How to Win at Scrabble

...or at least improve your game!


For the serious Scrabble player, winning is everything. There are no concessions given, no bending of the rules, no leniency...no mercy. Emotions can run high, friendships may become temporarily strained - accusations and rationalisations can go flying back and forth:

"How could I have possiby have won, when you got the Q, Y, X, J and Z?"

"Yeah, well you always get the blanks and the s's!"

Scrabble can be a frustrating game, not least because of the chance element, but skill is still THE most important factor and there are ways to maximize your chances of winning.



Get to Know those Two Letter Words

Not surprisingly, possessing a wide vocabularly is a crucial advantage for the Scrabble player. Ideally it would be good if you memorised the Scrabble dictionary and then ate it just to make sure it was absorbed but since this is an impossible feat beyond even the most fanatical player, the next best thing is to learn all the two letter words, which is not too difficult.

These are invaluable for building off other words and often you can get a bigger score by building a series of two letter words alongside an existing word than you can by a longer word tacked onto another letter. Two letter words are also extremely handy for maximizing the benefit of a double or triple letter square, since it means you can build a word both ways.

Remember these if you can:

AA  AB  AD  AE  AG  AH  AI  AL  AM  AN  AR  AS  AT  AW  AX  AY 
BA  BE  BI  BO  BY 
CH 
DE  DO  
ED  EF  EH  EL  EM  EN  ER  ES  ET  EX  
FA  
GO  
HA  HE  HI  HM  HO  
ID  IF  IN  IS  IT  
JO  
KA  
LA  LI  LO  
MA  ME  MI  MM  MO  MU  MY
NA  NE  NO  NU  
OD  OE  OF  OH  OM  ON  OP  OR  OS  OW  OX  OY
PA  PE  PI
RE  
SH  SI  SO  
TA  TI  TO  
UH  UM  UN  UP  US  UT  
WE  WO  
XI  XU
YA  YE  YO
ZO ZA
QI



Three letter words can also be handy - especially when it comes to using those difficult, high point value tiles.Suq is a handy one...as is Qat, Zos, Zax and Xis. Something else worth remembering is that almost every letter of the alphabet is also a word, eg; z iszee, r is ar, c is cee, v is vee, k is kay and so on.


Throwing Out

As every point counts in Scrabble, throwing out should only be a last resort and not employed flippantly, however there are times where it makes sense.

There's nothing more disheartening in a Scrabble game than picking up a row of blah letters in doubles or triples - something like: i-i-i-o-u-r-r. If you can get rid of them in one fell swoop - great but if you can't it might be better to throw out than to persist for two or three low scoring turns. The same applies when you pick up a row of all vowels.

One of the hardest scenarios is when you pick up all consonants but they are sterling letters, such as p-j-q-w-s-m-k. These can be very hard to part with. I wouldn't necessarily throw out but it's best to try and get rid of more than one in a single go if you can. If you can't, and this is where knowing those obscure two letter words can really come in handy, you can still get a decent score if you can manage to place them on a double or triple letter square.

Finally, it's not a good idea to throw out because you are just one letter off the most brilliant seven-letter in the history of Scrabble - your chances of picking it up are too much of a long-shot and while you're waiting for it too appear, your score is going backwards. It's not worth it.

As has been pointed out to me in the comment section, it is worth noting that the more letters you can pick up in any one game, the more chance you have of grabbing the choice tiles.  An obvious point but I failed to make it.


Strategy

In Scrabble, the object is not just to get high scoring words yourself but to prevent your opponent from getting them as well. So you have to be very careful not to leave any juicy openings dangling - often it's better to sacrifice a higher score than let someone into a potentially lucrative triple word score.

Be on the alert for those triple letter squares too. If your opponent gets a top scoring letter both ways on one of these babies, it can be as good as scoring a seven-letter. Even a w or m both ways on one of these can mean a score of 30 or more, depending on the other letters.

it's a good idea to keep an eye on what letters have been used and what might be remaining. This can be particulalry useful near the end of the game as it can help you decide whether you can  afford to leave certain openings vacant or not.



The Seven-letter Question

Seven letter words are great...the holy grail of the scabble player. If you pick up a blank and an s there's a very good chance you can make one. If you can't right away it's a good idea to hang on to these two letters for a while, until you can. Never use these letters recklessy for a mediocre score, as they are the most useful in the game.

Sometimes, you might have a seven-letter and have nowhere to put it. Alas, this is just part of the frustrating nature of Scrabble...no good hanging on to it in that circumstance.


Online Scrabble

Online Scrabble is a different animal to the board game version because you have a dictionary on-tap that you can legitimately use. Thus the risk element is eliminated. Purists claim it's not real Sctrabble...and I agree, it's not . However it's still a fun game - a variation on the original.

Having played online, I'm constantly amazed at just how many seemingly impossible words exist. So the message here is to try as many combinations as you can in the virtual dictionary..although you might think, oh there's no way that's a word ..you just never know!

That's assuming you have time of course. Some online versions are played like a chess game, where you have all the time you need to put down a word and others only give you a two minute window to put your word down.

In tournament Scrabble you are only allowed a meagre 25 minutes to make all your plays. For a glimpse into the world of the Scrabble Big Leaguers, check out the following video:


Scrabble...the Film

More by this Author


Comments 29 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I love the game of scrabble! I am one of those people that thrive on getting the xqz :) My family gets so mad at me whenever we play as I usually win. I played for years online but have since given it up. Great hub!


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

I'll disagree with you on "throwing out" (letter swapping). I hardly ever play without swapping some letters at least once.

If you have a choice between using a (for example) 5 letter word and a higher scoring 3 letter word, always take the 5 unless the 3 is significantly higher or the 5 gives your opponent a possible triple or other big opportunity.

I play on-line every day. It is particularly good on my iPad.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

I play online every day to stimulate my brain. But I cheat constantly. I would never do well in an actual tournament against (shudder) people!

I can't believe that guy plays while driving!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I haven't played Scrabble for years but I'm saving this great info, Jane, for the next game I play. I aim to be the Seer of Scrabble and The Strategist of Scoring. :)

Thanks to you!


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Good one, Jane. I too haven't played Scrabble in years. I used to be pretty good at it. I agree with Austinstar that playing while driving is nuts.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks Susan...yes it's a great game. Who wouldn't want the xpz!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

pc you sound like a dangerous player...;). If Scrabble Corp. hadn't made it impossible to play with the US and Canada I'd be making you a challenge.

I more often than not end up throwing out during a game too...sometimes you have to, I agree. I'm only against throwing out flippantly.

If you're trying to get rid of letters...then yes, it's worth taking a lower score to do so.Throwing out though, gives you NO score, which a player can't afford to do too often.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Austin...cheats never prosper! (what a lie that is) How can you cheat at online Scrabble? ...Lol. You're allowed to look in the dictionary!

Yes reading scrabble cards while driving does seem a tad foolish. I like the guy with all the *intelligence-aid* vitamins...he was like an elite athlete. Brain steroids.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

drbj...well I suspect that if you did take it up again you'd be good at it...;)


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Rod, thanks and let me know if your're up for a game via Facebook. 'Course I'll be whipping yer arse..but I think you're man enough to handle it..heheh


Randy Behavior profile image

Randy Behavior 5 years ago from Near the Ocean

Thank you I needed this edge. My boyfriend is going doooown.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

As all good boyfriends should Randy...


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

No, it's not about trying to get rid of letters. It's about GETTING more letters from the pile.

I WANT all the "hard" letters because if I have them, you don't. That's why I'll play 5 letters worth 27 points rather than 3 worth 32 if all else is equal.

The same principle applies to triple letter and triple word tiles. I'll use them so you can't, even if it costs me a few points.

The game is to win and that means keeping the others score low as well as improving your own. The only time I relax on that is when I'm 150 points or more ahead.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

pc, It IS about getting rid of letters if you have crappy ones, which is what I meant there.

I'd play the 32, unless I had very bad remaining letters and needed to offload them. After all, there's no gaurantee you're going to pick up the hard letters. Why wouldn't you play the higher score? The object of the game is to win yes...but not necessarily by always making the longest word possible. Sometimes a shorter word is better. Plus, the longer the word, the more you're opening up the board for your opponent. Short tight words can make it very hard for them to score.

I agree about the triples though...I too, would take a lower score to block off an opening.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

Yes, you have to take opportunities into account - that's why I said "if all else is equal".

The more letters I take, the more odds that I will get the better letters. Again, if all else is equal.

Playing a "tight" board is a way for weaker players to hamper a strong player. If someone tries that on me, it is well worth my while to open up the board regardless of the score because I will play better than they will on an open board.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hang on ...you did say "all things being equal"...therefore it may be better to take the lower score to increase your chances of picking up the good letters.You may be right.

Edit: cross post there...yes, I do get it.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

"Playing a "tight" board is a way for weaker players to hamper a strong player If someone tries that on me, it is well worth my while to open up the board regardless of the score because I will play better than they will on an open board"

However, between two well matched players I'd only open up the board if I was comfortably ahead. A tight match can be really challenging.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

Well, I'm almost always ahead :)


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Oh I so wish I could challenge that confidence!


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

Yeah, isn't it strange that Scrabble licensing prevents that?

I'll tell you where I do NOT do well - the timed tourney stuff. I don't take ages to make my moves, but I need long enough that those tournaments destroy me.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

I'm not sure what the licensing thing is about but it's very annoying. Yes the two minute games are hard. Perhaps though, it's just a matter of practice. I'm sure I'd get creamed in the big league.

I played 3 games in a row online a while back and got beaten 3 times . When it was over, my opponent told me he was a junior Malaysian Scrabble champion. I was inclined to believe him...it was the 7 letters - they just kept coming.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

My wife is a great player. Slow - annoyingly so to some - but great.

I once started a game with her and got three Bingos in a row - which meant we started the game with me at least 150 points ahead.

She beat me. Not by much, but she beat me - and without a single Bingo :)


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

I've never had three bingoes in a row...two, yes, and three in a game yes, but not in a row. I'm impressed! Maybe I should be thankful for that licensing agreement.

I once got into the triple word twice with a bingo though!

Your wife must be very, very good..a lesser player would have lost heart after a triple bingo. I don't mind a slow game at all.


Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas

Jane, I love Scrabble, but I do not have anyone to play with me usually. I did not know I could play it online...thanks. I usually win at this game when I do play, I get very competitive and work at those triple words scores. Great fun hub.


crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Is not cool 4 guys 2 play while driving.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Golfgal,thanks.

Online scrabble(find it via Facebook) is a good way to keep your hand in. It lets you choose your level of expertise and ypu can play with 2, 3 or even five people . There's long or short gameplay...you can take your pick.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

crystolite, yep, it's ridiculous. Thanks for reading.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Thank you for this head's up! We need those little ground rules to help. Thank you ma'am!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hey Micky..thankyou!

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