Scrabble Involves Luck and Skills (How?, Percentages, and More)

Random Scrabble game letter tiles
Kasakphoto / Shutterstock.com

Do you play Scrabble? If you do, you are probably a fairly competitive person, just like me. For me, winning at Scrabble is important, but it is also important for me to see some personal improvement with each game. I like to see that my spelling has improved and that my vocab and quick thinking skills have progressed. And over the years, they have. 

I recently heard someone say that winning at Scrabble is based on luck, and I was not so sure that I agreed with that. I was hesitant to make a remark, though, because I was not really sure what I thought. Was I winning from sheer luck, or was it based on my developing skills? I decided to look a bit more into the game and the actual gameplay to decide.  

Scrabble is a game of both luck and skill. According to John William, former director of the National Scrabble Association, community consensus is that Scrabble involves about 15% luck and 85% skills. There is luck involved in the tiles that you draw at random from the bag, but there is also skill involved in knowing what words to play next. 

Scrabble players must rely on luck to get them decent tile letters from the bag (it is really the “luck of the draw”). They must then rely on their skills (spelling, an extensive vocab, and many other skills) to ensure that they can build new words on the spur of the moment and actually win, in spite of their chosen tiles.

As it turns out, Scrabble is neither all luck nor all skill, but rather a mix of both. That suits me just fine. In fact, when I discovered this particular perspective, I must admit that it really did fit with me personally. I believe that this is the most accurate description of the game’s basis. 

If you want to learn a bit more about the luck and the skill involved in playing Scrabble and how those elements both come into play in order to win, read on. I go into a bit more detail in each area below. 

Scrabble – The Luck and Skill of the Game

It is fairly important to know what Scrabble is to you. Do you see it as a game that challenges none of your skills, or do you see it as a game that demands skills? Playing Scrabble for some is a fun and educational pastime. For others, it is an actual career. I am sure that the level of skill required for a pastime player and a pro player differ exponentially. 

Hand drawn horseshoe textured illustration and Less luck - more skills lettering
Shutterstock.com

To expand my knowledge on the subject, I decided to delve a little deeper into both the luck and the skill involved in playing Scrabble. Here is what I found…

– Luck Involved in Playing Scrabble

When playing a game of Scrabble, you are only in control of the words you actually form on the board. Luck is not the entire basis of the game, but it does form a part of it. How?, you ask.

Well, when you sit down to play Scrabble, there are several ways in which luck plays a role. The first is seen in the process required to determine the order of play. Everyone draws a tile out of the bag, and the person who has the tile that is the closest to the letter ‘A’ gets to start the game. That is not where the luck element ends, though.

There is more luck involved when you actually start the game. You might not actively realize it, but every time you draw a tile from the bag, you are exposing yourself to luck. It could be good luck, or it could be bad luck, there is just no way of knowing – that is just the nature of luck! You might just end up with a selection of tiles that makes word-forming almost impossible, but then again, you could get a serving of the most common letter tiles that make word-forming absolutely easy – and you can watch your score rack up!

Luck strikes again when it comes to the time that you have to exchange your tiles. Most players only exchange tiles if they absolutely have to – this is a last resort because it also means that you miss a turn (you do not get to play tiles when you exchange them because a tile exchange is considered a turn). This is done by dropping the unwanted tiles into the bag, giving the bag a shake around, and then drawing the same number of tiles out again and placing them on the rack. 

If you are lucky, you will not end up with the same tiles that you just dropped in. If you are unlucky, you might end up with some of them, if not all of them! That would be really bad luck!

There is another element of luck for you when another player experiences some bad luck. That might sound obscure, but it is actually quite simple. If another player hits some bad luck and draws inconvenient tiles (tiles that they cannot play or are difficult to play), your luck has changed for the better. This is because they have drawn the poor tiles out of the bag, and you have the opportunity to get a better array of tiles when your turn comes around.

– The Skill Involved in Playing Scrabble

Closeup of plastic letters with word success on Scrabble board game
NeydtStock / Shutterstock.com

Something that I did not really notice before was that there are actually many skills involved in playing Scrabble. Something that is quite interesting and beneficial is that while playing Scrabble, you will develop additional skills that you might not have had. 

In terms of skills, Scrabble could be considered a true “skills development” game. I have always known that Scrabble works wonders on developing a person’s vocab, but I was surprised to find out that it works on a whole host of other skills too. Below are a few of them listed for your perusal;

Scrabble Requires Good Spelling Skills. 

The more you play Scrabble and are exposed to the correct spelling of words, the easier it will become to spell words correctly on demand. That said, it is still important to start playing Scrabble with some spelling abilities, or you might just feel left out.

You Need a Decent Amount of Creativity to Play Scrabble (and win). 

To come up with a word on the spur of the moment takes creativity. It is certainly creative to look at a board of lettered tiles and find opportunities to add words to it! Much the same, the more creatively you are forced to think while playing Scrabble, the more creatively your brain will start to think in all areas of your life.

Decision-Making Skills are required to Play Scrabble. 

Players need to be able to make firm and concise decisions. You also need to be able to quickly decide when to play one word instead of another and when to miss a turn for the sake of strategy. All of this requires you to be confident in your decision-making skills. 

You Need Good Time Management Skills to Play Scrabble.

Timing is everything. Time management is everything too! Many job interviewers specifically look for candidates who are able to demonstrate good time management skills. Scrabble can help you in that department; you will learn to respond and create words in the allotted time frame. Playing Scrabble often will teach you to think quickly and work quickly, therefore managing your time better. 

Time management concept
Shutterstock.com

You Need the Skill of Opportunistic Thinking to Be Victorious at Scrabble. 

You might be wondering how opportunistic thinking plays a role in this at all. I personally believe that being able to pick up on opportunities is a great skill to have – in all areas of life. When it comes to Scrabble, it takes skill to see the opportunity to create a word on the Scrabble board. This is a skill that Scrabble can also develop. The more you are exposed to possible opportunities and watch how others take advantage of them, the more your brain will become attuned to that way of thinking. 

Last Word

Whether Scrabble is a game of luck or skill (or both) is really of little consequence if you enjoy the game. For me, Scrabble is about spending quality time with family and friends, laughing and having fun, and also broadening my horizons when it comes to spelling and vocabulary.

Over the years, the game has become a fond favorite for our family, and I am confident that we will keep passing it down from generation to generation with little thought or care as to whether it is a game of skill or luck. However, to those who need to know the answer to this question…the answer is simple: Scrabble is a game of both skill and luck.