One of the biggest challenges for newer Scrabble players is finding bonuses. Bonuses require using all of the letters on your rack, usually forming either a 7 or 8 letter word and attaining a 50 point bonus. Most expert players average a bonus every ~6 turns.
You might be asking yourself: “How is this possible?” For most amateur players, a bonus is a rarity, and playing one would give you a high likelihood of winning a game. Indeed, playing a bonus does rely on keeping good leaves of balanced, low point tiles, allowing you more realistic permutations that can result in a bonus.
However, once you do have good tiles, it’s time to look for that elusive bonus. Here are some tips that will allow you to find bonuses more successfully:
1. Look for letter combinations, prefixes, and suffixes. Letter combinations such as RE/ER, CH, FF, ST, LY, ED, ING, etc. can help make finding a bonus a much easier task. It is always easier to anagram words when you only have to anagram a few letters at a time.
2. Use high point tiles (except for the Y) as soon as possible: they often start or appear extremely early in words. Move these letters to the beginning of your rack to make word finding generally easier. Once you fix letters to the beginning or the end of the word, your mind will have a lot easier time visualizing which words are possible.
3. Look for combinations that solve potential problems such as vowel-consonant ratio or duplication. With consonant heavy racks, look for combinations that use multiple consonants consecutively: with vowels, look for words that start with vowels and space the vowels evenly throughout the word. With duplicates, either try to combine the duplicates together, or space the duplicates into separate components, often forming compound words.
4. Permute, starting with letters that are likely to start words (usually the high point tiles, then other consonants, then vowels) or letters likely to end words (Y, S, etc.) and figure out plausible next letters in hopes of finding a bonus solution. While this is often difficult to do, a lot of these bonuses are findable if you’re willing to look for them. This is also useful to do with 8 letter words, as often you are somewhat restricted as to which words will fit on the board.
5. Look for shorter words (especially common ones such as WOOD, WORK, LIKE, etc.) and see if they can combine with the rest of your tiles to form a bonus.
Note: Not all words are going to fit these patterns easily. Here are a few common words that are likely going to be very hard to find using these techniques. For these sorts of words, there’s little choice: unless you are extremely gifted at anagramming, you have to <<>>
If you’d like some practice, head over to my Puzzles page to practice your bonus finding skills!