What Can You Learn About A Person By Playing Scrabble With Them?

Everything you need to know.

Linda Horton
Mar 27, 2019 · 6 min read

I’ve heard it said that you can learn everything you need to know about a person on the golf course. Surely this is true, but since I am a board game girl and not a golfer, I would say the same about playing Scrabble with someone.

Here’s what I’ve learned about people after playing thousands of games of Scrabble, both online and the old-school board game.

Intelligence- It’s not all about having a big vocabulary and putting words together. It’s about strategy. A well-placed two-letter word can be worth more than a “bingo” (when you use all 7 letters, resulting in an extra 50 points in addition to word value). The World Champion Scrabble players are typically not even English speakers, but mathematicians who have learned the words, and where to best place them on the board.

That is not to say that all intelligent people are good at Scrabble, but the best players I’ve known are super smart, and will catch on quick, even if they’ve never played before. The most pleasant players are also emotionally intelligent, and have fun with the game, rather than exhibiting some of the problematic traits lined out below.

Patience- This is not an issue with the online game so much, as quite often a round can go on for days — one move at a time — as schedules allow. But when playing face-to-face with the board game, you can really see who has a low tolerance for waiting. There is a timer included with the game — I believe it’s 60 seconds — but I don’t use it. Most agree that it’s more fun to take it easy, and move at a comfortable pace.

Typically, I will take a reasonable amount of time to come up with something good, but if I feel like I’m taking too long, I will just put something down, even if it’s not a spectacular move. I think it’s just considerate to self-monitor how long it’s taking, so the other person doesn’t have to wait too long. This is where you can see how impatient people can be. Sometimes, even a reasonable amount of time is too long for some people. This is when I might suggest using a timer, since these same people might take forever when it’s their turn, not considering the other person.

The way I see it, if the other person is taking a long time, this gives me an opportunity to come up with an even better word, as I have more time to study the board. The impatient person just wants to take their turn. They can’t just sit back and enjoy the journey, and this is indicative of how they could be in other situations. It’s not fun sitting in traffic with this kind of person.

Dealing With Adversity- OK, there’s nothing worse than someone who complains about their letters. Unlike in life, you can turn those letters in and get new ones. Sure, you lose a turn, but it’s usually worth it.

There’s absolutely no reason to whine about having all vowels, or whatever. Turn them in, and swap them out. It’s pretty tough to dig your way out of having all vowels by playing them, but there’s no need. You have the option to get rid of all of them at once, or just a few.

Seriously, quit whining. Nobody likes a complainer, especially when there is a solution to the problem. We all get dealt crappy letter combinations. Deal with it. You’ll get no sympathy from me, and it’s just irritating.

Perseverance- Again, we all get bad letters. Sometimes we swap them a couple times in a game, and it’s still not going our way. We lose some games simply due to luck of the draw. Sometimes the board is just not working in our favor either. There are plenty of times when I have a sweet, 7-letter word, and nowhere to put it. It’s a bummer, but you move on.

You can complain about it during and after the game, or you can just hope that your next game is better, and it usually is. There’s always another game, and another chance to win.

Some people just want to give up after a bad round or two, but others become doubly motivated, and determined to power through that losing streak to victory.

We are all going to lose. But the more you play, the better you get. Keep playing, and don’t give up. Don’t be a quitter.

Competitiveness- I play to win, like I assume everyone does. One time, after I blocked someone from putting down a triple word, he said “Oh, so THAT’S how we’re going to play!”. Um, yeah. I mean, that’s part of strategizing and playing the game. I suppose I am competitive, but isn’t that why we play games, or sports, or whatever?

So, if you play me, I’m going to want to win, and so does everyone else I play with at this point. That’s the fun part — the healthy competition. If you think I’m being unfair, or a bad person, because I want to win, we probably wouldn’t make good partners — Scrabble or otherwise.

Sportsmanship- It’s always nice to hear a compliment from the other player when you throw down a particularly high-scoring word, as opposed to hearing them groan at the point total when you suddenly take the lead.

When it’s a close, nail-biter of a game, that is the best. Hearing “good game!” is always a nice acknowledgement of a fun, exciting round, whether it’s from the winner or loser.

Unfortunately, some people only have their eye on the prize, and if they don’t win, there are no congratulations to the victor. Don’t be a sore loser.

Humility- Thinking about the two best opponents I’ve ever had, one is a Harvard-educated lawyer, the other is guy who fills vending machines.

The lawyer consistently kicks my ass 4 out of 5 times, and never gloats about it. She’s just that good, and there’s no reason for her to brag about it, or feel superior. She’s my favorite person to play with, because I have to try harder, and when I do beat her, it’s a feeling of accomplishment.

The vending machine guy was a humble, hardworking guy who liked to play Scrabble. He was the best opponent I’d had at the time, and I was more impressed by his humility than his game-playing skills. He won every game, and he enjoyed playing, even though I didn’t offer any real challenge to him.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so humble, and will gloat and act superior when they win. These people are typically not good players — in Scrabble, or in life. Be a gracious winner.

Maturity- I’ve had someone forfeit a game when I put a 7-letter word down on my first move. I’ve heard of someone overturning the table — tiles everywhere — when they lost. I’ve experienced someone having a hissy fit when they didn’t win a single game (of 3), then refusing to ever play again.

Grow up, people.

If someone throws down major points on the first move, I am determined to kick some butt from that point on, but that’s just me (and most good players).

It’s OK if you don’t enjoy the game and don’t want to play anymore, but let’s be adults about it. It’s not really fun to do anything that you aren’t good at, but just move on without the theatrics, folks.

The Big Picture- I love playing Scrabble. I win sometimes, I lose sometimes.

My skills are what they are, and although I always strive to be better, I deal with the variables of every game as best I can, with the tools I have right now.

If I have a bad game, I hope the next one is better. I try harder, and do my best, but some things are out of my control, and I accept this.

I learn new words, and different tips every day, and that makes me a better player. I will continue to learn and grow.

Just like life!

But not everyone plays the same way…

Life’s Funny

Documenting life’s absurdities.

Linda Horton

Written by

Born a photographer, but prone to writing haiku on public transportation, or baking things. Death Doula in training. info@lindahortonphotography.com

Life’s Funny

Documenting life’s absurdities. Life IS funny, but not always in a “haha” kind of way :) Let’s hear your stories!

Linda Horton

Written by

Born a photographer, but prone to writing haiku on public transportation, or baking things. Death Doula in training. info@lindahortonphotography.com

Life’s Funny

Documenting life’s absurdities. Life IS funny, but not always in a “haha” kind of way :) Let’s hear your stories!

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