What Good Looks Like: The Expected Value of a Scrabble Rack

“Drat…..I just can’t make anything good with these tiles….”

If you haven’t muttered this under your breath a few times, you likely haven’t played Scrabble very much.But are you muttering this because of a mental block or truly bad tiles? Within the vast universe of possible Scrabble racks, what does “good” look like?

The serious Scrabble player would state that the effective value of a hand depends on where you are in the game. The early game favors scrabble racks that “play well with others”, giving you relatively large words with common letters that can easily be patched onto an open board. The end game favors prefixes, suffixes, and small words you can sneak into an open space. Bonus squares and the opportunity to build on large (5 – 7 letter) existing words also boost your score. All of this is true.

But here is a simpler way to approach the question: what if we look at the highest scoring word you can create using just the letters in your rack?

Mathematically, this question became: for a standard Scrabble rack, how many points of words (aka. the expected value) should the average Scrabble rack contain?

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Scrabble Helpers – Striking The Right Balance

One of the more interesting elements of building a site like this working through the right level of “assistance” to provide a player. The goal, of course, is to make the game more fun for a player and (being pragmatic) do so in  fashion which perpetuates their interest in the game. A lot of this thinking went into the design behind our words with friends helper .

We opted for a minimalist approach – enter your letters and we give you a list of possible words. The player is free to play them how they wish – keeping them involved in the strategy of how to put down their tiles while we help out with crunching through the dictionary of potential words. This gives a nice balance of help without making the game too easy…

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Good Hangman Words For Hanging With Friends

Looking for Good Hangman Words?

It has recently come to our attention that there are a large number of people in the world who cheat at online hangman. They use technology to crack good hangman words. Who knew? I swear, we built our hangman solver strictly as an academic exercise! To quote Captain Renault in Casablanca:

I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here!

We at Hanging Hyena, as loyal guardians of the public morals, have launched a historic research project. Yup, we’ve already booked our tickets to Stockholm.

Our question: Are certain words for hangman harder to guess than others?

This specific question isn’t exactly unexplored. However, most of the available studies presume an unassisted human player will be using their findings. That’s just so 1995! We’re moving this analysis into the 21st century, and providing our participants with access to the finest hangman solver on the Internet! Our new question:

What words should you play in hangman if you suspect your opponent is cheating?

In other words, we want very HARD hangman words….

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