10 Tips to Help You Win at Scrabble Every Time

By James O Malley on at

There are plenty of shocked emoji today as Collins, which makes the official Scrabble dictionary, has announced the inclusion of 6,500 new words in the already extensive quarter-of-a-million word tome.

Many of the additions are slang words and internet terminology - like “LOLZ” or “Newb” - demonstrating that a dictionary is very much a living document designed to capture words how they’re depressingly used, rather than as they should be. Other words include “emoji”, “cazh” (apparently what the kids of today say instead of “casual”), and even “cakeages”, which apparently describes the extra cost you pay to bring an outside cake into a restaurant on a birthday. We’re not sure about that one either, but Collins clearly disagrees, Obvs. (9 points, short for obvious.)

So with the new words in mind, what is the best way to win at Scrabble? Here’s some top tips on how you can have a red letter day.

1.) There’s a Tonne of Two-Letter Words

A lot of the times when I’ve played Scrabble, I’ve found myself looking at the tiles in front of me and thinking of four letter words. But perhaps it is better not to despair as there are about 101 two-letter words that can get you out of a tight spot. So it might be worth learning some off by heart - including high scorers like “Ox”, “Ka”, and of course fan-favourite “Xu”.

Image credit: Visual.ly

If you’re a really hardcore player, there’s even a mnemonic way of remembering them all.

2.) Save Letters to Make a “Bingo”

According to board game expert Erik Arneson, it is worthwhile saving letters to make bigger words, rather than just throwing down everything you have as soon as possible. He recommends saving A, E, I, N, R and S, as these are some of the most common letters in the longest words. If you can get a “Bingo” – that is to say, when you play all seven tiles in one go  – you get a bonus 50 points.

This strategy is seemingly backed up by this statistical analysis of the best Scrabble players, which discovers that the best players are very good at playing Bingos. So you need to be the master of the seven letter word to get ahead.

3.) Use the Triple Word Scores if You Can

If you have the opportunity to put your tiles on a Triple Word Score, do it! Even if it is just a two-letter word or low scoring. Even if your word isn’t particularly spectacular, it will block your opponents from using the square. Scrabble is ultimately a zero-sum game.

4.)Use an Analysis Tool Like Quackle

Image credit: Quackle

If you’re really hardcore, then there are apps you can download like Quackle, that will let you simulate games and work out the highest scoring words.

5.) Extend Words to Go Longer Than Seven Letters

You may be limited to seven tiles, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t form longer words. Take this for example, where someone played FREEZINGLY, and walked away with a cool 26 points (before bonuses).

There’s plenty of scope in the 6,500 new words too: “HACKTIVIST”, which you can only get by applying “TIVIST” to “HACK”, will net you 22 points.

6.) Don’t Worry About Swapping Your Letters

Losing a turn doesn’t usually sound like a good idea but if you can stomach it, it can pay off. Blogger Faye Hicks has a good rule of thumb: “If I cannot play at least 4 letters OR get at least 10 points, then I cut my losses and swap out the tiles.”

Some expert players seem to disagree with Hicks’s strategy, but we’d argue that until you can name 10 words that contain a Q but not a U off the top of your head, this might be a good approach to take.

7.) Play Offensively

Word Bluff interviewed Scrabble champion Andrew Fisher, who has written a book on winning at Scrabble. He says the best method is to play offensively, as ultimately you need to score lots of points to win. What this means is that you shouldn’t worry too much about opening up what the Scrabble nerds call “hot spots”, where all players can potentially score: it is better to stretch a new word out into a lesser-explored area of the board than to worry about picking off small wins in areas where there are already plenty of tiles.

8.) Go First

Get in there early. Image credit: Wikipedia

According to the Australian Scrabble Players Association, the person who goes first will win 54 per cent of the time. It's not a huge margin of difference, but every little helps, right?

9.) Simply Learn the Whole Damn Dictionary

According to FiveThirtyEight, Nigel Richards is the best Scrabble player in the world by some margin. So how does he do it? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be to remember entire pages of the dictionary; he is apparently said to have a photographic memory. While perhaps not the most practical tip, it certainly seems to work.

10.) Cheat

And then of course… there is cheating. This evil genius has created The Compleat Encyclopaedia of Compendious Historical Lexicons of Obscure and Archaic Vernacular and Nomenclature. It is a website that will generate dictionary definitions for whatever nonsense words you throw at it, which certainly looks authoritative enough. Its an easy way to win… but you’ll have to live with your hollow victory for the rest of your life.

Top image credit: Wikimedia Commons