Saturday, June 22, 2019

Word Wars (2004)

The cutthroat world of competitive Scrabble is much more exciting and bizarre than it sounds (or possibly exactly as exciting and bizarre as it sounds) and it's the subject of one of our favourite documentaries, Word Wars. Listen along below, here, or on iTunes here as we delve into high stakes competition in a seemingly trivial pursuit.


  1. Hey, as a podcast listener/Survivor fan and also a competitive Scrabble player, I appreciate you guys talking about our game! I can answer a few of the questions that came up in the podcast:

    Variance: An average player in a division 1 nationals field will beat the best players about 25-30% of the time on average. It is true that much weaker players will win much less frequently, partly because better players can just phony them and get out of bad draws a lot of the time, which mitigates some of the variance.

    Power Tiles: These are traditionally the blank, S, Z, X, Q, and J (which is worth 8 heh) - though actually the Q and J are the worst tiles in the game on average and only the blank is really OP.

    Nigel Richards: Indeed the undisputed GOAT, although he could be even better (exploitatively) if he incorporated intentional phonying into his game, which he currently doesn't.

    (Lack of) Money in the game: Your comments on this are largely true; travel costs usually eat up most of the prize money at smaller tournaments and essentially no one makes a living at scrabble. However, most of us play because we love the game and the community of players. I'm about 100th in ranking and am a fish money-wise in the best fields, but I have a ton of fun at tournaments, and often will play poker on trips to them (lots of players play both) which can help there. The social scene these days is healthy even though the prizepools aren't; it's similar in some ways I think to the scene you guys are in w.r.t RTV players/podcasters and has gotten younger since 2004. This is mostly to say that people listening to this should give our game a chance if they're so inclined to try :)

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  3. Is it just me or is Colin's audio really jumpy during this podcast at times?