Suck at Sports? DC’s Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament Is For You

No athletic prowess needed for the chance to take home this giant trophy at Mess Hall.

Photo via iStock.

UPDATE: Due to logistical issues, this event has been canceled. There is no new date for the time being, but organizer Al Goldberg says he hopes to reschedule soon.

It is a game as old as time. From ancient Egyptian cave paintings depicting finger-flashing games to an Indonesian variation involving a man, earwig, and elephant, humans across cultures have long been fascinated been fascinated by the split-second decision-making of rock, paper, scissors.

Which is why Al Goldberg, founder of the Northeast DC food incubator Mess Hall, thought it only natural to launch the DC Area Rochambeau Championship.

The tournament, set to take place on Saturday, September 30, at Mess Hall, will be conducted in a high-stakes single elimination format, with the winner taking home what Goldberg calls “probably the largest trophy they’ve ever seen.”

Goldberg first developed the idea for the tournament after discovering Rappahannock Oyster Company’s Rochambeau oyster. It’s named after the French nobleman—the Count of Rochambeau—who fought in the Revolutionary War and is credited with introducing rock, paper, scissors to the United States.

For the tournament’s $20 entry fee, which includes two drink tickets, attendees will have the chance to taste the Rochambeau oyster, alongside local fare from current Mess Hall members Salt & Pepper Burgers and Nomad Dumplings. Tröegs Brewery will provide beer to competitors, who will surely be in need of refreshment in between tournament rounds. True to theme, Goldberg promises additional “rock, paper, sizzurp” beverages. Participants and spectators can purchase tickets in advance here

Mathew Ramsey, who runs the popular and innuendo-filled food blog PornBurger, will emcee the event. There will also be referees. “This is pretty serious business,” Goldberg says.

Scoff as you may at the thought of a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, Goldberg insists the game “takes a particular skill-set” to be successful. He’s not wrong. Game theorists have long sought to uncover the strategies that most often lead to victory. And Goldberg’s tournament is far from the first of its kind. In 2008, the USA Rock Paper Scissors League (yes, such a thing exists) crowned a champion in Las Vegas with a prize of $50,000.

For his part, Goldberg remains confident his DC Area Rochambeau Championship can stand up to any past tournaments. “I mean our trophy is going to be pretty good,” he says. “I’d put it up against the 50,000 dollars.”


David Murrell, a former Washingtonian editorial fellow, is research editor at Philadelphia magazine.