Your first time at a Scrabble® Club

If you have never played at a club, your first time can be very intimidating.  You might be the best player among your family and friends, but at the club, you may find the games are played somewhat differently than you play them at home.

Number of Players

All club and tournament games are played one-on-one.   This allows the savvy player to set up high-scoring plays by thinking ahead, and also increases one's average score as they are playing a word every other turn.

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Time Limit on the Game
Available clocks designed for Scrabble
All club and tournament games are timed.  Each player gets 25 minutes for the entire game before a penalty starts to be applied.  If you have any experience with tournament chess, or have used chess clocks, the procedure is similar.  When you end your turn, you hit the button on your side of  the clock, which starts your opponent's side.  In chess, you automatically lose when you go over on time.  In Scrabble, you lose 10 points for every minute and part of a minute that you "go over."  By rule, when using the commonly available Scrabble clocks, no points are deducted if the clock reads 0:00.  If it reads -0:01, that is a 10-point deduction.  -1:01 is a 20-point deduction, and so on.  As a beginner,  you may be allowed to "go over" without penalty, so discuss that possibility with the director and your opponents.

Official Club and Tournament Dictionary
The official word source for all club and tournament games is "Official Tournament and Club Word List" for root words of 9 letters or less, and "Long Word List" for root words of 10 to 15 letters.  These publications contain every word, spelled out, acceptable for play in club and tournament games, but contain no definition or parts of speech.  For example, an excerpt from the "Official Tournament and Club Word List" looks like:


Note that (1) the words are listed in strict alphabetical order, (2) words of greater than 9 letters are included if (a) they are a plural (or -ED, -ING ending) of a 9 letter or less word or (b) they have a plural that is less than 10 letters, and (3)  no information about the word is included in the list.

Except for some earlier printings (that contained PDQ and DA), all of the words found in "The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary Third Edition Approved for Recreational and School Play" will be found in the "Official Tournament and Club Word List".  If you want the meanings of the words, the Third Edition is a good book to have.  The "Official Tournament and Club Word List" also contains words considered vulgar, derogatory, or obscene.   These words are considered to derive their offensiveness from the context in which they appear, and thus are considered acceptable in club and tournament play where no meaning is assigned to any word.

Rules you didn't know

As club and tournament Scrabble has been played for many years now, many situations arise for which most players at home would not have a rule.  For instance, if you draw too many tiles, say you needed only 3, but drew 4, what should happen?  In this case your opponent would choose 3 of your tiles (if the 4 you drew were still separated from your rack, than just from those 4 tiles, else from all 8 of your tiles).  You would then expose the chosen 3 tiles, and your opponent would pick one to place back in the bag.

There are also rules to cover such misplays as missing the center square on the first turn, or exchanging tiles when there are fewer than 7 tiles remaining in the bag.  If you are unsure of how to proceed from any situation that you believe is not a valid Scrabble occurrence, ask the director to resolve the dispute, or determine what the rules require to be done from that point on.  As you get more familiar with club play, the rules will become second-nature to you.

One rule, frequently used at home, is that a played blank may be traded for the letter it represents.  This is NOT acceptable in club and tournament play.  Once a blank is played in an unchallenged or acceptable word, and the blank is designated, the blank represents the designated letter for the rest of the game, and never leaves the board.

If you have any questions, ask for a director.  He or she will be able to guide you on the proper actions for the Scrabble situation in which you find yourself.