Scrabble is one of the most famous word games in the world. The game has attracted fans across the globe, from Thailand to Texas, and is played ravenously by tournament and casual players alike. But it takes a lot to be a successful tournament player. Here’s a list of some of the most important skills and traits that make a good Scrabble player, straight from the mouths of the champions themselves.
What Makes a Good Scrabble Player
- Large vocabulary
Okay, this trait is a little bit of a no-brainer. In order to be good at Scrabble, you have to have a good vocabulary. You might not have realized just how much time Scrabble champs dedicate to studying words. Most Scrabble champions study new words for hours each day. That’s a lot of words.
- Works well under pressure
While a casual Scrabble game over the coffee table might be low-pressure, champion Scrabble tournaments are much higher stakes – and, subsequently, higher stress. Tournament Scrabble players have to be able to work well under pressure. That means keeping a cool head and not getting distracted.
This is key for players of any sort of game. If you don’t want to win, you won’t. Simple as that. It takes a lot to have the time and energy to study for games and then come back and keep attending tournaments. If you’re not competitive, that’s fine – but maybe plan to keep your Scrabble escapades to your grandma’s couch.
Another no-brainer: if you’re supposed to be randomly combining letters into words, you need to be able to innovate. If you struggle to generate ideas, you won’t necessarily be able to come up with the plays you need, as GamesVer points out.
As Scrabble champions shared with us in our interviews, sometimes you can start out a game in a bad spot but come up from behind near the end. If you give up early on because you’re so impatient, then you’re missing out on opportunities to win. Instead, you have to be able to lay in wait like a snake, watching for your window of opportunity, GamesVer says.
- Good at math
Math skills? In a word game? Well, yeah. There’s a reason that many Scrabble champions were so-called nerds in school, and others are famous poker players. As Craig Beevers shared with us in an interview, a lot of Scrabble success involves mathematical questions – not just in calculating scores, but also in estimating the potential outcome of a hand, and calculating risks. This demands balancing multiple equations at once, a feat requiring real skill.
How To Get Better at Scrabble
You might be thinking: okay, great, now I know what skills I need to win. But how do I actually develop those skills? Here are a few practical tips on how to get better at Scrabble.
- Start studying more words to play, and start with short words.
You might think that longer words are more important for Scrabble. But in fact, being able to pull short, valid words from your deck is way more helpful, especially for novice players. If you can find a ZA or a QI in your hand, you’re at a huge advantage compared to someone who doesn’t realize these terms are valid plays, as one Scrabble champion shared in Insider.
- Practice your anagram ability by playing other short word games online.
Some skills are transferrable, and anagramming is one of those skills. By playing other word games online, like Wordle or Lingle, you can have a good time and also improve your Scrabble skills for your next tournament.
- Challenge yourself to come up with multiple plays before you make a move.
One of the biggest mistakes novice players make is to make the first play that occurs to them, as the Slice Miami Tribune points out. Yes, you may have just found a bingo that includes Q and Z; or maybe you just saw CAT in your hand and were eager to get rid of it. To practice your creativity, try to come up with a few terms for each play. You might go with your first idea anyway, but it’s still good practice.
- Look for hook plays.
A hook is a single letter that can be added to an existing word to form a new word. For instance, S is a hook for the term MOCK, because adding S to the beginning of MOCK forms the word SMOCK. Hooks are a great way to earn lots of points in Scrabble when playing only a single tile. When you’re stuck, make sure you’re looking at entire existing words for possible plays, not just the letters on the board.
- Practice makes perfect!
At the end of the day, the best way to improve at Scrabble is to practice. The more games you play, the more words you’ll start to see in your tiles, and the better scores you’ll achieve. If you don’t have a game partner who can play with you often, try online games. They’re just as difficult and can actually help you learn more quickly. You might be surprised by some of the interesting words the computer lays down.