Is passing on the first turn a good strategy?

by Mickey Maynard
( San Diego, CA)

I'm playing Words With Friends and I keep thinking it's a little unrewarding and not much of a challenge to put down the first word. I started passing on the first turn and I'm wondering if I'm hurting my chances of winning.

Hi Mickey - I can only answer this question with respect to Scrabble, and I can't be certain that the answer will apply to Words With Friends.

In Scrabble, there is about a 10% advantage to having the first turn. It is very rare that passing on that turn leads to an advantage.

In almost all cases you are better off, assuming you don't have an opening bingo, playing a small word (leaving a good combining set of letters on your rack) or exchanging some of your tiles in hope of a good score on the next move.

One situation in which expert players do sometimes pass the first turn is if you have seven highly flexible letters that do not form a bingo, but which combine with many letters of the alphabet to form a bingo.

For example, there are some seven letter racks that combine with four or five different vowels to form an eight letter word. Since your opponent is almost certain to play a vowel, you'll have a good chance at playing a bingo next turn.

Of course, the downside to this is that a good player will know exactly what you're up to! Why else would you pass your turn, they'll realize, unless you're waiting for them to play something you can bingo through?

Such a player, if they are experienced, is likely to foil your plans by exchanging tiles to improve their rack without giving you any helpful letters to play through.

Well, that's a very long winded answer, and since it applies to Scrabble only, I'm not sure if it helps in Words With Friends. Hopefully another reader will shed more light on this one.

All the best,

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