One of the best things about Scrabble is how accessible it is. With simple rules and adaptable difficulty levels, even the most inexperienced pair of novices can play a super fun game of Scrabble with minimal preparation.
But if you find yourself playing against more experienced players, you might be confused by some of the slang they use. What does it mean to balance your rack, or lay down an extension play? And what, for God’s sake, is a bingo? Read on for a primer on some of the most common Scrabble slang, including the frequently-used ‘bingo.’
What Does Bingo Mean in Scrabble?
A ‘bingo’ is any play that uses up all seven tiles on your rack. When players manage a bingo, they earn fifty bonus points. That’s a huge sum in a game where most non-tournament players average around twenty points per move. And in a tight tournament game, these bingos can make a huge difference between winning and losing.
As a novice, it can be difficult to play bingos, but as you get more experienced, you’ll find it easier and easier. In the meantime, you can start by focusing on playing all your tiles on your first move. The further you get into a game, the more restricted your plays get. You have optimal opportunities to bingo on the first play. All you need to do is anagram all the tiles on your rack into a single word. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you practice your anagramming skills a bit, you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to find words. To test yourself, try generating random jumbles of letters online. Or play similar word puzzle games to Scrabble, like our Lingle game, which includes options for 7-letter Lingles.
Other Scrabble Terms
Bingo might be the most commonly used Scrabble slang, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other terms to learn. Here are a few of the most commonly-used Scrabble slang words.
- Balancing your rack
Balancing your rack means making a play while considering what your next move will be. Usually, that means leaving good letters on your rack, a combination of vowels and consonants, with an idea of how you’re planning to play them in the next round.
Brailing is one of the sneakiest ways to cheat at Scrabble, and it’s forbidden in tournament games. A player who is brailing sticks their hand in the bag of tiles and feels around, trying to identify what letters are on each tile by touch. This strategy allows them to pull an optimal hand of tiles at an unfair cost to their opponent. So it’s no wonder the practice is banned! If you want to avoid this practice in your own games, try laying out all of the tiles facedown on the table and pulling from there. It’ll be impossible for your opponent to braille the tiles then.
- Extension play
In an extension play, a player makes a word by adding to an existing word. For instance, if the word ‘ROSE’ is already on the board and you put down ‘BUD’ to make ROSEBUD, you would be making an extension play. Extension plays can be a great way to earn a hefty number of points even if you’ve got a hand of low-point tiles.
Also known as dumping, fishing means playing only a couple of tiles with the hopes of setting yourself up for a better play later. Usually, a player who is fishing has an idea of a word they would like to play from their rack, but they’re missing a few key letters they hope to pull on their next draw. Fishing can sometimes go hand-in-hand with balancing your rack.
Also known as the hook letter, the hook is a single tile that can be used in an extension play to make a new word. For instance, F is a hook letter for the word ROCK, since adding F to the front of this word will create the new term FROCK.
- Hot spots
Hot spots are areas of the board which are considered optimal areas for tile placement. Usually, these hot spots contain bonus-point squares like double- or triple-word spaces, which can hugely increase your total points for a game.
- Open board
Though you might think this term refers to a blank board, the real meaning is a little more complicated. Experts generally consider a board to be ‘open’ if there are lots of places where bingos can be played. This includes, but is not limited to, the very beginning of the game. Generally, the further into the game that you go, the less likely you are to have an open board.
One of the best plays in Scrabble, if you can manage it, is the triple-triple. In a triple-triple, a player lays down a single word that covers two triple-word squares. Making this play means you multiply the value of your words by three twice, or by nine total. That means even a relatively small, simple word of ten points can become a huge boon to your game. And if you manage a bingo at the same time, game over – you’re almost sure to win.