Bingo (sometimes referred to as a bonus) is a slang term for using all seven tiles on one’s rack on any one turn. A bingo play receives an extra 50 points, in addition to what the play would normally score. Experts typically average around 2 to 3 bingos per game. The following gives some basic strategies on finding bingos:
- 1 Pay Attention to Your Leave
- 2 Prefixes and Suffixes
- 3 Play an open board
- 4 Bingo Stems
- 4.1 Fishing
- 4.2 High-probability bingos
Leave refers to the letters that are left on your rack after you make your play, but before you draw replacement letters. By paying attention to what you’re leaving behind, you supplement your odds of having a decent rack after you draw. For example, if your rack has three I’s, it would be a good idea to play a word that has one or more I’s in it, even if this gives you a lower score. By sacrificing a few points on the current turn, you improve your odds of a bingo on the next turn. Here are some strategies for improving your leave:
- Generally, you are more likely to have a bingo if your rack consists of mostly low-point tiles. Therefore, having multiple high-point tiles(especially ones that don’t combine well, such as BKV) greatly reduces your chance of having a bingo.
- Don’t underestimate the worth of S’s and blanks. Many novices waste their blank tile for an extra 1-10 points. Treat the S and blank as being worth around 8 and 40 points, respectively.
- Try to balance the vowel:consonant ratio on your rack. You should avoid keeping 3 or 4 vowels and no consonants unless your play scores much better than other plays.
- If you have a Q on your rack with no U, you should find a way to rid the Q as quickly as possible, or exchange it. Memorizing the Q-without-U words helps.
- Don’t “save up” for a killer word. Waiting to draw a particular letter (even a common one) will generally keep your score low play after play. The strategy here is to “pay attention” to your leave, not “be ruled by” your leave. Plus, this strategy can backfire easily if your opponent blocks your play.
The best play typically scores well and keeps a decent rack leave. On some scenarios, it is best to sacrifice points for a better rack leave, while on others, the highest scoring play is best. You will want to use your judgment to determine which play is best.
Separating prefixes and suffixes on your rack can make bingo finding much easier. If you have a common three-letter prefix or suffix, finding a four-letter word to pair with it is much easier and has fewer permutations than finding a seven-letter word. Common prefixes are (but not limited to): RE-, IN-, OUT-, OVER-, PRE-, POST-, UN-, MIS-, DIS-, SUB-. Common suffixes are: -S, -ING, -ED, -ER/-EST, -IER/-IEST, -OVER, -OUT, -ION, -LY, -ILY, -ABLE, -IBLE, -IZE.
Few things in Scrabble are more frustrating than having a seven-letter word on your rack, and nowhere to play it. If you are well behind, try to keep the board open by playing long words or opening up spots to play a bingo. This can be risky, as your opponent can also take advantage of your openings.
If the board is closed, you may still be able to play a bingo by playing the first few (or last few) letters of your word parallel to a word on the board. To do this, you will need to know the two-letter words.
A stem is a combination of six letters that combines well with many letters to form seven-letter words. An example is TISANE, which combines with 24 letters of the alphabet (every letter except Q and Y) to form a bingo. Knowing the bingos associated with the stems will go a long way. For example, if your opening rack is AEIINST, rather than exchanging I or playing AI, you should play ISATINE.
Fishing is the act of dumping one or two tiles in hopes of playing a bingo or other high-scoring play next turn. In some cases, where there are no playable bingos, it may be advisable to fish if there are no other good plays. For example, if your opening rack is AEINORT (no TWL 7’s), exchanging O is the best option, and far better than dumping six tiles (RETAIN, ORIENT, etc.).
Note that, if playing under the CSW lexicon, OTARINE# and NOTAIRE# are valid.
Scrabble/Bingos Bingo (sometimes referred to as a bonus ) is a slang term for using all seven tiles on one’s rack on any one turn. A bingo play receives an extra 50 points, in addition to what
3 Scrabble Rules That Will Help You Win
Matt Salter • Aug 15, 2020 • 6 min read
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Rule #1 – Bingo
If you play all seven tiles from your rack on a turn, it’s called a Bingo, and it gives you 50 bonus points. Serious Scrabble players are always looking for that 50 point bump. But short of expanding your vocabulary, which sounds suspiciously like work, how can you make that work for you?
Play Big, Go Home
The first tip isn’t just a tip, it’s a whole playing strategy. If you can’t play a bingo, don’t play big at all. Keep your words short: a reliable maximum is five letters, that’s just long enough to scoop up any worthwhile bonuses, and short enough to deny scoring opportunities to your opponents. When you see the makings of a big word, be patient. Let the game play out until you can lay down all seven letters and get that sweet 50 points.
Hit ‘em on the End
Most seven-letter or longer plays rely on suffixes or plurals. It’s much easier to lay seven tiles across the end of the word with a convenient S than it is to incorporate already-played letters into your bingo word, forcing you to find room for all those tiles on a crowded board. The best way to keep your opponents from a bingo, therefore, is to scoop up all the ends for yourself. Make sure worrying words are capped off with a neat S or ED.
Are You Challenging Me?
No. No, you aren’t. As a rule, if a bingo goes down, your opponent has been thinking about it for a while. They know it’s good. They’re betting their game on it. Don’t lose a turn and let them rack up more points with a bogus challenge.
Rule #2 – Dictionaries
You can use any dictionary in Scrabble. Always agree on a dictionary to use for challenges before you begin a game. That’s what keeps Scrabble civilized: no matter how acrimonious things get over the board, the big book of words (or convenient and stylish website) gets final say. How does that help us? Well…
Know Your Book
There is an official Scrabble dictionary. Two of them, actually: the Official Scrabble Players’ Dictionary (OSPD) for normal play, and the Official Tournament and Club Word List (OTCWL) for regulated competitive play. How do you game them for your benefit?
You don’t. Those books are designed to keep the game simon-pure. We’re fixing to get dirty. If you want an edge, pick a dictionary that you know is easier on slang and neologisms than the official list. That gives you a whole pocketful of words that may never occur to your opponents to play. Better yet, if someone challenges you on it, they lose a turn and you rake in points.
The nice thing about using a dictionary is your word only has to be in the dictionary. It doesn’t have to be a word anyone on Earth ever actually uses. The best way to implement this trick is to stuff big things in small packages. Unless you’re a Scotsman in love or an aikido practitioner, you have no reason to use the word JO. But it’s in your dictionary, and it’s 11 points in two tiles. XU (an out-of-date Vietnamese currency) and ZAX (a tool for cutting slate) are other examples of big things in small packages.
Lay the Bait
This is the dark side of increasing your vocabulary with the various high-scoring cultural obscurities above. Learning words that are common in dictionaries but unknown in conversation is also beautiful bait. Lay down ZAXES on a triple word score and count the seconds until your opponent asserts a righteous — and entirely invalid — challenge. No turn for them. Free turn full of scoring opportunities for you.
Rule #3 – Bonuses
Premium squares: using those bonus squares to your advantage seem pretty straightforward. They literally explain what they are on the board: triple word scores have “triple word score” written right on them. How are we to co-opt them into our nefarious Scrabble schemes?
Like so, young apprentice.
Remember this rule always: any amount of points for you is better than any amount of points for your opponent. You may feel you’re “wasting” a bonus opportunity by playing a mediocre word for triple points. Fight that feeling. You aren’t just picking up an acceptable if unremarkable number of points. You’re removing scoring opportunities from the board.
Every bonus counts. If you play a word that hits a triple letter score and a double word score, the letter triples, THEN the word doubles. Stack bonuses like that for massive damage. Those opportunities don’t come often, but when they do, they decide games.
The Best Offense Is a Good Defense
There’s a game called Go. Game geeks like to wax lyrical about Go. It’s thousands of years old and has never changed from a single, beautifully simple principle: two players take turns laying black stones or white ones on a 19-by-19 board. Whoever controls the most space at the end, even by a single increment, wins.
When you play Scrabble, think Go. Your goal isn’t to lay down a list of words. It’s to control the board. Strategic, defensive play can remove whole sections of scoring possibilities from your opponent’s consideration.
Can’t play on that bonus square? Fine. Play a V or a C next to it. Watch your opponent sweat blood trying to think of a two-letter play with one of those letters. (There isn’t one.) String a low-scoring word across the bottom of your opponent’s best so they can’t develop it into something even better. If you want to win at Scrabble, play defense.
The phrase “lawful evil” comes from another of the world’s great games: Dungeons and Dragons. It refers to someone who twists the rules of their world to their advantage, who causes suffering and destruction while staying within the letter of the law.
We prefer to think of it as “lawful victory.” Come to your next game prepared — with the Scrabble rules, the right dictionary, a headful of strategy, and a few cheap shots in your pocket — and victory shall be yours. (Evil laugh is optional, but encouraged.)
Need more of our special brand of evil? Try the best reasons to use our Words With Friends cheat. Dark side for life.
Matt Salter has been a professional writer for over 10 years. He is a gaming and technology expert, and world-class word nerd.
Use these Scrabble rules to increase your score, decrease your opponent’s options, and help you win. These tips will bring you Scrabble success.