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 Frequently Asked Questions


The following are Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Newcomers:



Q. How much are Club Dues?


A. There are no actual ‘dues’, just an entry fee to play that session.  Your first visit to the club is free.



Q. What is the procedure to become a club member? 


A. Just come and play! How easy!



Q. Do I need to be a member of the North American Scrabble Player’s Association or the National Scrabble Association?


A.  The Portland Scrabble club is sanctioned by the North American Scrabble Player’s Association (NASPA), which is the governing body for tournament play.  However you do not need to be a member of the NASPA to join the weekly club sessions.  Membership in the NASPA is required if you wish to play in club tournaments or other NASPA-sanctioned tournamentsNASPA membership is required for ALL NASPA-sanctioned tournaments, but you may purchase a 6 month provisional NASPA membership for $15.  After your first NASPA-sanctioned tournament, you will have a NASPA ‘rating’ based on the number of ‘wins’ and scores between you and your opponents. Full membership in the NASPA is $30 per year, which includes on-line access to NASPA Bulletins and the NASPA Tournament Newsletters.



Q. How many games are played at a club meeting?


A. We usually play four games. You are encouraged to play all games, but if you need to leave before the last game, please let the director know ahead of time, so you won't be paired for the next game.



Q. How are players paired?


A. Newcomers are paired against other new players or lower rated club players. The second, third, and fourth game pairings are determined by the session win/loss record, avoiding mismatches. Newcomers will have a ‘club rating’ after attending their first club meeting.



Q. What do I need to bring?


A. Nothing really. Club members bring boards, tiles, racks, and clocks for use during club play. Score sheets are available at each session.



Q. How are Clocks used?


A. A chess clock is generally used during club games to keep the games running on schedule, and as practice for tournament games. A chess clock is actually a set of two timers; only one of which is running at any given time. Each player is allotted 25 minutes (you have an extra 5 minute ‘handicap’ during your first two visits). Your timer will be running when it's your turn. When you complete your turn, you press the button on your side of the clock to simultaneously stop your timer and start your opponent's timer. The clock can also be neutralized (both timers stop) for special situations such as adjudicating challenges, score reconciliation, questions for the director, and at the end of the game. If you happen to use more than the allotted 25 minutes, an overtime penalty of 10 points is subtracted from your final score for each additional minute or fraction of a minute used.



Q. What Dictionary is used?


A. The official dictionary or word list used at the club (as well as tournaments) is the Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd Edition (a.k.a. "OWL"). This word list includes acceptable words up to 9 letters in length. Longer words are checked using the NSA ‘Long List.’  These are available through the club director, or can be ordered directly from the National Scrabble Association, if you are a NSA member. The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) found in bookstores is intended for home and school play, and while not the official dictionary used at the club, it does provide definitions for most of the acceptable words contained in the "OWL".  Challenges, however, are normally adjudicated using computer adjudication program such as ‘Zyzzyva’ with a ‘software self-look-up’ procedure.



Q. Who keeps score?


A. Each player is expected to keep track of both players' scores. Blank score sheets are available at the club. Minimally, you should write down the cumulative score after each turn. Additionally, you may wish to record the word or words played in a turn as well as the score of that particular turn. If there is ever a disagreement on the score, neutralize the clock and correct the discrepancy with your opponent.



Q. What is the sequence of steps during a turn?


A. After a while this should become automatic:


·After your opponent's turn ends, record the cumulative score before beginning your play.

·Position your tiles on the board.

·Designate the blank tile, if applicable.

·Announce the score of that turn.

·Hit the clock (or neutralize the clock if it's the last play of the game).

·Record the cumulative score to that point in the game.

·Draw new tiles; first place them face down on the table so as not to mix with the old ones (in case of overdrawing). Then you may replenish your rack.

·Track tiles, if desired. (Tracking tiles refers to keeping track of which tiles have already been played in the game. This is not required, but some players find this useful.)

·Exception: Steps 1 and 6 are not required if there are no tiles remaining in the bag to draw.



Q. What about challenges?


A. If you are not sure about the acceptability of a word or words your opponent has played, say "hold" after your opponent hits the clock or reaches for the tile bag (if they forgot to hit the clock). Hold gives you time to think about whether to actually challenge or not (and at your first club session it gives you time to check the cheat sheet to verify a 2- or 3-letter word). You can hold for as long as you need, but your timer is not stopped during a hold. Your opponent does not draw tiles during a hold, but if the hold lasts more than a minute, your opponent may draw tiles, but keep them separate from any unplayed tiles.


If you decide you do not want to challenge, say "okay" and the game continues. If you decide to challenge, call "challenge" and then neutralize the clock. No tiles may be drawn during a challenge. Challenges may not be ‘taken back’ unless you misunderstood the designation of a blank tile. The challenge will be adjudicated using ‘Software self look-ups’ utilizing a computer with adjudication software.  If any word you challenge is judged unacceptable, your opponent returns the tiles played to his rack and then starts your clock, losing his turn and scoring zero for that play. If all of the words you challenge are ruled acceptable, you lose your turn (scoring zero), and you may start your opponent's clock.


Newcomers are allowed free challenges during their first club visit. This means that if you challenge unsuccessfully (i.e. your opponent’s play is acceptable), you will not lose your turn. In this case, your clock is started instead of your opponent's and you may play your turn as if you did not challenge. Also, if your play is challenged and ruled unacceptable, you will be allowed to make a different play without penalty.



Q. Can I use a ‘cheat sheet’?


A. During your first two sessions playing club games, you may use a list of all the acceptable 2- and 3-letter words, ‘u-less q words’ and common ‘jkqxz’ words, which is provided by the club (you are welcome to keep the copy for word study). These ‘cheat sheets’ cannot be used, however, during tournament games, or in club games after your first club session.


Q. The club plays a lot of weird words that don't seem to make sense...Is that normal?


A. You will find many strange words ranging from "aa" to "zorilla". The word lists (the OWL and Long List) were painstakingly prepared by consolidating words chosen from several well known dictionaries which conform to the Scrabble rules (i.e., no acronyms, abbreviations, proper nouns, etc.).  While learning these words may seem daunting at first, we will provide you with a list of all the acceptable two and three letter words when you first come so that you can refer to them as you play in your first session.  All of our players are eager to share their word and strategy knowledge!


The first step to becoming a competitive player is to learn all of the 102 ‘good’ two-letter words. Those, along with good ‘parallel play’ can quickly add 50 points to your game!  Then move on by learning all of the acceptable three-letter words, then the most likely (high probability) 7-letter combinations, such as “AEINRS?” and “EINOST?” (the “?” represents another possible letter or a blank tile) and the anagrams contained therein (there are several dozen anagrams of these ‘racks’ ~ can you find them?).  You will be amazed at how quickly your word knowledge (and score) builds!  


QCan I use my own Scrabble board and Tiles?


A.  Tournament players use a Deluxe Scrabble Board (or a custom board) which has raised squares to hold the tiles.  We also use plastic “Pro-Tiles.” These tiles are smooth on the letter side, and inset on the bottom, so that it is impossible to tell what letter is on the tile by touch, and so that it is easy to distinguish the top of the tile from the bottom.


QHow does the game begin?


A.  At Club Meetings, each game starts with each opponent drawing a tile from the bag.  The one drawing closest to the ‘A’ (or drawing a blank) goes first.  In tournament play, drawing from the bag is done for the first game, and each time both players have equal numbers of ‘first turns.’  Otherwise, the player with the fewest ‘first turns’ goes first.


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