Three Ways to a Better
"Why do I always get all the I's?"
Does your Scrabble rack usually look like this one?
Well, the good news is that expert Scrabble players are subject to the very same laws of the universe as the rest of us. They are just as likely to draw an I as you are! But there are two reasons your expert opponent will seem to be in favor with the tile gods...
Firstly, they have taken the time to master the myriad of crazy Scrabble words that can turn disastrous-looking racks into decent scoring opportunities. They won't hesitate to turn an impossibly clumsy U-V-W combo into VROUW (a Dutch woman) for 35 points, or clear a rack of consonants in a single blow with CWM (a steep-walled basin).
But that's only half the story...
Secondly - and I believe more importantly - they have mastered the 'rack management' principles that help prevent terrible racks from appearing in the first place. Because, like it or not, a drecky Scrabble rack is usually your own fault!
Read these 3 tips to understand why...
1. Rack Balance
Rack balance refers to the practice of making sure your Scrabble rack has a good mix of consonants and vowels. What do I mean by a 'good mix'? Ideally, you should aim for four consonants and three vowels. A balance of consonants and vowels helps make sure you have lots of potential words to play, and also increases your likelihood of playing a bingo. But how do you balance your rack?
To achieve a balanced rack you have to be prepared to compromise some points. Rather than simply playing the highest scoring word on a given move, you consider whether your remaining letters are very vowel-heavy or consonant-heavy. If so, it often pays to choose a different word, even though it scores a bit less, in order to increase the chances of a balanced rack on the next move.
2. Letter Synergy
Some letters go together better than others - letters that go well together are said to have synergy. In addition to making sure that you have a healthy mix of consonants and vowels, you should give more weight to combinations of consonants, and combinations of vowels, that work well together.
Consider the letters C and H, for example. In many words, these two letters act as a unit making the single CH sound. In this case, you would worry less about having too many consonants than if you had a combination like V and B.
You should always strive to leave letters on your rack that have synergy, even if it means sacrificing a few points. You would prefer a consonant leave of G-N over C-G, for example, and a vowel leave of O-U over E-U.
3. Tile Tracking
Tile tracking just refers to the practice of keeping track of which tiles remain, usually by crossing letters off on your score sheet as they are played. As a game progresses, and the tile-bag starts to diminish, your decisions should be swayed more and more by a knowledge of which tiles remain unseen.
Suppose near the end of a game, for example, you have a rack of G-G-C-M-S-T-W. Depending on the board situation, you might well decide to trade some tiles with the hope of an improved rack next time. But which tiles should you trade?
Well, if you know that the tile bag has a roughly even mix of consonants and vowels, you might hold onto M-S-T and trade off G-G-C-W. This is because the letters M-S-T have good synergy, and you are likely to pick up one consonant and three vowels, or two of each, giving a rack that is both synergistic and balanced.
On the other hand, if the tile bag is known to be full of consonants, you would probably decide against exchanging altogether, since you will still have a rack full of consonants after the exchange anyway. You might as well start scoring for your consonants right away, since the situation isn't going to get any better.
In short, the key to a good Scrabble rack is to avoid a bad one. And the key to avoiding a bad rack is to learn to sacrifice points so that your rack leave is more likely to lead to a good rack when you replenish your tiles.
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