02 November, 2012

Scrabble strategy

I have played a lot of online scrabble. It's a bit of a pride for me, albeit a rather unimportant one. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks that have made me a decent player. I could be a better player if my vocabulary were greater than it is. But tricks of the game can actually help a lot. And I will share some of them with you here, now:

  1. Know all the two-letter words. This enables you to build 2 or more words on almost every turn. Don't bother learning what they mean, or using them in a sentence. Because nobody is going to ask you. They're just going to think you are really smart.

  2. Never set someone up for a triple, unless you're playing a 7-letter word, or something worth at least 40 points, or you're ahead by at least a hundred points. The math of this is simple. Even if you have a good word, how many points is your opponent going to get on their next turn? Because your "net points" is how many you got minus how many you gave them with your reckless play.

  3. The one exception is if there is already a triple available on the board, but you can't play on it. Then, setting up a triple is a good idea, because you're increasing your chances of being able to play on one of the triples on your next turn. Of course, if this situation occurs, it is probably because your opponent is unaware of Rule #2, and set you up, in which case, they might not even notice either triple!

  4. Always know how many S and Blank are left. If there are no S or Blank left in the bag, then you can take advantage of this, e.g. you can make a word that ends one space from edge of the board without worrying about the other person adding an S to play a triple across the edge of the board. The same is true about being careful for words that could have a Y stuck on the end. As shitty as Y is, you shouldn't forget about that little detail.

  5. Always know when the J, Q, Z, X are gone. The game is dramatically changed in terms of how risky you can be. A 30 point lead when these letters are gone is much safer than when they are sitting out there unplayed.

  6. If you have completely garbage letters, make the decision quickly as to whether you're going to do an exchange, or try to play your way through it. Don't dawdle on it, and have multiple bad turns, and then end up exchanging anyway. Regarding exchanging, it's best to do it early when you're ahead by a good amount, or very late when it's a close game, since you have an opportunity to be serving up your crap letters back into the bag for your opponent to take.

  7. Try your best to maximize points out of the J, Q, X, Z, even if it means sitting on them for a couple of turns. These letters are your ticket to big gains. Don't play XU for 9 points. And don't ask me what XU means.

  8. Don't underestimate K since it's the next best letter after the big 4. 

  9. If you have 2 blanks, you should be making a 7-letter word at least 90% of the time. No excuses. It's there if you look hard enough, or sit on the blanks until you can, since it's guarantee of 50+ points. If you're behind by a bunch, and you get 2 blanks, it can be a good time to exchange almost everything but the blanks to increase the odds.

  10. If you have ING, consider sitting on it for a bit, because you essentially just need a 4-letter word in front of it for a 7-letter play, and that's one of the easiest ways to achieve it.

  11. Corollary #1 to the ING rule: Be careful how long you sit on that ING, especially if you see the game slipping away from you. There comes a time where you need to cut your losses. Think like a smart gambler, not a gambling addict.

  12. Corollary #2 to the ING rule: If you have an ING, don't neglect to look at other possible 7-letter words in your tray that do not exploit the ING ending. There can be a tendency to be blind to these. Example: INSIGNIA (with a letter already on the board). If you're mentally locked into XXXXING, you'll miss that kind of play.

  13. If you have some subset of ING, e.g. IN, IG, NG, consider sparing those letters unless there's a really big play using them. Because these are three relatively frequently occurring letters (especially the I and the N) and if you get all three, see above.

  14. Always look for any kind of common suffix/prefix, e.g. UN-XXXXX, XXXXX-ER, XXXX-IER, XXXXX-ED, XXXX-INE, XXXX-ANE, XXXX-IAN, XXXX-ION, etc.

  15. Don't forget to consider biology or chemistry words. These tend to involve certain letter combinations,  some of which are those suffixes mentioned above. But if you're blind to common words, mull over the science terms before giving up on a 7-letter word.

  16. Try not to get screwed by V, C, Y. These are the shittiest letters in the world. If you have all three of them, kill yourself. Unless you can spell VICEROY, in which case, good for you. The reason V and C suck particularly is that they are unable to produce any 2-letter words. They are useless.

  17. M is the only letter that can make every possible 2-letter word. MA, ME, MI, MO, MU, MY, HM. These are all words. That kicks ass. N and B are pretty good too. And H is nice because you can do HA, HE, HI, HO, HM, SH. Of all these letters, H is the best because it's worth 4 points, and it's in a lot of words, and plays well next to vowels and consonants (TH, SH, CH, PH, RH).

  18. Don't play a move when tired. I learn this lesson again and again. The hard way. Serious. It's worse than driving drunk. Ok maybe not that bad.

  19. If you play random opponents, never play a game against someone who has a much lower rating than you. Always take a game with someone with much higher rating. If ratings are close look at things like frequency of bingos. Good to play people who have lower bingo rate since you have less volatility in your odds. Playing people with lower rating has lots of downside risk and big damage to your rating if you lose. The flip is true of higher rating. Big bump to rating if you win and little damage if you lose.

That should be enough to get you started. Anything more, and you'll be beating me.


  1. this is adorable.

  2. Understand the fundamental rules of the game, learn letter Q words, find out how to identify terms without any vowels, learn to create words with only 2 letters, and practice.

  3. so Nice information. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful thing here. It is so much useful and helpful for me. Thanks!