If you have the rules of Scrabble (link) and the basics (link) down, it’s time to learn some intermediate strategies to take your game up a notch!

Rack Leave

If you play enough Scrabble, you’ll eventually experience situations where you have too many vowels or too many consonants.

What if I told you that many of these situations can be avoided once you start thinking about one new concept?

That concept is “rack leave,” often referred to as simply your “leave.”

Your leave is the set of letters that you don’t play on your turn.

For example, if I play FIERY from this rack on the first move of the game, my leave would be NS.

Your leave serves as the foundation for your next turn. 

When you consistently make moves that keep good leaves, you can greatly reduce the number of times you have all vowels or all consonants. 

So what makes a good leave?

Good leaves often possess an even balance of consonants and vowels, sometimes with a slight skew towards consonants.

For example, good rack leaves could consist of two consonants and one vowel, two consonants and two vowels, or three consonants and two vowels. It’s also helpful to avoid duplicated tiles in your rack leaves. 

Let’s look at an example of how to use the concept of rack leave.

With this opening rack, a reasonable move is ZIP for 28 points.

But ZITI is a better play, even though it scores only 26 points (2 fewer than ZIP).

The reason for this is that EIP is a much better leave than EIIT.

Instead of keeping three vowels and one consonant, including two Is, you can use up an extra vowel and avoid keeping duplicated tiles for a cost of only two points.

Try to think of every move you make as a combination of the score of your word and the quality of your rack leave. If you can sacrifice some points to greatly improve the quality of your rack leave, it’s often a good idea to do so.

Basic Defensive Principles

In my first article about the basics, I wrote about the importance of bonus squares and parallel plays as ways to really pump up your score.

But in Scrabble, we’re not just playing by ourselves. We have an opponent to think about, too!

One of the very first defensive principles to understand is to try and avoid placing vowels next to the bonus squares if possible.

The reason is that a vowel next to a bonus square allows your opponent to place high-scoring consonants there and make heavy scoring parallel plays of their own.

Sometimes, this makes a huge difference.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re getting ready to play FIERY as your first move. Whether you play it with the F on the center star or with the Y on the center star, it scores the same.

Where should you play your word? If the scores are the same in both spots, does it really matter?

The answer is: you should play FIERY on the left, with the Y on the center star, to avoid placing a vowel next to a Double Letter square. 

To see why, imagine that your opponent has the X.

After the right-side FIERY, your opponent could score 45 points with a play like MIX, making a parallel play with the X on the Double Letter square.

But after the left-side FIERY, those same tiles can only score 29 points. Because there are no vowels next to open bonus squares, the damage the X or other high-scoring tiles can do is limited.

Sometimes, placing vowels next to bonus squares is unavoidable, and that’s okay. But if you’re choosing between several similar options, do your best to avoid placing vowels near those lucrative bonus spots!  


As a newer player, you might be surprised to realize that you can use all of your tiles in one move to achieve an extra 50 bonus points. 

It’s the Scrabble equivalent of a “home run” or a “touchdown.” At first, it feels nearly impossible to do!

But I promise you that with time, practice, and an understanding of how longer English words are formed, you can add this dimension to your game.

I’ve written an article dedicated entirely to playing bingos that you can find here: (link) I also made a video on this topic with some of the same tips if you prefer: (link)

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