Philly rock-paper-scissors championship lights up Point Breeze tavern

American Sardine Bar was rocking serious RPS groupies this week.

RPS contestants at American Sardine Bar

RPS contestants at American Sardine Bar

Mónica Marie Zorrilla / Billy Penn
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The head chef of American Sardine Bar is a panty bandit. Or, at least that’s what her RPS name denotes.

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Rock Paper Scissors Championship tournament took over the top floor of the Point Breeze pub. There, beneath twinkling strings of lights, Panty Bandit was joined by a rambunctious group including RPS competitors Pickle Rick, Geodude, V for Vendetta, Honey Donut and the personified manifestation of Unbridled Enthusiasm.

Panty Bandit, aka Doreen DeMarco (a Billy Penn Who’s Nexter), is “kiiiiind of an RPS reigning champion,” she gloated over the crowd.

Though she is the busy concocter of the ingenious, stoner-gourmet soups, sandwiches and sweets at the tavern on 18th and Federal, DeMarco also somehow has time to sharpen her rock-paper-scissors skills.

Most of the attendees at the event have been players for upwards of nine years — or at least groupies for that long. This particular community originated when world champion and RPS Master Roshambollah, aka C. Urbanus, popularized the sport among the punk geeks of Philly at the turn of the millennium. It was later nurtured by his protegé Richard Classy, aka Dick Nasty — or for this night, Frankie Fourteen.

The crowd was really into it

The crowd was really into it

Mónica Marie Zorrilla / Billy Penn

At the Sardine Bar this week, clusters of RPS teams and friend groups intermingled and bumped into one another, looking for all the world like — sorry — a tin of happy sardines.

The 70 or so people comprised a diverse mix: green-haired chicks in studded combat boots, balding dudes with truly impressive beards, baby-faced twenty-something yuppies, and an elderly fellow with a cane. All were fueled by adrenaline, beer-battered onion rings, Citywide specials and Monopoly-money gambling.

Official betting during the tournament was supposed to be done with this faux cash. A good thing, considering Roshambo is a game of complete chance.

Still a couple of risk-takers could be spotted whipping out green to place bets on their teammates (or on themselves).

Betting made things exciting for spectators

Betting made things exciting for spectators

Mónica Marie Zorrilla / Billy Penn

One competitor — who said he preferred to be identified only by his pseudonym, Dick Dangle — explained that when the Pabst Blue Ribbon Philadelphia Rock Paper Scissors League Championship Series was still in full swing, betting and “inviting to engage in hand-to-hand combat,” was done not with money at all, but with makeshift trading cards plastered with the faces of past champions.

He didn’t know where the decision to switch to Monopoly money came from, but it could be because the RPS community in Philly is hoping to start fresh after losing the Pabst sponsorship.

These people aren’t trolling, though. They’re straight-up serious about the game, and jacked for the thrill of advancing with the goal of ultimate glory.

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Mónica Marie Zorrilla / Billy Penn

Official matches always have at least a referee and a score-keeper present. The officials call out fouls, assess penalties, and make sure timeouts are honored.

Yes, timeouts exist in rock-paper-scissors. Once you’ve experienced being at the mercy of a high-pressure, hardcore crowd hurling chants and playful insults, you won’t question the need to occasionally take a break to touch your toes or plead with your girlfriend to bring you a pint — as Frankie Fourteen did during his showdown with Uncreative Moses, who won the title of champion for the night.

To gain a better perspective, this reporter even decided to get into the action with the RPS name of Pretty Boy Swag. A best of five match with winner Uncreative Moses was set up in the back of the bar.

And whaddya know, Pretty Boy Swag won. How long until the next tournament?