One of the most basic strategies to improve at Scrabble is learning how to keep a good leave. Keeping a good leave is vital as it allows you to score consistently, creating a sustained barrage of scoring turn after turn after turn.
Before we discuss what constitutes a good leave, it’s important that we discuss how to even get to the point where we can think about keeping a good leave: play finding that is focused on problem solving.
All too often, Scrabble players will focus on looking for plays based on the letters easiest to use, when instead they should focus on using the letters that are obstacles in their rack.
Keeping a good leave is not just learning what to keep, but also learning what to avoid keeping. More than anything, good leaves require balance and moderation: letters that work well together and don’t get in each others’ way.
With that, let’s proceed to the article: how to keep a good leave in Scrabble.
When you have a lot of vowels or consonants on your rack, you should focus on burning them to create a more ideal vowel-consonant balance. Make sure to keep a proportionate number of vowels and consonants.
The ideal Scrabble rack has 4 consonants and 3 vowels: try to keep leaves that approximate this proportion. If the bag contains lots of vowels, then you’ll want to start containing consonant-heavy leaves, and likewise, if the bag contains a lot of consonants, you’ll want to keep a lot of vowel-heavy leaves.
When you have duplicated tiles, you should seek to play those duplicated tiles immediately, and avoid tile duplication whenever possible. Whether it’s keeping two ‘I’s on your rack or keeping an E when there are 9 Es left and the game is mostly over, always be mindful of the potential to be stuck wih duplicate tiles on future racks.
Keeping duplicate tiles limits your ability to form words on future turns, prohibiting you from using hotspots or playing bingos.
Whenever possible, try to keep letter combinations that work well together, such as QU, NG, CH, LY, etc. These tiles are said to have synergy: it is much easier to score well when these tiles are used together as they form a lot of words.
Similarly, try to avoid keeping letters that don’t have a lot of synergy together, such as UV, UY, CG, and JR. These letters don’t coexist in many words together, and as such should be used separately so long as it’s not too big of a sacrifice in score to do so.
Good Tiles and Bad Tiles
Learn which tiles to keep — and which tiles to get rid of. Tiles like the blank, S, Z, and X are strong tiles that should be preserved for a high scoring play in most instances, while tiles such as the Q, V, W, and G should usually be spent quickly, as they are clunky, inflexible tiles that are difficult to score with.
Many players misunderstand what constitutes a good leave. Some players think the C is a bad tile since it forms few two letter words, and they think that the U is a good tile since it’s protection against the Q. As a general rule, you should avoid keeping high point tiles outside the Z, X, H, and C.
Learn what makes a strong bingo leave. Good bingo leaves contain mostly letters in the word CREDENTIALS, with no clunky or duplicated letters and a good balance of vowels and consonants.
Maintaining leaves with bingo synergy will lead you to playing bingos on future turns, especially on an open board and if you’ve taken the time to learn some useful bingos.
Let the Board Guide You
Adjust your analysis of tile leave based on the opportunities remaining on the board. Look for useful hooks or potential scoring spots that could dramatically alter your valuation on which tiles you should keep: looking high scoring possibilities as well as incompatibilities with the only tiles remaining.
If you can’t find a good scoring play and your rack is imbalanced, it’s time to exchange.
While exchanges might forfeit your ability to score points for one turn, it will also enable you a fresh start without being hamstrung with a bad leave on future turns. Think of it as an investment in your future scoring potential: an investment that’s bound to pay off on future turns!
Using these tips, you should be able to score more consistently over the course of a Scrabble game. Using these tips could lead to an average increase in score of up to 100 points!