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All about the OFFICIAL SCRABBLE rules               HOME

Things I Witness Players Doing Wrong . . .The Rules


The Situation:  Its the last play of the game.  I make my final play using the rest of my tiles.  I announce my score and I hit the clock, starting my opponent’s clock.  What if anything have I done wrong?  The player who is going out should announce their score then neutralize the clock.


The Situation:  Its my turn during the game, there are more than 7 tiles remaining in the bag, and I plan to exchange all 7 of the tiles on my rack.  I announce to my opponent that I am exchanging all 7 tiles.  I hit the clock, starting my opponent’s clock.  I reach in the bag and draw 7 tiles and place them all facedown on the table in front of me. My opponent calls “Director”.  What if anything have I done wrong.  In this case, what you do is more important than what you say.  The tiles from my rack that I plan to exchange MUST be placed face down on the table before drawing new tiles.  In this case, since I didn’t place any of my tiles face down before I hit the clock, I must return the new tiles to the bag and I lose my turn, as if I simply passed.



Placement Of The First Word . . .The Rules


The Situation:  Cinderella has been running late all day and shows up to club 5 minutes late.  The number of players present was odd when Cinderella arrived.  The director had been sitting out and invites Cinderella to settle down and play a game.  Cinderella and the director draw tiles; she gets a ‘C’ and the director draws an ‘I’.  Cinderella goes first.  After drawing seven tiles, Cinderella immediately see the word ‘PRINCE’ on her rack and hurriedly place the word on the board, announces the score, and hits her clock.  The director calls, “HOLD”.  Cinderella had placed her word horizontally on the line above the center-square.


Why did the director say HOLD?  What options does the director have in this scenario?


The RULE says that the first word MUST cover the center-square.  Either horizontal or vertical both are acceptable.  But the way Cinderella played her word invites the director to challenge the word off the board.  The way the                                          word is played it would earn 16 points.  When a first word is played                                                   correctly, covering the center square it earn double.  Played this way                                               if accepted would not be doubled.  The director’s rack contains the                                                   letters CEIRSVX. The director considered if he could take                                                   advantage of Cinderella’s mistake.  Seeing that he could make a                                                 play for 244 points, he chose to allow the play to remain where played.                                          The director played CERVIXES from the top-center TWS down through the ‘E’.


Cinderella lost the game with the director but always remembered the costly lesson learned that evening and was always on time or early to scrabble club from that day going forward.





Cheating: Regarding Math Errors . . .The Rules


The Situation:  Each time a play is made the player making the play announces his/her score and players write down the cumulative scores.  I’m sure, if you are a frequent player, you’ve had an opponent or two who seemingly can’t add and count their score, making error after error.  With the first error or two I simply smile and make a correction.  By the 3rd or 4th error I am totally annoyed that I am deflected from giving my whole attention to playing my game; I am being forced to watch and recount my opponent’s every play.  By mid-game I only make corrections when the correction goes in my favor.  I think to myself that my opponent deserves to lose if they can’t compute their correct score.


  1. Q. Is a player responsible for his/her scorekeeping?  Am I my opponent’s keeper?


The rule book is very specific about this issue.  If you are aware of an error YOU are responsible to point it out to your opponent.  Not to do so is considered CHEATING.  At times I have been known to restart my opponent’s clock and suggest, “You may want to recount your score on that play.”   If the opponent makes the same kind of computation error 3 or more times I’ll stop the clock and call “DIRECTOR”.


YOU are responsible for both you and tour opponent in every game you play.  Stay focused.  Some players have been known to ‘undercount’ their scores during the game so if there is a recount later on, those points will appear and snatch a victory.  Some players will do most anything to WIN.


Handheld calculators are legal to bring to the table.


At the end of a close game, either player may request a recount, regardless of the score, be there a differential of 2 points or 92 points.   In order to be prepared for a potential recount there are a few things that you should be doing during the game: write your scores clearly; verify accurate arithmetic; and write the words played.  Without that information written down you’ll have to rely on the memory of yourself and your opponent.  The director will allow your recount as long as the time taken for the recount does not interrupt the flow of play at club or in a tournament.  No third party, including the director, is permitted to participate in your recount.  If only one player wants the recount, the other player may take part in the recount or at a minimum provide his/her scoresheet and notes taken during the game.


When the winner is determined it is the responsibility of the winner to complete the TALLY SLIP and submit it to the director and/or statistician.



All About Time . . . Rules


  1. Q. How much time do you receive for your portion of a game?  If you go overtime, is there a penalty and how does that work?


All sanctioned games at clubs and tournaments allow 25 minutes of playing time per player in a single game.  There is an exception: a player with a handicap which is acknowledged by the director may receive and additional 5 minutes.


Time clocks are used to measure the time consumed.  Digital Clocks are preferred to Analog Clocks.


If and when a player’s allotted time is used up and the game is still in progress, that player is considered to be in ‘negative time’.  Negative time erodes a players point total.  At 1 second of overtime a player loses 10 points.  A player loses 10 points for every minute or fraction of a minute on overtime.  Ex:  2min 3sec = 30 point penalty;  2min 58sec = 30 point penalty.

If a player reaches a point when they are 10 minutes overtime the game is officially ended.  The player who has 10 minutes overtime loses even if he/she has the most points scored.


Once a game has begun, the only times that the clock is allowed to stop are these:

  1. Both players agree to stop the clock to verify the score.

  2. When a ‘CHALLENGE’ is made the challenger stops the clock.

  3. When the director is called, the caller stops the clock.

  4. When the game is over, the player going out neutralizes the clock.


When players do not use clocks a host of issues can arise and can rarely be settled efficiently and fairly.  Since the director isn’t standing there watching the game, when issues arise it becomes a ‘he said, she said’.




The 6-Consecutive-Zero Score Rule


Q.  Is it possible to win a game of scrabble having a ( - ) negative score?


A.  The official rule has changes at least two times in recent years.  The way this has happened relates to the the rule that states:  In the event that there are a total of six ( 6 ) turns in a row for zero points and then one player neutralizes the clock, the game is over.


Example:  A player passing results in 0 (zero) points.    A player exchanging tiles results in 0 (zero) points.    A play being challenged off the board results in 0 (zero) points.


This actually occurred at a National Scrabble Tournament in the Expert Division.  Player #1 exchanged tiles on the first play of the game.  Player #2 played ‘SEALI?N’  ( BLANK being an ‘O’) and was challenged off the board.  Player #1 played ‘MIAOUER’ and was challenged off the board.  Player #2 was sure that there was a bingo in his rack so he tried ‘IS?LEAN’ and was challenged off the board.  Player #1 was weary from looking at all of his vowels and exchanged I, O and U (then drawing F, H, V).  Player #2, knowing the 6-zero rule, and knowing that the face value of his tiles was only 6 points, PASSED and neutralized the clock.


Player #1 did not know the 6-zero rule and called the director.  The director explained the rule and confirmed that the game was over.

Player #1’s rack was MAERFHV = negative 18.   Player #2’s rack was AEILNS? = negative 6.


SEALION is commonly played by players new to the competitive scene.  The 1 legal word in that rack is ‘ANISOLE’.




The Who-Plays-First  Rule  /  Situating yourself at the table


  1. Q. When two people decide to play a game of scrabble, who plays first?


  1. A. All 100 tiles are dropped into a tile bag which is deep enough so that the tiles are unseen.  Each play draws a single tile from the bag and displays the tile so the letter on the tile can be read.  The player who drew the tile closest to ‘A’ plays first.


Exceptions:  A BLANK beats an ‘A’.   In the event that both players draw identical letters from the bag, those two tiles remain on the board and each player draws a second tile, etc.


The player who goes second gets to choose the equipment used during the game (board, tiles, and clock) as long as it is *most preferable.  A board with standard colors beats out a non-standard board; Tiles which are easily read are preferable to older faded tiles, a digital clock is preferable to an analog clock.  A quiet clock is preferable to a noisy ticking clock.


The player who is going second determines who sits on which side of the board and which side of the board the clock rests.


Some players may prefer to  sit up higher upon pillows on there chair.  Some of these choices are simply staging to possibly intimidate the opponent.  Don’t react to such ploys.


Many players possess custom tile racks.  They may use there custom tile racks, regardless of length as long as when tiles are placed upon the rack, the opponent can clearly tell how many tiles are there, by seeing their tops.


If there is a glare on your board from light coming in though a window, you may pull down a shade.  If it is too dark in one area of the room you may find another spot to play or if possible, alter the lighting.


  1. Q.What other factors should be addressed before play begins?


  1. A. Are Challenge Slips available at you table.  Both players must understand that Challenge Slips must be use as a part of every challenge situation.  After declaring a challenge, the challenger MUST print the word/words being challenged in CAPITOL letters upon the challenge slip.


    *In the event a computer is being used as the word judge, the challenger may add additional      words to the list of words being challenged up until the words are typed into the computer.


  1. B. Blank Designation Slips should be available at the playing table and used whenever a player

     uses a blank on the board.


C  Contestant Score Sheets at hand.


  1. *No Food or Drink at the table to avoid spilling on the equipment.

  2. *Use the restroom prior to the start of the game, or know the rules regarding leaving the table.

  3. *A Blank Scoresheet and Blank Paper are the only items you can bring to the table.

  4. *Writing utensils that work.





How Does One Complete Their Turn - The Rule


  1. Q. What Are The 9 Specific Steps For Taking A Turn?


a.       After your opponent’s last play, record the cumulative score. (May be waived if bag is empty.)

b.      Position your tiles on the board. You may remove or reposition tiles before starting opponent’s clock.

c.       If playing a blank, designate it appropriately.

d.      Declare the score.

e.       Start your opponent’s clock, ending your turn. If opponent’s clock has already been running, the turn ends after step d.

f.        Record your cumulative score. (May be waived if bag is empty.) You may NOT  pre-record this score.

  1. g.  Record your play, if desired.

  2. h.    Draw tiles to replenish your rack.

  3. i.    Track tiles, if desired.

When is your turn officially over?  (see ‘e.’ above)

If it is your opponent’s turn, when should you ‘HOLD’ or ‘CHALLENGE’ ?  To be safe, when you are considering a challenge, say “HOLD” almost immediately after your opponent starts your clock.  You can keep your opponent ’holding’ as long as you wish.  While your opponent is on hold, your clock is running.  After being on hold for fifteen seconds your opponent may draw replenishment tiles and keep them separately from the other tiles on his rack.

    In the event you don’t say “HOLD” or “CHALLENGE” and your opponent has already drawn replenishment tiles, it is too late for you to hold or challenge.

    At times, a sneaky player attempts to ‘fast bag’.  That’s when that player goes through the 9 steps so quickly that you may feel that you didn’t have enough time to hold or challenge.  It is your responsibility to be aware of your opponent’s style and protect yourself by saying HOLD.