A Helpful Guide to Playing Your First Scrabble Tournament

First Scrabble tournament with tips

Adapted from Getty Images

If you’re new to competitive Scrabble, you might be a little nervous about going to your first tournament. Maybe you’ve been an avid Scrabble player, but the idea of entering a competition and facing off against skilled opponents seems a bit daunting. Don’t worry. We’re here to help. The Scrabble tournament scene takes some getting used to, but if you follow this guide to learn everything you need to know beforehand, you’ll be winning games, rounds and whole tournaments in no time.

Practice With a Timer

When you play in a tournament, you’ll be playing with a time limit. Granted, that time limit is usually at least 30 minutes per game, but there’s still some sense of urgency. You can’t take as long as you want. It’s another reason why it’s important to memorize entire word lists and reference our Scrabble dictionary. Remember that you can't use a Scrabble cheat like the one WordFinder® offers in a tournament setting.

Another reason you should actively practice with a timer is that it helps reduce an unfamiliar factor of the tournament setting. If you’re trying to adapt to the various differences between casual and tournament play while also competing against an opponent, the entire event might become more stressful than fun. At the end of the day, playing Scrabble, regardless of its setting, is supposed to be a fun experience for everyone.

Learn How to Keep Score

You probably know how to do this if you already play the physical board game version of Scrabble, but everyone who plays in a tournament needs to know how to keep track of their scores. With the prevalence of the digital versions of Scrabble, including variants like Words With Friends, many people have become used to the games themselves keeping track of the numbers. That luxury doesn’t exist with in-person Scrabble tournaments.

It’s also a good idea to keep track of your opponent’s score as well. If you’re not paying attention during a tournament, you might end up in the frustrating and embarrassing situation of not realizing that your opponent has a massive lead on you. If you keep accurate track of their score, it will help you know what kind of words and scores you should try to go for.

Research and Join Your Local Club

Before you even go to a tournament, first go online and research the Scrabble club that is hosting it. Some clubs will have websites or social media pages that provide information about who they are. Learning all you can about the club before going to an event will make it easier to connect with them when you do finally meet them in person.

Once you have an idea of who the people are that run the tournaments in your area, you’ll want to take the next step: Reach out to them and inquire about joining their club. Thriving in tournaments is not merely about memorizing the rules and words so you win every game. You’ll be part of a community, and like with any community, it’s important to connect with people. 

A club is more than an outlet for tournaments. It’s where you build relationships, practice your play and grow your love for the game. When you play and interact with competitive Scrabble players outside of a serious setting, it helps you learn how to control your nerves during tournaments.

Play Casually With Other Players

Once you feel comfortable enough, go ahead and enter your first tournament. Make the most of your time there by playing more practice games too. All of the contestants are in “tournament mode.” They’ll still play casual games, but they’ll do so for the sake of preparing for the event. This means you can play some semi-serious games to help prepare you for the main event. The only way you'll get better at making words with letters is to practice.

Plus, it’s another way to get to know everyone better. They are helping you practice, but you are also helping them. There’s a common goal to do your best. In that sense, it becomes a collaborative effort. That comradery will in turn help you overcome any remaining nerves you might have about entering your first tournament.

Building a Scrabble Scene of Your Own

The first Scrabble tournament can be a bit stressful, but we all have to start somewhere. If you properly prepare yourself and learn to make new friends with the other players, the day will eventually come when you are one of your club’s old pros. Once that happens, you can take your experience and help newer players by organizing a Scrabble club of your own. To learn how to facilitate your own events, start by studying our guide that explains every step in the process.

Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.


See more popular articles