paper held in place by a strip of gold paper, and then stolen! A pioneer in the field of digital film distribution and the Yacht-Club Royal Saint-Laurent.

By my count its about 724 ask metaflter questions on the ask-me complexity scale (tried together by a strip of gold).
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:51 AM on April 27, 2020 [9 favorites]


...it is the reason why Mr. Primeau refuses to confirm the simulation...

That the problem, right there. If you go up against someone who you think can confirm the simulation there's always a chance they can also control it.
This is Synthetic Ontology 101 people. It's not hard.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:56 AM on April 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


If your opponent plays a genuinely random strategy, you can beat them in the medium run in poker. If your opponent plays a genuinely random strategy in RPS, you can't.

If I can fight the world champion to a draw by pulling up random.org on my phone then it's not really a competition imo
posted by Kwine at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


The 2017 court decision is amazing and I want to know more of those people. “ The nature and reason for his interactions with both Mr. Hooper and Ms. Iwanow over the years remains unclear. It is also surprising that Mr. Primeau's statement that he does not know whether Mr. Hooper and Ms. Iwanow are married.“

Is this poly drama? A long thread of deception? Who knows!
posted by corb at 9:29 AM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


Chatelain sits on the Superior Court and ruled in 2017 that RPS is skill, but the wager was excessive.

The Court of Appeal ruled in 2020 is that RPS is not skill, but agreed that the wager was excessive.


Ah, that makes sense.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:45 AM on April 27, 2020


It's gotta be slightly rushed. I just say "you're going to throw rock" as confidently and arrogantly as possible right before the throw. In the two or three seconds they have to process that surprise statement they subconsciously think "he wants me to throw rock, which means he's going to throw paper to beat me. so I throw scissors".

Aha! Auditory processing delay wins again! It takes at least 2-3 seconds for me to even realize that you are speaking to me, much less go back and actually process what you said. Of course, it's 50/50 whether I'll have already thrown, or just freeze up and stare at you while I try and understand what you said. Would that count as a forfeit? I may have a weakness.
posted by brook horse at 9:45 AM on April 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


It is to the credit of the press that they kept it to 'hey, look at this $500k bet on RPS' without veering into 'hey, look at these doofuses insane personal lives.'

It's probably worthwhile to step back from one's life from time to time, consider whether it would make a reasonable plot or background for a Cohen brothers movie, and adjust accordingly... "What did we learn?"
posted by kaibutsu at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2020 [6 favorites]


Corb, honestly I'm actually at the point of thinking it's really just an unreleased script for an all-star early 2010's Owen Wilson romantic comedy movie. Tentatively titled Rock, Paper, Scissors, Marriage, pre-production stalled due to Gérard Depardieu's filming commitments to 2012's Life of Pi. The film was going to open with the courtroom scene and through a series of flashbacks would have told the whole story from both Hooper's (Owen Wilson) and Primeau's (Ben Stiller) perspectives. The judge was going to played by Judy Sheindlin, with a guest appearance by Bill Murray in multiple roles as the Admiral of the Yacht-Club Royal Saint-Laurent, a drunken professor at Concordia University where Hooper and Primeau first met, and pretty much everyone else.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:57 AM on April 27, 2020 [9 favorites]


Ahh Jinx - I owe you a coke.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2020


Still awaiting a ruling elsewhere re: whether a double-dog--dare is legally binding.
posted by bartleby at 10:26 AM on April 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


Bartleby, see the Double Dog App (which enthusiastically claims to be "the largest dare community worldwide" where you can "make real money!") and its terms of service (specifically section 7.c) for a binding ruling on that (if done via the Double Dog service.)
c. Dares are Not Contracts; Dares are Not Wagers; Unwilling Participants.
You acknowledge and agree that Dares are not contracts and that an acceptance, rejection,
or non-response to a Dare does not create a binding agreement between you and any other
User.
You acknowledge and agree that Dares are not wagers, and that Double Dog forbids any
activity on the Service that could be construed as gambling. THE SERVICE MAY NOT BE USED
FOR ANY FORM OF GAMBLING. Violations of this section may result in disciplinary action,
including without limitation suspension of your account.
You acknowledge and agree that no User is required to take any action in response to a Dare
from you; and that you are not required to take any action in response to a Dare from
anyone else.
You agree that if, at any time, any User requests that you refrain from contacting them,
whether regarding a Dare or otherwise, that you will immediately cease communications
with them. Violations of this subsection may result in disciplinary action, including without
limitation the suspension of your account.
I submit this as evidence per relationem.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:40 AM on April 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


But what if I double-TOUCAN dare you?
posted by jeather at 11:00 AM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


The 2017 decision is truly something else. It's bonkers that the court wasted six days hearing testimony about this mess. You can tell how exasperated the judge is by how many mindboggling but irrelevant facts the opinion includes.

The suit was actually brought by Hooper, seeking to cancel the mortgage and also get damages from Primeau. He represented himself in the matter. He argued that the purpose of the mortgage was actually to shelter his house from being taken in his company's bankruptcy proceedings and that it wasn't intended to be a valid mortgage. Just...what??? I don't know anything about Canadian law, but that sounds like criminal fraud. Why would anyone go to a court and argue that they did something like that?

In Hooper's version of the events, he never even gambled with Primeau. This was supported by the fact nobody but Primeau and Iwanow could testify that Hooper ever gambled at all. Primeau argued that Hooper gambled exclusively with him and that it was a secret that he kept from everyone in his life except Primeau and Iwanow. The one piece of compelling evidence for the idea that they were gambling is that Hooper had written Primeau two checks totalling $100,000 that Primeau and Iwanow testified were supposed to settle gambling debts. Hooper's explanation for the checks was that he had given the checks to Iwanow with the payee field blank with the understanding that they were for her and that she had given them to Primeau for mysterious reasons and he just hadn't realized it.

Hooper seems to have spent a lot of time trying to make the case that Primeau and Iwanow had planned to get married twenty years ago. The only apparent relevance to the case is that this is somehow supposed to support his contention that there was a conspiracy between them. Hooper's star witnesses were his brother-in-law and the brother-in-law's son, both of whom gave baffling testimony. The brother-in-law testified that the marriage was postponed because of the death of Primeau's aunt, but Primeau had no deceased aunt. The son said that he had been with his grandfather at home the day before he testified in court, but in fact his grandfather was in the hospital. The son claimed to have found parchment rolls meant to commemorate Primeau and Iwanow's wedding in his grandparent's attic, but intimated that Iwanow had stolen them. Hooper brought in several more witnesses like his mother and his current spouse to testify that they were suspicious that Iwanow and Primeau have romantically involved.

The testimony about the mortgage was just as confused. Primeau and Hooper testified to contradictory facts at every turn, including who drove to the notary's office and whether the notary was located north or south of Montreal. In Hooper's version of the events, he was surprised to see that the mortgage contract said that Primeau lived at Hooper's mother's address and that it contained a clause saying that Hooper was unmarried despite his marriage to Iwanow. Despite these inexplicable elements, Hooper said nothing and signed the contract.

The irony of all this madness is that if the court had based its decision on Hooper's version of the facts rather than Primeau's, it seems like he probably would have lost. He was totally unable to prove his contentions about the conspiracy between Iwanow and Primeau and the secret fraudulent nature of the mortgage contract. But because the court thought Primeau's gambling story was more credible, Hooper won.
posted by vathek at 11:00 AM on April 27, 2020 [8 favorites]


In 2011, he won $ 517,000 following a series of three parts of "rock, paper, chisel" .

Chisel? What the hell.
posted by thelonius at 11:04 AM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


"roche, papier, ciseau" in the French transcript of the court case.

Also, based on vathek's excellent summary above, how about we go pitch this to Netflix as their next "Tiger King". Metafilter fundraising idea #31,845
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:11 PM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


I guarantee if the tables were turned, he would have expected the other guy to pay up. It doesn’t matter how stupid the bet is, they both entered into it willingly and in good faith. The fact that he gambled and didn’t come out the winner is just his bad luck, he should still pay. A bet is a bet.
posted by Jubey at 12:32 PM on April 27, 2020


they subconsciously think "he wants me to throw rock, which means he's going to throw paper to beat me. so I throw scissors". That's all the time they have to evaluate. I anticipate this chain of logic so I throw rock betting on my opponent throwing scissors.

I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool. You would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!
posted by nickmark at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2020 [6 favorites]


I have so little interest in this and yet here I am skimming it.

What is wrong with A) the world that creates this sort of thing, B) me for consuming it, even rapidly and shallowly, or C) y'all for posting it?

Gonna start drinking here shortly it seems...
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


So this was a Man from the South with a gambling problem?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:00 PM on April 27, 2020


In which we discovery *an entirely separate court case* involving our three intrepid heroes: Hooper, Primeau, and Iwanow, stemming from an IOU signed in 2013 between Hooper and Primeau a full two years after the rock, paper, scissors incident. Did they really agree to a 20% interest rate, why can no one remember anything, why the fuck are they still entering into these agreements seemingly every other week? Find out more in the next edition of this saga:

Hooper and Primeau: The case of the missing 2006 Cadillac DTS
posted by inflatablekiwi at 3:26 PM on April 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


A separate case about the car has even stranger allegations.
Plaintiff [Hooper] bought the car in 2007 and used it until the month of October of 2013. On October 4th, 2013, he accepted to lend the car to his wife who wanted to drive to Ottawa. A couple of days later, as the car was not returned, he asked questions to his wife and to Defendant [Primeau], a friend and business acquaintance.

As Plaintiff wasn't getting any answers, he felt that he had to "hunt" for the car during more than two years. In 2016, in the course of his divorce proceedings, Judge Nantel, S.C.J. ordered that the car be returned to Plaintiff if his ex-wife was in possession of said car. Plaintiff testified that he finally found the car hidden in the backyard of Defendant's residence. He had the car seized by bailiff and towed to his office.
posted by vathek at 5:01 PM on April 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


Eh?! I couldn't disagree more. Poker is a highly skilled game that involves elements of mathematics and probability, psychology, performance, persuasion, etc. Just try playing against some really good poker players if you don't think it's a skilled game and see how that works out for you.

Poker is the bitcoin of social interaction.
posted by srboisvert at 3:29 AM on April 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


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