Ruling on who goes first for the next Scrabble game

by Lillian

Once a game of Scrabble has finished and another game is about to begin with the same players, does the loser or the winner of the previous game place the tiles first?

Hi Lillian - Believe it or not there is no official rule about this one, despite its practical importance. Even at the level of official Scrabble tournaments, different tournaments invoke different conventions to decide who goes first in each round.

So it's completely up to you to specify a practice up front and stick to it. If it helps, though, the 'spirit' of all conventions used in official tournaments is to make sure everybody gets an equal number of starts in the long run. Why?

It's been shown using computer simulations that starting a game of Scrabble gives you about a 10% advantage. It doesn't seem right to give any player such an advantage - after all, the better player hardly needs one, and the lesser player hardly deserves one. So why not just give players an equal number of starts?

In the case of two players, that just means taking turns to start, irrespective of who won the previous game.

In the case of a tournament - if you were having a mini-round-robin with a small group of friends, say - one common practice is for all players to record how many starts they've had so far, and at the start of any game the player with the fewer number of starts to date gets to start the next game. (If two players are on equal starts, they can draw a tile to see who starts.)

You probably didn't need to know all that, but I thought it might help you come up with a fair rule to use in your games from now on to avoid arguments.

I know it's not black and white, but I hope this answer helps.

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