PROVO — For 18-year-old Mitch Hayashi, playing rock, paper, scissors isn't just a game anymore — it's a quick way to earn $2,500.
"Yeah, this is awesome," Hayashi said, shaking from excitement as he accepted a decorative rock trophy and an oversized cardboard check for $2,500. "It's amazing. It's crazy, the adrenaline is pumping. I've never felt this before."
Hayashi was the last of 765 fierce competitors pounding out hand symbols on the Deseret Tower field on the Brigham Young University campus Friday afternoon. The occasion was the Omniture Throw Down — Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament.
The competition was organized by BYU's Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, CEO for short, as a fund-raiser for their "seed fund" to aid beginning entrepreneurs, said Travis Tidball, vice president of marketing for the club.
"We want to help students get out of the mind-set that they're going to be forced to work for someone for the rest of their lives," Tidball said.
So when the club's director of membership services, Derek Pando, came up with the idea for a giant Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, as crazy as it sounded, they decided to go for it.
"Some people were like, 'Rock, Paper, Scissors? That's ridiculous,"' said Michael Parker, vice president of activities for CEO. "A lot were enthusiastic. It's something everybody does."
CEO-BYU spread the word by plastering flyers and manning booths across campus as well as creating an online registration section on their Web site.
Student Jody Hughes saw a flyer in the Tanner Building and said that's what caught her eye, even though she thought the event initially sounded "cheesy." But she showed up. With friends.
And throw in a "free T-shirt" to compensate for the $5 registration fee and the competitors keep coming.
"I'm here for the T-shirt," Angie Nelson said, thoughts of victory pushed aside by the white shirt with the neon green swatch accented with the pictures of hands making the signs for rock, paper and scissors.
Each group of 32 competitors formed a line, then paired up to duel to the death — best two out of three. Paper beats rock. Rock crushes scissors. Scissors snip paper. Winners advanced to the next competitor in their line.
The finalist of each round then qualified in the final round in which they'd be competing for $2,500 and undying glory in the Guinness Book of World Records. (All the Guinness details aren't finalized yet because the turnout wasn't quite as high as expected. But CEO-BYU is still hoping for recognition in the 2008 book for the largest tournament.)
"It's winner-take-all," Tidball said. "There's no second prize. I feel really bad for whoever loses."
Nine-year-old Andrew Durkee got to the final four with his mom, Rochelle, nervously watching from the sidelines, but the crowd-favorite Durkee lost to the eventual champ.
Hayashi, an 18-year-old biology major, accepted the trophy as his friends crowded around to congratulate him and shake their heads in amazement.
Hayashi, who plans to put the money toward school, made a deal with three of his friends who also competed. If one of them won, he would give $50 each to the others.
"I just saw a flyer on campus and thought it would be fun to do, so I came and won," Hayashi said with an incredulous laugh. "I just joined it for the shirt."
Strategies for the competition varied. Some looked on Web sites for tips. Others got advice from family members, including Jeremy Penrod, whose brother passed on this tidbit:
"Always start with the rock, because everybody starts with the scissors," he said. His strategy got him through four different competitors before he too succumbed.
A group of 15 students from Orem's Mountain View High School even joined the event, supporting their friend Steve 'the Rock' Boles, who made it into the final round.
"It's quite the adrenaline rush," Boles said. "It's the best feeling ever."
Currently there is not much competition in the arena of giant paper-rock-scissor tournaments. So, when CEO-BYU contacted Guinness Book of World Records, the only caveat was that each contestant sign their name in the presence of esteemed witnesses.
Those were Ned Hill, dean of the Marriott School of Management; Scott Petersen, faculty advisor to the club and CEO of Best Vinyl; and Brett Error, chief technical officer and executive vice president of products for Omniture, the competition's sponsor.
"It takes an entrepreneur to think up (something like this,)" Hill said with a laugh.