“No need to be nervous. It’s a game of luck.”
That’s the message that Herb sent to me when I voiced my trepidation about accepting his Scrabble invitation. It’s true; Scrabble is, to some degree, a game of luck. It all depends what letters you get. But this is also true: Those are the exact same words I write to people who I know I’m going to beat the pants off of.
I’m not sure how many points Herb won by that first game. Over 100. Maybe he was lucky.
My husband and I started playing Scrabble early in our courtship. I won every game. I hadn’t ever told him it was a game of luck, because that particular assuagement is reserved for the opponents I know are going down fast and hard. I didn’t know that about Scott at the time. I also didn’t know that Herb, Scott’s then-boss, was an avid Scrabble player and suggested Scott read “The Strategy of Scrabble” to improve his game. He did and he did. All of a sudden Scott started winning. A lot. Often. Always.
He read a book, I told myself. He memorizes two-letter words. It was like taking steroids. It felt like cheating.
All my Scrabble is now played online. I play with people I know, one-on-one, and we take turns at our leisure when we have a few minutes to play. Games can last an hour or a month, depending how often either of us moves.
I don’t really like losing Scrabble games. Or, put another way: I hate it. I’m playing about eight games at a time right now and there are only two people I regularly beat. Guess what? Those are the only two games that I like. The losing games are like torture – they physically hurt.
One of my opponents is my brother, who is, by all accounts, a Math Geek, not a Word Nerd. I was surprised he played Scrabble at all, and the first game he challenged me to was called “Wolf Bragging Rights.” He won that game, but I was sure it was a fluke.
We’ve played about eight games since and he’s won them all. The game we are currently playing is called, “Had Enough Ass Whoopin?”
I think the guys that I’m playing Scrabble with “shop” for words in the dictionary. You can do that when you play online. You’re completely on the honor system…and, in fact, there’s a dictionary built right into the application, so you can check and see if a certain letter combo is a legitimate word. The way this application is set up, it’s almost a given that you’d use the dictionary. What? That’s so un-scrabblish to me.
My brother puts down words that I know he doesn’t know. I’m not saying you have to know what every word means, but you have to know it’s a word before you play it. “PINGO?” I texted him in the little chat box. “WTF is PINGO?”
He didn’t respond.
Another guy I play with put down these three words in a single game: TROGON, OYEZ, ANURIA. Anuria is some kind of peeing problem. Did you know that? Of course not. He only got 12 points for it, but he was able to get rid of all his pesky vowels without swapping out his letters and missing a turn.
These guys get Bingos galore, they average 35 points per word, and they are all beating me, regularly, by 100 points.
I should just stop playing with them. Stick exclusively to my nice lady games, where I win some and I lose some. But it’s like an addiction – what I imagine a gambler must feel like sitting down at yet another slot machine, trying to convince herself that this is going to be the one…the game where, out of nowhere, armed with only her wits and sheer luck, she is going to pull that handle and finally hit the jackpot.
Mr. Anuria just “invited” me to play another game. This one is named after the free-swimming larval stage of crustaceans. What? You don’t know the word for that? C’mon, everyone knows that. ZOAE. Forty-eight points on a triple-word square.
You call yourself a Scrabble player?