How to Win at Scrabble

  • Know Your Twos and Threes. Sorry, but if you want to succeed (at least against non-tournament Scabble players) you need to commit to memory every two- and (for the more serious) three-letter-word in the OSPD. You can find on E2 a list of both twos and threes. Knowing your twos and threes is critical for making high-scoring parallel plays.

  • Manage your Rack, and Stop That Snickering. Blaming luck for a particularly bad rack of tiles is easy (and, in some cases, valid), but the more intelligent cause is probably poor rack management. Often, it's better to play a low-scoring word and dump some bad tiles (e.g., Ws, Ks, or double vowels) than it is to play a kick-ass word and be left with IIJK.

  • Oar Damages Organ (Anagrams Are Good). The factor that separates the men from the boys, as it were, in low-stakes Scrabble is the 50-point bonus that accompanies the playing of all 7 tiles, known as a bingo. Critical to getting the bingos is the skill of anagramming, or seeing words in scrambled-up letters. Example: Quick, make 3 different bingos from the letters AENORST! (Answers in this pipelink). Being able to find seven-letter words out of a pile of gibberish, unfortunately, is a skill that can only be developed through practice.

  • It's the Defense, Stupid.Yes, it's true, Scrabble is also a defensive game. Most defense has to do with either bingos or premium squares. Placing a high-frequency letter in a triple-triple column (that is, on the edge of the board, where it can be part of an eight-letter word that touches both triple-word score squares) is allowing your opponent to both bingo and multiply the word's value by nine. Ouch. Also, the concept of "closing the board" is an important one; if you're not getting bingo-prone tiles, try to avoid creating wide-open lanes for your opponent to play them.

  • Cheat. Yes, cheating is allowed. Playing words not found in the dictionary being used (called "phonies") is fine, as long as your opponent doesn't challenge them. Thus, against a novice, you might make a parallel play that creates the phoney word OB*, confident in the knowledge that your opponent doesn't know his twos. Another baiting tactic involves playing a likely-sounding phoney noun (e.g., CHALKER*), and, when your opponent pluralizes it (making CHALKERS*), challenging it off the board. The pluralizing S (and any letters hooked to it) is removed from the board, but the original phoney remains. Heh heh.

  • Be Really Goddamned Lucky. No matter how many twos or threes you know, or how long you spend staring at seven-letter flashcards, you could still draw an all-vowel rack, while your opponent draws DEIQUZ? on the first turn (or, rather, QUIZzED). That's the way it goes. But with the above steps, the tile gods' influence should be minimalized.

Good luck!