Can’t Handle My Scrabble!

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Last updated on February 7th, 2024 at 10:09 pm

Scrabble is a hell of a game—horribly underestimated, though. Often I hear it lumped together with other family games such as The Game of Life and Monopoly, but Scrabble is far more than trying to place a bunch of tiles to win. It RELIES of you making the right moves to survive. It’s a great game for increasing mental acuity, being fast on the draw when problems need solving, and of course—expanding one’s vocabulary.

It’s sold in 121 countries, is played in 29 different languages, and has been around for 63 years.

But Scrabble is a vicious game. It can show you people’s bad sides very, VERY quickly. It can make or break FRIENDSHIPS. Past the strategy, vocabulary and sharpness that’s involved in a good game of Scrabble, there’s one thing it’s taught me above all else — HUMILITY.

There was once a time where I thought I couldn’t be beat. I’m not the most amazing player, but I’m pretty good at it. I know the 50-odd two-letter words, play strategically to maximize my scores, and grow my vocabulary with each game I play. I’ve been playing Scrabble for as long as I can remember. I’ve also had people refuse to play Scrabble with me for as long as I can remember:

  • Jr. Scrabble with my next-door neighbour (until she wouldn’t play with me anymore, because I’d win too much)
  • Scrabble with my family (until THEY wouldn’t play with me anymore amidst all the accusations of cheating whenever I’d put a well-placed move to steal ahead in points—unless it was a holiday, where my Dad would release me as a secret weapon against OTHER family members)
  • Yahoo! Literati with my high school friends (until they decided to storm off in a huff)
  • Lexulous and Scrabulous (until they got the pants sued off of them by Hasbro)

I generally did very well, getting the odd loss here and there (such as the notorious loss to my baby brother in a 4-player game, or the standard beatings I’d get from my friend Will in Australia or several of my friends from high school), but for the most part, I believed I was UNSTOPPABLE.

That is, until I trained my friend NJ.

Eager to learn the ins and outs of REALLY playing Scrabble, I would teach. Game by game, new tricks and tips, things to look out for—any tactic I would use, I’d teach. And NJ learned quick—really REALLY quick.

I soon found out why people would get so frustrated playing against me as I saw the best spaces eaten up with monstrous scientific words I didn’t know. As plays were made to entrap me in “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenarios. I’d single-handedly created a Scrabble monster.

But this is far from where the lessons would stop—creating a nigh-unstoppable opponent who knew my brain better than I knew it myself was only the tip of the iceberg!

Another bad habit that had to be beaten out of my stubborn self was constantly underestimating my opponents. If I hadn’t played someone before, I’d assume that they were a novice.

Stupid move.

Considering the number of people who play Scrabble across the world, that’s pretty arrogant. Within some of the more recent games of Scrabble (or Words with Friends on the iPad/iPod Touch), I’ve had my ass handed to me by playing too loosely in the opening rounds, letting my opponents create a chasm of points that I could never hope to cross.

So, lesson learned. If you ever need to know where you stand in the world, challenge someone to a game of Scrabble. Maybe you’ll win! Or maybe you’ll find that you’re not QUITE as skilled as you thought. Didn’t study strategy well enough. Didn’t memorize enough exotic words from the Scrabble Dictionary. Whatever makes you lose, I hope you take something from it. For me, it’s that there will always be someone better in the world. And really? I’m okay with that.

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad



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