Bingo (sometimes referred to as a bonus) is a slang term for using all seven tiles on one's rack on any one turn. A bingo play receives an extra 50 points, in addition to what the play would normally score. Experts typically average around 2 to 3 bingos per game. The following gives some basic strategies on finding bingos:
Pay Attention to Your Leave
Leave refers to the letters that are left on your rack after you make your play, but before you draw replacement letters. By paying attention to what you're leaving behind, you supplement your odds of having a decent rack after you draw. For example, if your rack has three I's, it would be a good idea to play a word that has one or more I's in it, even if this gives you a lower score. By sacrificing a few points on the current turn, you improve your odds of a bingo on the next turn. Here are some strategies for improving your leave:
- Generally, you are more likely to have a bingo if your rack consists of mostly low-point tiles. Therefore, having multiple high-point tiles(especially ones that don't combine well, such as BKV) greatly reduces your chance of having a bingo.
- Don't underestimate the worth of S's and blanks. Many novices waste their blank tile for an extra 1-10 points. Treat the S and blank as being worth around 8 and 40 points, respectively.
- Try to balance the vowel:consonant ratio on your rack. You should avoid keeping 3 or 4 vowels and no consonants unless your play scores much better than other plays.
- If you have a Q on your rack with no U, you should find a way to rid the Q as quickly as possible, or exchange it. Memorizing the Q-without-U words helps.
- Don't "save up" for a killer word. Waiting to draw a particular letter (even a common one) will generally keep your score low play after play. The strategy here is to "pay attention" to your leave, not "be ruled by" your leave. Plus, this strategy can backfire easily if your opponent blocks your play.
The best play typically scores well and keeps a decent rack leave. On some scenarios, it is best to sacrifice points for a better rack leave, while on others, the highest scoring play is best. You will want to use your judgment to determine which play is best.
Prefixes and Suffixes
Separating prefixes and suffixes on your rack can make bingo finding much easier. If you have a common three-letter prefix or suffix, finding a four-letter word to pair with it is much easier and has fewer permutations than finding a seven-letter word. Common prefixes are (but not limited to): RE-, IN-, OUT-, OVER-, PRE-, POST-, UN-, MIS-, DIS-, SUB-. Common suffixes are: -S, -ING, -ED, -ER/-EST, -IER/-IEST, -OVER, -OUT, -ION, -LY, -ILY, -ABLE, -IBLE, -IZE.
Play an open board
Few things in Scrabble are more frustrating than having a seven-letter word on your rack, and nowhere to play it. If you are well behind, try to keep the board open by playing long words or opening up spots to play a bingo. This can be risky, as your opponent can also take advantage of your openings.
If the board is closed, you may still be able to play a bingo by playing the first few (or last few) letters of your word parallel to a word on the board. To do this, you will need to know the two-letter words.
A stem is a combination of six letters that combines well with many letters to form seven-letter words. An example is TISANE, which combines with 23 letters of the alphabet (every letter except J, Q, Y) to form a bingo. Knowing the bingos associated with the stems will go a long way. For example, if your opening rack is AEIINST, rather than exchanging I or playing AI, you should play ISATINE.
Fishing is the act of dumping one or two tiles in hopes of playing a bingo or other high-scoring play next turn. In some cases, where there are no playable bingos, it may be advisable to fish if there are no other good plays. For example, if your opening rack is AEINORT (no TWL 7's), exchanging O is the best option, and far better than dumping six tiles (RETAIN, ORIENT, etc.). On the other hand, if you have AEIJNST, taking the points and playing JEANS for 40 is probably better than exchanging J.
Note that, if playing under the CSW lexicon, OTARINE# and NOTAIRE# are valid, and so is JANTIES#/TAJINES#.
For more advanced players wishing to improve their gameplay, studying the 7- and 8-letter words that are most likely to occur in a game is highly recommended. Zyzzyva (http://zyzzyva.net/) is an anagram software that many expert players use to study custom-generated lists of words.