Scrabble® School - 2Posted by Randall T on Sat August 30, 2008 at 10h23
Lesson 2 - Rack Management
The term “rack-management” refers to the combined process of making a good-scoring play and keeping harmonious letter-combinations for next turn. There are two closely related reasons for doing this:
1. to optimize chances for scoring well next turn, and
2. to optimize chances for a bingo (a 7-letter play).
These are essentially the same thing, except that if #2 doesn’t happen, #1 most likely will.
To start with, think of your average score per turn. James Cherry ran a series of games between computers about 7 years ago and found the average score per turn was 34. This is for a computer with analytical algorithms and perfect word knowledge. Your average score may be less. Whatever it is, rack-management skills can use this info by looking at how many points you will score not only on any given turn, but also the potential to score on the next turn. You are essentially looking a move ahead. (e.g. Suppose your average turn-score is 25 points. So your score after two should be about 50 points. Your opening rack is EIIIQRU. You play QUIRE (8D-48 points) and have II left on your rack. Even though it’s a bad leave, you’re in a position to have to score only 2 points next turn to be at your average, but you’ll likely be ahead of that!)
Everyone has a comfort level with various letters; they will hoard some and get rid of others. This is partly due to their word knowledge, which is fine, but it can lead to problems. I tend to hold on to [-ING] much longer than I should. Others hate the letter L and will include it in an exchange. Every letter can be valuable or troublesome, depending on the board. I once won a game by 8 points because my opponent couldn’t play off a [W]. Any letter can be useful or awkward, so try to remain neutral when considering what plays to make.
In his book “Everything Scrabble”, Joe Edley gives a computer ranking of the value & usability of all the letters from most to least:
However you choose to remember this sequence, it can help determine generally whether to keep an M or a B, but keep in mind this is for perfect word knowledge. And look at the board -- there might be a great spot for a 5-letter word with [B] as a front-hook, but since you can’t use it this turn, save it for next and play the M.
Rules of thumb:
a] Avoid duplicates of any tile. With the exception of the [E], duplicates compromise the flexibility of your rack. However, they can add scoring punch to shorter plays(see below) and to bingos (eg. PEBBLED) If you have to keep duplicate vowels, best to worst is: EE, OO, AA, II, UU
b] Try to keep an even number of vowels (V) and consonants (C). In general, keep CV, CCV, CCVV, CCCVV, CCCVVV, but depending on what’s left in the bag, you may want to vary this. If the bag has lots of vowels, keep more consonants on your rack.
c] Keep letters that work well together. This is referred to as synergy. TCH left on your rack has much better synergy that IWY.
d] Avoid having more than one high-point tile in your leave. While one may be useful for bingos, they can be better used for high-scoring plays. A high-point tile is anything with a value of more than 1 point.
Synergy-pairs like CH, PH, and CK allow you to relax this rule a little.
e] Keep as many singles as you can of the following groups:
VOWELS: EAOI (most useful order)
CONSONANTS: SRNTL (see note b above)
This means, in general (remember board position and tracking), that an [ES] leave will serve you better than an [AR] leave. Very often, using this system early in the game will yield one of the top ten
6-letter bingo stems:
AEINST = SATINE
AEIRST = SATIRE
AEINRT = RETINA
AEINRS = ARSINE
EINORS - SENIOR
EINOST = TOE-SIN
AENSRT = STERNA
EINRST = INSERT
ENORST = STONER
AEERST = EASTER
Above all, remember that each game is different. Board position, score, tracking and stage of the game all play a role in your decision-making.
One method that may work: Ask yourself...
What would be my perfect leave?
Is it 4 or 5 of the letters in a bingo stem?
Can I play the remainder off for 10+ points?
Getting rid of a WU may be worth even fewer points to clean up your rack
If not, which part of my leave can I sacrifice?
Look at your tracking to help. If you have the first R, and you can make a 30-point play, do so, because there's a good chance you may be facing RR next turn if you don't.
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ANSWERS TO LAST WEEK’S QUIZ:
What is the best placement for each of the following words? Why?
- ZEBRA (8D-52 points),
- IVY (8H-minimizes front hook score with TIVY),
- AVA (8H-minimizes front hook score [F,J,K,L]), (Consider 8G if you hold Z or X).
- DROWSY(8G-34 points, 4 pts better than at 8D), (The only reason you might play off the S is if you had a second S as a leave. Otherwise play WORDY at 8D)
- BLUEJAY (8D-94 points, not 8H-104 points, giving opponent TWS s-hook: IS scores 66),
- AA (8G, avoids 8 back-hooks to TLS [S,L]; only the one front-hook [B]),
- QUITE (8D-48 points; be aware of front extensions MES- & MEZ-),
- QUIET (8D-48 points; only reason to play this is if you hold DS, fishing for an I)
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3- to 8-Letter words with double-letter endings
BAA MARKKAA RUFIYAA
EBB COBB BIBB JIBB SIBB
ADD ODD REDD RUDD SUDD READD
MISADD OUTADD SUPERADD
312 words end in -EE
132 end in -FF (HOWFF, GONIFF)
52 end in -OFF
EGG IGG HOGG JAGG MIGG MUGG NOGG
RAGG TEGG VUGG YEGG GLOGG MAHJONGG
AALII GENII MEDII RADII TORII CONGII
BACCHII DENARII NAUPLII SENARII SPLENII
RETIARII SARTORII SEXTARII TRAPEZII
330 words end in -LL (lots of compound words)
MM HMM UMM MUMM
INN BUNN CONN JINN LINN SUNN WYNN DJINN
941 words end in -OO (BOO to WATERLOO)
APP REPP TYPP SHLEPP SCHLEPP
BRR ERR BIRR BRRR BURR CARR CURR DORR DURR
MURR PARR PURR TORR YIRR CHARR CHIRR CHURR
GNARR SHIRR SKIRR WHIRR SANDBURR
884 words end in -SS (study -LESSm -NESS)
ATT BATT BITT BOTT BUTT MATT MITT MOTT MUTT
NETT PUTT SETT WATT YETT BRITT CHOTT FRITT
SCATT SHOTT STOTT ABWATT KAPUTT BABBITT BASSETT
BOYCOTT GIGAWATT MEGAWATT NANOWATT SEMIMATT TERAWATT
ZZZ BUZZ FIZZ FUZZ JAZZ RAZZ ABUZZ FRIZZ
SCUZZ SPAZZ WHIZZ BEZAZZ PAZAZZ PIZAZZ PIZZAZZ SCHNOZZ
'Everything Scrabble' (Edley / Williams))