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7 Tips From a Scrabble Champ to Improve Your Game + The 2-Letter Word That Boosts Your Score

Learn when to trade in letters, what to avoid on your first turn and more!

Though the game has gone through a few name changes since being created in 1938, people of all ages continue to enjoy Scrabble. The board-and-tile game, which features 225 squares, gives two to four players the chance to try and rack up the highest score by creating words and building on them. This may seem easy enough, but if you’re looking to play your way to victory, there’s a bit more strategy involved. We asked Joshua Sokol-Rubenstein, winner of the 2023 Scrabble Players championship, for his top 7 Scrabble tips to win big every time!

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1. Be mindful of your first play

A scrabble board

You never know exactly how a game of Scrabble is going to go, but how you start it off can predict how well you’ll do. Sokol-Rubenstein advises against putting vowels next to the “Double Letter Scores” surrounding the center space.

The reason? If you put a vowel near these spaces, you risk your opponent scoring big with their next play when they build off your word. “Most two-letter words have a consonant next to a vowel, and the consonants can rack up far more points than vowels on the bonus squares,” he explains.  

For even more success, use your higher-scoring tiles early. The first play is always doubled, so you’ll rack up the points!

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2. Focus on what’s already in play

A scrabble board

One of the biggest mistakes people make when playing Scrabble? Trying to create words based on their own tiles and not what letters have already been played.

“Always consider what’s on the board first,” explains Sokol-Rubenstein. “That’s your workspace.”

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3. Get savvy about the “worst” letters

Q and I Scrabble tiles

Anyone who plays Scrabble knows you’d rather not draw certain tiles! “The worst letters are, in order, Q, V, U, W and G”, says Sokol-Rubenstein.

But you can still be successful with an unlucky hand by using little-known words with high score values. A few he likes: “QI is your friend, and VUG or GUV can get you out of a bad spot,” he shares. “If you can play those words, you probably should!” But if after a while you find you can’t play and score with any of those five “dreaded” letters, it’s best to pass on your turn and exchange the tiles.

See him play “Qi” in a virtual game below!

4. Don’t use the blank tiles too early

A rack of Scrabble tiles with a blank tile

Each game of Scrabble comes with two blank tiles, which can represent any letter of the alphabet. And they can give you an upper hand in the game. The key is knowing when and how to use them! Sokol-Rubenstein advises holding onto a blank tile to use it with as many letters in your rack as possible. “If you use all of your letters, you get 50 extra points, so try and wait until you have some of those famous Wheel of Fortune letters: R, S, T, L, N, and E,” he adds. “So, the blank is great for getting a 7- or 8-letter word and a huge point bonus, but sometimes you can also use it to score big with a Q, Z, X or J on a bonus square.”

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5. Save some versatile letters for the end

Scrabble letters

As the game progresses and more words are played, it can become increasingly difficult to make things work on the board! Sometimes turning a word into a plural with an “S” (or even an ES!) can be an effective move when options are limited. “Vowels become very valuable as well, since they are likelier than consonants to be useful on blocked up boards,” advises Sokol-Rubenstein. “Try not to use up most of your good stuff at once, you might need it later!”

Another smart way to get points late in a game: Focus on two-letter words and see how you can create extensions of words that have already been played on the board. “You might be able to turn a JAM into a LOGJAM!” he says.

6. Keep in mind that sometimes ‘less is more’

Scrabble letters

During the game, you may find you reach a point where you’re stuck and worry you’ll have to pass your turn. One way to avoid frustration in the game? Leave yourself with workable letters every turn, rather than trying to use as many as you can at once.

“Scoring something is better than scoring nothing,” assures Sokol-Rubenstein. “The tiles you leave on your rack are almost as important as the points you’re scoring immediately.”

7. Trade in duplicates

A bag of Scrabble tiles

Taking advantage of the ability to trade in tiles when there are some to spare can really help you out. In fact, if you have duplicate tiles you’ll want to do so as soon as possible! Sokol-Rubenstein says having two of the same letter greatly reduces your options and can cause problems down the road.

Other times it’s smart to make a trade: “Think about what your prospects are if you don’t exchange, and if they don’t look good, and you aren’t scoring much to begin with, it’s time to refresh,” he adds. “If there’s only one good spot on the board, try and hold off for a turn to stop your opponent.”

For more Scrabble tips and tricks (plus an in-depth look at the game), check out his YouTube channel.  

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