How to Win at Scrabble

Eight tips that will help you win at Scrabble.

1. Learn the two letter words

Two letter words are probably the most important words to learn in Scrabble. These are the words that allow you to hang words off others, fill in gaps, and use up difficult letters. Some two letter words can be very high scoring – knowing words like Ja, Jo, Qi, Xu, Xu, Za and Zo (in the SOWPODS dictionary) can make the difference between winning and losing.

2. Don’t show off

Sometimes you have a great word that will make you look ever so clever, but remember that it’s a competition for highest scoring words, not the most impressive. Sometimes a clever word will give you a small score, compared to a perfectly boring one you can play elsewhere.

3. Think about the bonuses

It sounds obvious, but keep your eyes on the word and letter score squares. There are some areas, for example, where a double letter score can be used in conjunction with or triple word score – manage to get a Z or Q on this square, and you’ve got 60 points before you start. If there is a triple letter score, see if you can put a high scoring tile there that adjoins into two words – for example making the word “Za” in one direction and “Zo” in the other, with the Z on a triple word, would give you 62 points for putting down two letters.

The best use of word scores is if you manage to span two triple word scores with a bingo (by forming an eight letter word with a pre-placed tile in the middle). Your score will be triple figures in one move, as your score is tripled, tripled again, and then has 50 points added on top.

4. Don’t leave things open

A word may give you a good score, but think about how it leaves things open for your opponent. Avoid giving access to the triple word scores if you can help it, and don’t leave vowels next to triple letter scores – it makes it too easy for them to place a high-scoring Z or J. You can even block your opponents’ next moves. If a triple word score is open, and you have nothing high scoring to place on it, consider blocking it off with a low scoring word, or placing tiles next to it that will bring it out of play completely.

5. Build your bingos…

Using all seven tiles will give you a 50 point bonus. You can build these easily by saving useful combinations of letters in your rack. If you have “ING”, “IEST”, “ERS”, “IED”, “ED” or “ILY”, then consider saving these, and they’re very common sequences that you will be able to make into bingos before too long. Blanks are especially useful to be kept on one side for bingos.

6. …but know when to let them go.

Sometimes you have an amazing bingo sitting in your rack, and nowhere to put it. You could pass and wait for an opportunity to arise, but if your opponents are canny they will know what you’re doing and avoid opening up any more of the board. Also, if you keep passing and your opponents are getting high scores each turn, their lead is growing further than your 50 point bonus would be worth. You need to know when to grit your teeth and let that bingo go.

7. Don’t be psyched out

An opponent can shake your nerve by placing down a high scoring bingo. If this is their opening move it can really demoralise you. Keep remembering though, you can easily catch up with a well-placed move of your own. A game isn’t over until it’s over.

8. Know when to swap

If your rack is full of vowels, or awkward consonants, know when swap some. Getting nothing for one round is better than getting very low scores for five or six consecutive ones.