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Welcome to the Austin Scrabble Club.

The following are Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Newcomers

  1. How much are Club Dues?
    Your first visit to the club is free. After that, only one dollar is collected each time you come to the club.
  2. Do I need to be a member of the National Scrabble Association?
    The Austin Scrabble club is affiliated with the National Scrabble Association (NSA), however you do not need to be a member of the NSA to play at the club. Membership is only required if you wish to play in club tournaments or NSA-sponsored tournaments (after your first tournament). The fee for membership is $20 per year (as of 5/2008), which includes a subscription to SCRABBLE News.
  3. How many games are played at a club meeting?
    We play three games. You are encouraged to play all three games, but if you need to leave after the first or second game, please let the director know ahead of time, so you won't be paired for the next game.
  4. How are players paired?
    Players are paired the first game according to their club rating. Newcomers are paired against other new players or lower rated club players. The second and third game pairings are determined by win/loss record, avoiding mismatches. Newcomers will get a club rating after attending their first club meeting.
  5. What do I need to bring?
    Nothing really. The club provides boards, tiles, racks, scoresheets, and clocks for use during club play. Additionally some people bring personal custom boards, digital clocks, scoresheets, and racks.
  6. Clocks?
    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. Your timer will be running when it's your turn. When you complete your turn, you press a button to simultaneously stop your timer and start your opponent's timer. The clock can also be neutralized (both timers stop) for special situations like challenging, 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. This penalty will not apply to newcomers at their first club visit.
  7. What Dictionary is used?
    The official dictionary or word list used at the club (as well as tournaments) is the Official Tournament and Club Word List (a.k.a. "OWL"). This word list includes acceptable words up to 9 letters in length. Longer words are checked using the Official Long List. The "OWL" is available through the club director, or can be ordered from the National Scrabble Association, if you are a 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 in the "OWL".
  8. Who keeps score?
    Each player is expected to keep track of both players' scores. Blank scoresheets 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.
  9. What is the sequence of steps during a turn?
    After a while this should become automatic:
    1. After your opponent's turn ends, record the cumulative score before beginning your play.
    2. Position your tiles on the board.
    3. Designate the blank tile, if applicable.
    4. Announce the score of that turn.
    5. Hit the clock (or neutralize the clock if it's the last play of the game).
    6. Record the cumulative score to that point in the game.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
  10. What about challenges?
    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 club 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 club director or other designated person will verify the play using the official word list. 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 will be allowed free challenges during their first club visit. This means that if you challenge unsuccessfully, 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.

  11. Can we use a cheat sheet?
    While playing club games, you may use a list of all the acceptable 2- and 3-letter words, which is provided by the club. You are welcome to take a copy with you if you wish to study it. The cheat sheet cannot be used, however, during tournament games.

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