I have to say, being part of a top secret online Scrabble club has greatly improved my Scrabble skills. Practice is obviously an important aspect, but it’s also the exposure to really good players. I’m learning all sorts of things from them, sometimes unconsciously, and it has translated into a formidable game in meatspace. I don’t always kick ass at Scrabble, but I often do, even with less than stellar letters.

The other day I was playing with someone who was asking me how I did it, so I thought I would formulate my Scrabble strategy a little more thoroughly here. One of the most important things that I do is I look at words in terms of potential point value. I used to think that the “best” word was the most awesome word, but now I look at my letters in terms of how I can use them most effectively. I especially like hooking onto multiple letters, creating a web of words which generates a lot of points for me. And I am always looking for a bingo.

I also don’t set people up for awesome words. I won’t open up a bonus square if I can possibly help it. Obviously, at some point, I am going to end up setting someone up for a word either way, but I can work to avoid it, or to do it in such a way that it will benefit me later. Since a lot of Scrabble is chance and the ability to memorize letter combinations, you need to help yourself out by locking the other player out of good moves. Which, I suppose, is mean, but so is eating meat and most of us do that too.

Memorize Q without U words. The Q is always fucking me over. So, we’ve got qi, qat, and suq. Qadi, qoph, waqf, qanat, qibla, talaq, tranq, and burqa are some four and five letter options. Don’t you love “waqf”? It’s an Arabic word for a religious endowment of land, if you were wondering. If you’re got more letters to play with, how about qasida, qigong, qintar, qwerty, yaqona, inqilab, or qabalah? Tsaddiq, tzaddiq are also fine options, and can be pluralized with “im” if you were curious.

Learn the two letter word list as well. I’m not going to post it here because it’s long, but here’s a link to a handy two letter word list. If you’re playing Scrabble with sticklers, make sure you’re on the correct edition of the Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary. The same goes for those Q without U’s above.

Play with an open dictionary. My house is open dictionary. For me, Scrabble is more fun when you aren’t afraid to put down a word. You can’t look things up in the dictionary before you play, and you shouldn’t use it excessively, but it’s a great way to learn new words. An open dictionary allows you to experiment and challenge fearlessly, and I think it makes the game more enjoyable.

Enjoy yourself. And remember that Scrabble is not a test of intelligence, it’s a board game. A lot of people do well because they can memorize things, not because they are smarter than you.