Following play advice is worth it

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 at 10:05 p.m.
You know those commercials on television? "Product A" will cure baldness but minor side effects may occur - "small" things like impotence, flatulence and sterility.
If a man thinks baldness is affecting his love life, does he think that impotence and flatulence will help? Is the cure worth the hassle?
The advice I give each week may seem counterintuitive, similar to those commercials. Alphabetize your rack, balance your rack and look for bingos, all while managing the clock properly.
These suggestions are offered to make you a more competitive player, but are they worth it for your Scrabble enjoyment? The answer is yes, if you want to win and improve your play.
I tell you to keep a balanced rack of four or five consonants to every two or three vowels because balanced racks are more conducive to spotting a bingo (a play using all seven tiles on the rack that grants a 50-point bonus). I then tell you to take your time.
This, however, flies in the face of the next advice. Manage your clock properly. Hunting for bingos can be time-consuming. Squander time at your own peril. Each match lasts 25 minutes and there is a penalty of 10 points per minute over this allotted time.
Alphabetize your rack. Familiarize yourself with the different patterns that letters make. This will help to subconsciously find words. But, shuffle the tiles on your rack before making the play in order to find "hidden" words.
Keep in mind this is all being done while tracking all tiles played during the match. Tracking helps to anticipate which tiles might be available later. Need an aspirin yet?
Remember, these are just suggestions. Use them as guidelines for improvement. But never lose sight of the fundamentals of the game. First and foremost, finish with more points than your opponent.
Secondly, place your high-point tiles on bonus-point locations. Finally, know all 92 two-letter words. If you always come back to these basics, then the other advice won't seem so daunting.
Drawing tiles randomly is frustrating enough. (You can know every tile left in the bag and still not know which you will pull.) My advice is not meant to add to this frustration.
The suggestions are worth the hassle if you find a balance between them and the fundamentals of the game.

Gainesville club

Jim Cooney, 3-0, 374; Donna Brown, 2-0, 392; Geeke Lossing, 2-1, 411; Mark Gooley, 2-1, 407; Ralph King, 2-1, 397; Guerry Smith, 2-1, 369; Brenda Dede, 2-1, 361. High series, Lossing, 1,233; high game, Gooley, 511; high play, Gooley, 82 (kicking).
The Gainesville Scrabble club meets Mondays at 6:30 p.m. at the VFW at 1150 NE Waldo Road. Weekly dues are $2. Call Cathy O'Sickey at 336-0690 for details.

Lake Area club

Ellen Blottman, 2-0, 366; Lossing, 2-1, 323. High game, Blottman, 426; high play, Blottman, 104 (affable).
The Lake Area club meets at the Melrose Public Library Tuesdays at 1p.m. Call Blottman at 475-1587 or Lossing at 475-2956 for information.

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