FAQ: What You Need to Know to Win a Scrabble Game

So many Scrabble questions
You’ve got Scrabble questions? We’ve got Scrabble answers. Darn near all the Scrabble answers, in fact, and if we haven’t covered it yet, just ask. We will. It’s literally our job to answer questions about word games. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about playing and mastering Scrabble and the answers you need to know to win a Scrabble game.

The Basics

1. How many letters are there in Scrabble?

Eight! Just count them.

*crickets*

Tough crowd. There are 102 letter tiles in an English Scrabble set: 100 letters, plus 2 blank “wildcards.” They break down like so:

  • E - 13 per game

  • A, I - 9 per game

  • O - 8 per game

  • N, R, T - 6 per game

  • D, L, S, U - 4 per game

  • G - 3 per game

  • Blank, B, C, F, H, M, P, V, W, Y - 2 per game

  • J, K, Q, X, Z - 1 per game

2. What are the point values of all the letters in Scrabble?

For an in-depth answer go to our list of Scrabble letter values. The short version is that at face value, with no bonuses applied, the letters in an English Scrabble game add up to 187 points. Face value ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, however. Expert players routinely crack 500 points, and the highest-scoring Scrabble game ever was 830 to 490.

3. What’s a legal word?

Just ask us! YourDictionary will provide the contents of several fine dictionaries, such as Webster’s and American Heritage, not to mention a crack team constantly updating to guarantee every playable word is at your fingertips. Each definition will show you the Scrabble point value for that word.

If you’re more an ink-and-paper type, the Official Scrabble Dictionary is obviously the last word in words. That said, any dictionary will do for your Scrabble game as long as all the players agree to abide by it.

Bonuses

4. What are these strange colored squares on my Scrabble board?

Those are bonus squares, and they’re how skilled players turn half of 187 points into 500 or better.

Every Scrabble bonus works the same way: it multiplies the value of something you’ve played.

  • DL means “double letter,” so the letter you play on it is worth twice its normal value.

  • TL means “triple letter.” Same, but thrice.

  • DW is serious business, doubling the entire word played across it.

  • TW is the big-money triple word. Try very hard to play things on TW squares.

5. But what if I just add a letter to an opponent’s word? Do I get the bonus for the whole thing?

Absolutely! If you lay a tile on a DW or TW bonus, you score twice or thrice the entire word’s value, even if you just slid a sneaky -S or -ING onto an opponent’s play. Scrabble: a game for the devious.

6. What if I link two words and one crosses a bonus square? Do I get the bonus for both?

That depends. Bonuses apply to new words, so if your play just crosses an opponent’s word, you only score for yours. But if your opponent played WORD and you added an S to turn it into WORDS, then played SPELT perpendicular to it across a word bonus, that bonus applies to WORDS and SPELT, because they’re both new words.

Rule of thumb: your word has to add at least one new letter to your opponent’s word to score a word bonus for both.

7. If my word crosses two or more bonuses, do I get both?

Yes! Oh man, yes. If your word covers two double bonus squares, the score is doubled and then re-doubled, or tripled and re-tripled on triple squares. Do this as often as possible.

Tips and Tricks

8. How do I increase my score?

Three words: maximize letter value. Remember, you only have 51 tiles to score with, give or take a few. Always strive to do the most with the least.

Say your opponent unwisely left an open I next to a triple letter bonus. If all you’ve got is a P, don’t think “piddly little two-letter word.” Think “I just turned a single tile into 13 points.” Spotting those opportunities is how to stack points and win games.

9. I love the idea of scoring multiple bonuses for one word, like you talked about in Question 7. How do I do that?

It’s a long shot, but it’s absolutely doable. Remember to watch the whole board and look in every direction. Above all, remember that anything across two DW or, yikes, TW squares will net you massive points. If there’s a chance of stringing anything that way, even if it doesn’t look like your strongest play, do so. Remember, scoring two bonuses isn’t just about picking up points. It also takes opportunities from your opponents.

10. My opponent keeps beating me with long words. What can I do?

Use the competition’s fancy vocabulary against them. Learn short, reliable words (we have a list!) and play them in high-scoring places. Use them to snake bonuses or slide them alongside words, stacking up the value of your play by creating three or four two-letter words running parallel to their sesquipedalian monstrosities.

11. My opponent keeps beating me by playing short, clever words that snake my bonuses or making two-letter words that add up to lots of points. What can I do?

Sounds like you met the guy from Question 10. Shoot. What you can do is what you should always do in Scrabble: play defense. Long words are great. Long words that keep your opponents away from bonus squares, or that force them to play off difficult letters, are better.

12. How do I become a top Scrabble player?

Play top Scrabble players. Scoring 500 points against your local circle of friends and well-wishers isn’t the same as getting 300 points against someone who plays Scrabble daily. That said, 350-500 points against anybody is serious business. If you’re at that point and want to level up, find a local Scrabble club; there are zillions of them. It’s a great way to meet people, and the only way to level up your game. Play the best, be the best.

Learn From Our Word Lists

That’s 12 of the most valuable bits of Scrabble advice we can give. For more help, check out our curated collection of word lists, where we’ve painstakingly sorted words by length, first letter, last letter and more.

Alternatively, unscramble problem letters at WordFinder, a cheat tool designed for gamers like you. Pop in up to 15 letters and watch the game-legal plays roll in.


Matt Salter has been a professional writer for over 10 years. He is a gaming and technology expert, and world-class word nerd.

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