I got lost down a nice Scrabble-related Internet rabbit hole a few days ago. It’s always good to know what a game’s theoretical limits are. It helps you figure out optimal strategy and can often given you deeper insight in the mechanics of the game itself.
Some Scrabble players have constructed boards to answer the question, “What is the highest scoring possible Scrabble play?” Turns out the answer depends on what dictionary you use. It also depends, if you read into the comments, on whether or not one can truly perform the act of “sesquioxidizing” or if one can only “synthesizing a sesquioxide.”
Well, don’t try that at home. But it does demonstrate the value in a regular game of Scrabble of creating more than one word in a single play and exploiting multiple bonus tiles.
Secondly, Stefan Fatsis, the author of an excellent book on competitive Scrabble, also has a nice article about the highest scoring sanctioned Scrabble play and game.
Interestingly, the game was only possible because the players employed incorrect Scrabble strategies that opened up plays known as triple-triples. Michael Cresta, who won the game, passed a turn to exchange letters so he could make what became the highest-scoring play. While strategically incorrect — he had less than a 1 in 500 chance of succeeding– he pulled it off.
This reminded me a lot of amateur poker players, myself included, who have incorrectly drawn toward flushes, straights and other “non-made” hands.
But it’s also interesting that the Scrabble player’s “incorrect” play resulted in a record that will probably be associated with his name for a long, long time. Similarly, poker player Barry Greenstein once used the potential fame associated with a decision — in his case, the largest contested pot in televised poker history — to justify what he acknowledged might not have been a strategically optimal play. Unlike Cresta, however, Greenstein wound up losing the hand in question.