10 obscure Scrabble rules you probably never knew — and how to use them to your advantage

Gareth Cattermole/Getty ImagesScrabble rules can vary depending on region and level.
  • The rules to the board game Scrabble are not definitive.
  • The rules differ according to region and level, which means many of them are up for interpretation.
  • The key to a fair Scrabble game is to come to a consensus on the debatable rules prior to playing.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Scrabble, a board game in which players create words in a crossword fashion with lettered tiles, was born out of one out-of-work architect’s desire to lift the spirits of millions during the Great Depression in 1933.

This April 13th marks Scrabble’s 86th year of existence, and to commemorate the occasion, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most hotly contested Scrabble rules out there.

Whether you’re playing for fun or competing professionally, these 10 obscure Scrabble rules are worth memorising before your next match.

Any words found in a standard dictionary are permitted — except those that are “always capitalised, abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes standing alone, and words requiring a hyphen or an apostrophe.”

Flickr/Virginia State ParksMake sure everyone knows the rules.

The problem is that these rules leave too much room for ambiguity: dictionaries evolve over time, as does language and inflection. The easiest way to solve this rule is to buy (or look up) a Scrabble dictionary, and have all participating players agree on one dictionary prior to beginning the game.

Bluffing is allowed. In fact, a successful bluff could earn you major points.

Betsssssy/FlickrYou can fake a word.

According to David Bukszpan, author of “Is That A Word? From AA to ZZZ: The Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble” bluffing – or making up “phoney” words (the Scrabble term for bluffing) is totally OK.

He goes so far as to claim that it’s a “critical aspect of the game,” as is the ability to recognise when someone is lying, and calling them out on their falsehoods.

You can get a bingo in Scrabble.

Andrew Burton/Getty ImagesA woman cheering.

A “bingo” occurs in Scrabble when a player uses all of their tiles in one turn. If you get a bingo, you earn all the points for the word you played, plus an additional 50 points.

If a word covers two triple-word squares, you get nine times the points.

angela n./Flickr/AttributionThe play is known as a ‘triple-triple.’

This play is known as a “triple-triple,” and you calculate the score by first adding the values of the individual tiles in the word (while making sure to factor in any double letter score bonuses, if possible), and then multiplying that number by nine.

It is acceptable to extend in front of AND at the end of a word in a single turn.

Flickr/Jono235Words can be extended.

For example, if the word “arm” is on the board, but you have the letters ‘c’, ‘h’, ‘e’, and ‘d’, you could legally play the word “charmed.”

You can play words without vowels.

David Martyn Hunt/Flickr‘Tsktsks’ is a valid word to play.

Scrabble doesn’t count the letter ‘y’ as a vowel, and as such, you can successfully play quite a few words without vowels for points. Two of the 7-letter words without vowels that the Scrabble dictionary recognises include “tsktsks” and “glycyls.”

Opponents can challenge a play, but players need to agree whether a lost challenge loses points or a turn before the game begins.

If you suspect that your competitor is attempting to play a word that doesn’t exist, you can challenge and check their play – just make sure you and your fellow players reach a consensus on how to treat a challenged play before the game begins.

For example, most people agree that if a challenged word is proven to be false, the person who played the fake word must take back their tiles and lose their turn.

Some versions of Scrabble go one step further, adhering to the “Double Challenge Rule,” whereby the challenger stands to lose their turn, should they challenge a word that ends up being acceptable for play.

Competitive Scrabble players often adapt the Double Challenge Rule, and agree that challenging players should lose five points for an incorrect challenge, rather than lose their turn.

Passing if you don’t have any words to play is allowed.

StocksnapSometimes you don’t have any good letters.

Sometimes, you just can’t make any words on the board with your tiles.

The game ends after six consecutive passes.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty ImagesMake sure not to pass more than six times in a row.

If zero points are scored in six consecutive turns (whether through false words being successfully challenged, or passes), the match ends.

The game also ends once someone uses up all their tiles, provided the bag of letters is empty.

Patty Hocker/NASPAA scrabble tournament.

Once the bag is empty, as soon as one player uses up all of their tiles, the game ends. If the bag is empty, but no players are able to use up their tiles, the game continues until no players can play any more words on the board.

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