Bad Scrabble strategy


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Marginal Revolution
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Blog Summary: Small steps toward a much better world.
This blog has been active since: September 2009
Post: Bad Scrabble strategy / November 28, 2009

Bad Scrabble strategy

I try not to blog Sarah Palin, but this passage, reproduced on Andrew Sullivan's blog, caught my interest for non-Palin reasons:

"Everybody in the family played Scrabble and took great pride in hoarding Ks and Qs and slapping them down in long, fancy words on triple-letter scores." -- Going Rogue, p. 12.

Sullivan's reader objects that there is only one K and one Q but I think permissible to use the plural in this context, referring to general acts of hoarding over time.

My point is that this is bad Scrabble strategy. The way to do very well is to put down seven-letter words on bonus squares, thereby getting the fifty-point bonus for using all your letters and doubled or tripled at that.

Such a strategy means maximizing one's holdings of S, R, E, T, O, A, and N, essentially, and dumping awkward letters which stand in the way. "ING" is a powerful combination. In addition, high frequency letters help you link up with other words running crossways, boosting your score further.

The astute MR reader will recognize here that we are dealing with portfolio theory, albeit where many assets are complements rather than near-perfect substitutes.

K doesn't mesh well with most other letters and so you should try to dump it quickly. Q is paralyzing unless you have a U to go with it. If you are happy because you could lay down "quit" on a double word score, for 26 points, I would say you are not a very ambitious Scrabble player, all the more if you hoarded letters and waited turns to do that. (You have some chance of "aliquot" or "quaeres" or "quinoas," but do you really expect to score "obloquy," "quassia," or "qigongs"?, keeping in mind that if you build upon an already-laid tile you need an eight-letter word with q to score the bonus.)

If this is her game of Scrabble, you can only imagine what her foreign policy would be like.

Correction: If you search inside the book, you will see that she is referring to the Scrabble strategies of her grandparents, not her own Scrabble strategies. They are the ones who cannot be trusted with U.S. foreign policy and it can also be said that she misses this chance to condemn their weak gaming strategies.

I thank Seth H. for the pointer.

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