When I was growing up we had a family game night. It was hell. We’d all sit at the kitchen table and play stupid games like Monopoly, UNO, and of course the dreaded Scrabble. As I was the youngest, I usually got last place no matter what we played. Scrabble, however, was my nemesis. Let’s face it, when you’re a lazy ten year old you pretty much just spell a lot of crappy three letter words. Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to be a vengeful ten-year-old to want to cheat at Scrabble. Maybe you’re sick of losing to your brother the English professor, or maybe you and your fellow players have a friendly little wager on the game. Either way – I can help you cheat at Scrabble.
There are basically two different methods of cheating that I find useful when it comes to the game of Scrabble – cribs and holding out.
Most of you have probably used a crib sheet before – I know they came in real handy for me in high school. Your basic crib sheet is just a small piece of paper that you write information on that you need – such as the answers to a test. Your Scrabble crib sheet will include valuable information such as two letter words, special Q words, and words that people will want to challenge.
Two Letter Words
Two letter words are extremely valuable in the game of Scrabble. For one thing, they can really rack up points when you use them in parallel plays. Take a look at this crazy example from a real life Scrabble tournament:
B O L I X E D
E B O N I T E
The first player played the word “bolixed” followed by player two playing the word “ebonite” directly underneath it scoring not only for that word but also scoring for the following seven two letter words: be, ob, lo, in, xi, et, de. Add to that a few triple letter or double word spaces and you can quickly see how mastering two letter words can become very helpful in the game of Scrabble.
If you’re good at memorization you may be able to memorize all the two letter words that are legal in the game of Scrabble. Good luck – there are over 100. Or you can just make a crib sheet. I basically printed mine out on a sheet of paper with small font and set it on my lap. When I looked down at it I’m sure it just looked as if I were staring at my tile tray concentrating. I’ve heard of other people getting creative and printing them out on water bottle labels and even scanning a candy bar into their computer and using Photoshop or Gimp to type in useful words where the ingredients and other small print on the wrappers went. Legal Scrabble words are updated regularly so be sure to check the latest offal Scrabble dictionary, however, here’s a useful list of two letter words to get you started:
AA AB AD AE AG AH AI AL AM AN AR AS AT AW AX AY BA BE BI BO
BY DE DO ED EF EH EL EM EN ER ES ET EX FA GO HA HE HI HM HO
ID IF IN IS IT JO KA LA LI LO MA ME MI MM MO MU MY NA NE NO
NU OD OE OF OH OM ON OP OR OS OW OX OY PA PE PI RE SH SI SO
TA TI TO UH UM UN UP US UT WE WO XI XU YA YE YO
Special Q Words
In the game of Scrabble a Q without a U is about as useful as a kite without a string – or so many average players think. There are actually quite a few words with Q that don’t have U’s in them that are perfectly legal. Here are just a few:
faqir, faqirs, qaid, qaids, qanat, qanats, qat, wats, qi, qis, qindar, qindars, qindrka, qintar, qintars, qwerty, qwertys, sheqel, sheqalim, tranq, tranqs
Add those to your crib sheet and you’ll no longer silently swear to yourself when you draw the Q. They also make great challenge words. Which brings me to…
Sooner or later when you start playing these crazy two letter and strange Q words somebody is going to get fed up and yell, “Challenge!” There are various different challenging rules and regulations depending on the type of game you’re playing, but generally most home games subscribe to the rule that if a player challenges a word and that word turns out to be a legal word then the challengers is penalized. Just how many points are penalized from the challenger in such a case vary. Usually before the game begins the players will agree on either a set amount of points such as 5, 10, or whatever. Most of the time when our family played we simply would deduct however many points the challenge word was worth from that challenger. For example, if I played a word that was worth 30 points and the word was challenged the challenger would deduct 30 points from his current score if the word turned out to be a legal word.
Some players argue that if you don’t know the meaning of a word you can’t play it. That’s not necessarily true. It all depends on what the players agree upon at the start of the game. I ran into this problem once when I played the word faqir. I had no clue at the time it was a Muslim monk, I just knew it was a word that would get rid of my Q. Another player at the table said I couldn’t play it since I didn’t know what it meant. I looked at the last word he played which was “the”. I asked him what the meaning of “the” was. It shut him up pretty quickly.
Every now and then I would throw in some crazy challenge words on my crib, but most of the time the two letter words and Q words worked just fine as challenge words as well. The choice is yours.
Holding Out Letters
This is by far the best method for cheating at Scrabble. The only thing it requires is nerve. It’s really quite simple. When it’s your turn to draw letters, take eight instead of seven. You can hide the extra letter in your hand, on your lap, or anywhere else where it’s out of sight. I don’t recommend just keeping it on your tray since one of your fellow players will be able to see it. Just one extra letter in the game of Scrabble gives you a huge advantage over your opponents. If you get bold and take two extra letters your odds improve even more. Just try not to get too greedy. Oh, and make sure you don’t play an eight or nine letter word.
There are of course other methods of cheating; however, I wanted to focus on the easiest methods that would benefit the average Scrabble player having a sociable game with family or friends. I do feel it’s necessary to offer a word of caution, though. Cheating can get you into some pretty sticky situations – especially if you’re playing for money. Just ask yourself if having bragging points for beating Uncle Joe at Scrabble is really worth a punch in the nose before you use any of these methods.