How did you get started?

Tell us who you are and why you're here.

How did you get started?

Postby millcake16 » Sat Jan 03, 2009 1:36 pm

I thought it would be interesting to hear how everyone first got involved in Scrabble, and how you discovered the NSA. I'm sure there are still way too many players out there who have never heard of competitive Scrabble.

For me, I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, and like everyone else, knew and played hardly any bingos, and didn't have a clue about strategy, although I knew all along not to play blanks for such low scores. I didn't consider myself really competitive until I was maybe 13 or 14. Before my first tournament, I played at an informal gathering at a coffee shop, elimination style, where the winner received a T-shirt, or a gift certificate towards Java Joe's, the name of the coffee shop. On July 9, 1996, my brother and I played in the finals, and we TIED! By then, my brother had already played in a tournament, and I played my first tournament a few weeks later. Even though I had played over 1000 games on-line with top level experts, I couldn't talk the director into putting me in a division higher than 6, and I still only went 4-3. Fortunately, I didn't stop there.

Your turn!
Posts: 110
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:19 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby Yarn Chief Sr » Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:21 pm

About 2001-ish, I started playing online with a few friends on Always marveled whenever someone played a bingo -- never believed someone could use all their letters. Think one of the first ones I saw was SUNROOF (UNROOFS :)). Or was it SUNROOM/UNMOORS? :) ANYWAY. I returned to college, and found there was a very informal club in Cary, NC (no clocks, crappy boards). I started playing there -- remember one of the first cool finds I made was CARRYON; saw a guy play MICKLE for a mickle of points, too). There were talks of checking out a tournament (maybe in Raleigh?) -- I never was able to go. Come that Christmas, I was given Everything Scrabble. I found ISC and my skill soared. I even tinkered with making flashcards, but found the process pretty overwhelming -- I think I got all the way to SATIRE+P before chucking it (and four years later, I definitely credit Zyzzyva for my being able to make the new leaps I've made). I didn't quite understand why anyone would want or need to learn to play an 8 -- that would come much later. Eventually had to drop the club thing 'cause of a conflicting class, and then I sorta lost interest-slash-was annoyed by the fact that I started automatically anagramming any and all words/signs I saw.

Flash forward to Spring 2005, I played again briefly on ISC, but didn't keep it up; went to the club and remet Charles "pretzels" Smith who was also at the Cary club at times when I first started. He always killed me back then, so it was validating when I finally beat him in a friendly tournament in Durham last spring. Come September 2006, I needed an escape from the doldrums, stumbled back onto and ISC -- "Wonderfish" this time around. I heard about the Charlotte tournament come January and play like mad to get ready. I didn't expect much, prepared to lose, but apparently all the prep had paid off. I went 13-1, winning $500, my only loss being by 1 point (don't remember if I recounted), playing such words as FAMILIAR, MOlECUL(E), NIOBATES, and SHAKEUP. I was hooked. :)
Yarn Chief Sr
Posts: 189
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 2:42 am
Location: Charlotte, NC

Re: How did you get started?

Postby Noctiluca » Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:19 pm

Last edited by Noctiluca on Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:16 am

Re: How did you get started?

Postby jcurley » Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:21 pm

I grew up in the UK and absolutely loved this TV show called "Countdown" - it was daily on channel four when I got home from school (there were only 4 channels in the UK for a long time). It was a show where the contestants selected nine letters randomly and you had to make the longest word possible. It got me good at annagrams and I kept up my anagramming by doing daily word jumbles in newspapers. People at work thought I was strange as I was able to get them so much quicker than everyone else - they obviously hadnt watched enough Countdown. A couple of years ago I started playing the odd weekly game of scrabble against my wife - i'd played a bit growing up and even bought and early OSPD word source circa 1988 but i'd never stuck at it. After moving to new york two years ago, I googled 'scrabble new york' and found out about the local club - so I went along this time last year, enjoyed the competitive nature of the game, and from there I got interested in the NSA and tournaments.
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:39 pm
Location: NY NY

Re: How did you get started?

Postby trashman » Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:51 pm

With an egg and an ambitious sperm...
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:45 am

Re: How did you get started?

Postby cesar » Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:02 pm

i learned the twos and threes by osmosis on Yahoo Literati around 2001. i'm not sure why i got so hooked on literati, it just seemed fun and something i could get good at. i met james leong and gabriel wong on literati, as well as a bunch of other good players who never joined the nsa (but i still talk to a few of them) and we got to be the top players on the site, until they moved to isc and kept telling me to play there. eventually, i started liking scrabble more than literati -- for a while, i actually thought literati was better, so i spent more time on isc until i stopped going to the yahoo site altogether. this was all while i was in college. in 2005 after graduating and getting a job i would still go on isc and james would keep telling me to go to club, etc, and finally i looked up a tournament around me. it so happened that the tournament was literally like the next week, and it was in santa monica. bruce d'ambrosio, the director told me to go to club the day before so that i could get some live game practice, and i went there and literally played my first 4 live games ever. i went 2-2 vs. ~700 players and was completely humbled, i'd thought i'd be decent because i was about 1500 on isc, but then the next day i went 7-0 in the tourney and i guess i've been hooked since. the first few weeks at club bruce wouldn't move me out of the B division and i also kept losing dumbly, but i really wanted to be at the top. i even asked maddy to play a few games with me for fun, she creamed me but i kept it kind of competitive. finally he put me in div A after i kept asking.

the only bingo i remember playing in the tourney was tzigane, but there were others. i also remember i was watching a player going through an alphagram list and i asked him "what does antired mean?" (rhyming it with TIRED).
Posts: 101
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:04 pm
Location: Los Angeles

Re: How did you get started?

Postby dacrON » Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:38 am

I first started playing when I was three. My earliest memory is a game with my grandma, in which I had an unplayable U. She suggested I play NU, since it is a Greek letter, but I thought that was unfair because it wasn't a word. Keep in mind, I was maybe 5 :)

I found out about ISC from someone at a really lame site which had an addicting blitz-like word game. I played on ISC for a good year and a half before my first tournament, at 14. I was especially drawn in thanks to Word Freak, but at the same time, I was especially nervous to go to a tournament, in case I screwed up.

I suppose the rest is history, and I could write about this subject for hours, but because I got involved in the Scrabble scene as a kid, it really changed me, and gave me a chance to interact with adults, who treated me as an equal, ever since I started attending tournaments. I really don't know what my life would be like if Scrabble hadn't entered the picture.
I am dacrON !
Posts: 222
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:57 pm
Location: Oakland

Re: How did you get started?

Postby arenasnow » Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:17 am

I don't remember when I played my first game over the board with my mom, but we haven't played a lot. She was a member of the Mensa Scrabble-by-Mail SIG in the '70s before I was born, where she was consistently one of the top three players alongside Ken Clark (her frequent sparring partner, yes, the long-time Seattle expert) and Tom O'Bannon, also an NSA player briefly. My mom was never in the NSA, though. She left Mensa then rejoined in the late '80s, playing fairly regularly. When I was eight in 1993 or something, I found a play for her that was better than the one she found, and she got really annoyed, not wanting to take something she didn't find herself, so she told me to play my own games instead of hers, and I joined the group in January 1994. For the first couple years I was not too good and most people didn't take me seriously, although a few of the top players said they didn't want to be beaten by a kid (at the moment, there's nobody in the group younger than forty except me, and you can hardly call me active right now; that's why this group has so much appeal to me), but a couple years later I learned the tools of the trade (which were utilizing a Franklin Electronic Dictionary like all the top players did to find words). I arrived right in the heat of the Franklin debate...some players like Clark who remained members but had long stopped playing said they'd prefer to use their own brains, etc... The year after I joined, there were like three or four more people around my age who joined, also children of current members, whose parents apparently forced their kids in to compete with me. I was beating all of them rather substantially, causing them to drop their games, so their parents then accused my mom of playing my games for me, which was far from the case and downright rude.

Luise Shafritz was also one of our very best players but quit around this time. Many of the expert-level tourney players in our group (John Attamack, Clark, Hugh Currie, John Luebkemann) were not too active. Midori Howard, Doug Hoylman, Dick Lazaro, and Bob Lipton (our all-time greatest player) were though. I moved into the top ten in the group out of 80 or something after beating Lazaro six out of seven times. The only problem? Although my strategy was okay, I didn't pick up anywhere near as many words as I should have because I didn't find them myself. Furthermore, most players in the group who weren't in tournaments played with a combination two-and-three letter word list of the OSPD + Webster's Third New International Dictionary (W-3). Not planning on playing in tournaments even though I knew about them from the group newsletter, I played the W-3 words too, but I *think* I've forgotten them all to focus on the TWL words. I thought I was somewhat "prodigious" I think, but now seeing people like jasonkb and dacron and chaithedog and mcpuppydoug and magrathean and Nigel Peltier and Rafi Stern, what a laugh that was.

I don't remember when I found ISC. Either my senior year of high school or freshman year of college, probably. I only peaked at about 1400-something my first time, but now I'm in the very, very high 1600s. I don't know what happened. I did play Aerolith a lot so now know most of the fours and did some Quackle simming of my ISC games. I pretty much installed all the freeware Scrabble programs as I heard of them, which was basically in the spring of '07 as I discovered all the Scrabble blogs. I'm still not planning on a tournament soon, but may be enticed after the ratings are artificially inflated (haha) and I have more stability in terms of employment and I've memorized more words. But I had the opportunity to be a dacronish-style prodigy and blew it. Oh well.
Posts: 71
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:42 pm
Location: Syracuse, NY

Re: How did you get started?

Postby whatnoloan » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:14 pm

In May 2007 (after the school scrabble tournament had already past) I noticed the school scrabble club. I went there a couple of times and thought it was quite enjoyable, but it was coming to an end, and I was an eighth grader and thus couldn't play in school scrabble any longer. Our coach (Lou J B Miller, a former expert, now retired) told me I should come visit the club at the Lucky Labrador brewpub. In about July, I decided to visit and play a couple of games. A month afterwards, I decided to enter a tournament, which went very badly. I was a bit disappointed, but decided to keep playing. That's my Scrabble Brand Crossword Game story.
Posts: 98
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:01 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby becky_dyer » Sun Jan 04, 2009 2:48 pm

Hi, I'm Becky Dyer. I play in the Austin, TX club since 2002; rated in the 1600's (NSA) and as "bosko" on isc, my rating is generally in the 1600-1800 range.

I did not play Scrabble growing up so I'm a late starter. Some time in 2001 my husband gave me the CD-ROM game, which I enjoyed, and then I heard about the book "Word Freak" which changed my life. I showed up at the club barely knowing my 2's. I started studying in my own quirky inefficient ways, and have had a gradual and steady increase in rating. I continue studying the ways that I enjoy the most (so as not to get burned out), so I am weaker than I should be on common 7's and 8's, but I occasionally win games against top experts. Mostly I lose to them, but I always learn something!

My modest long-term goals: 1. Know all the words including their definitions. 2. Win Division 1 in a large tournament. 3. Repeat.

If we switch to Collins I will learn Collins. Until then, just trying to keep my head above water with OWL.
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 2:34 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby sdm6 » Sun Jan 04, 2009 6:41 pm

Hi everybody, I am Sean McKinney, currently residing in Saco, Maine. Although I have always loved playing Scrabble, until I saw a short piece about Joey Mallick in the now defunct Casco Bay Weekly, I never even dreamed that there was such a thing as a Scrabble tourney. In the article Joey talked about playing at the nationals. At the time I did not pursue it, as I thought that this was something that only super geniuses were allowed to play. Fast forward to 2001, after regularly hammering my girlfriend in friendly living room games, she bought me the Maven Scrabble disc for Playstation 1. After playing roughly 1000 games I was hooked. I went to a Borders to buy a dictionary and came across the book Wordfreak. Now I was ready to drink the kool-aid. What I thought was great was that I did not need to be Bricap to join a tourney, anybody could join. I played roughly 10000 more games with Maven before even going to my first club session. At that session I went 2-1, almost going 3-0, but i missed an out bingo of antired, trained or detrain would not play. At my next club session I was matched with Richard Buck, one of the true gentlemen of the game. I had a close game with Richard, but he bingoed with daemonic with 2 left in the bag. He and others suggested I try a tourney. Fast forward again to the BAT 2004, I finished 11.5- 3.5, came in second place,and most of all, had the time of my life. Although I do not play too many tourneys, I always get that competitive rush when I do. In my humble opinion, scrabble people are some of the best that are walking the Earth. Thank You
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:26 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby bradleyrobbins » Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:52 pm

Hi i'm Bradley Robbins. I am 11 years old and I have been playing competitively for about a year. When I was like 6 or 7 years old I started playing with my 99 year old great aunt. And then for Chanukah 2 years ago I got a laptop computer from my grandparents. As I explored what was on the computer, I realized that it came with a downloadable free trial for a Scrabble software :)! After playing that for a while I found a local Scrabble club. A few months after joining the club, my parents and I started a school Scrabble club. As I got deeper and deeper into the Scrabble world I began to play in school tournaments. Then, I started to play in adult tournaments, and now i'm hooked! BTW, my handles on ISC are WheatieDog and 1Jipijapa if anyone wants to play.
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:36 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby [-_-] » Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:27 am

Well, my introduction/addiction/induction into the game was twofold.

First, I began playing in leagues (the accent here is disgusted) on literati sometime in 2003. My username, depending on league, was something like max300paranoia, or mokona(somethingoranothergoeshere), or... something, :/. Anyways, that's when I was a struggling, socially-inept 15 year old runt (well, okay, I was actually far from a runt at 200-something pounds), so most of my activities were limited to going to school, coming home, doing homework, fighting with my sister over the computer, and using said computer to use the internet.

A little bit later (not too much later, mind you), my obsession with this type of word game became so great that I began playing Scrabble Brand Crossword Game with my Psychologist in our individual therapy sessions. She whomped me at first...

but, the more I played on literati, the more words and skill I accrued.

Of course, I had no idea that there was a "National Scrabble Association." How did I find club and tourney play? My Psychologist recommended to me that, if I wanted to play more scrabble, that I should find somewhere to play in town.

And that's how I found the Fresno Scrabble Club, the NSA, and all of that jazz. You should've seen my eyes sparkling with excitement at the next therapy session.

My mother and I contacted the club director to see if it was okay for someone with my social ineptitudes (I'm an Asperger's Syndrome patient... plus, I was 15 :P) to join the club, and he agreed. I went to my first club session on December 23, 2004, where I got creamed by people like Lewis Martinez, Bruce (~1600), and Elaine(~1000). I was probably, at best, an 800-1000 player at that point, and my little over the board experience would mean that I would get creamed both here and at my first tournament the following March, where I received an initial rating of 646.

And that was the beginning!
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:21 am

Re: How did you get started?

Postby Zoril46 » Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:28 am

I have been playing Scrabble since I was a kid. I got involved in serious Scrabble when I befriended a book dealer named Roger. I started out as a customer and quickly became friends. One day he asked me if I liked to play Scrabble and I said yes. Then he told me about a club up in Albany and for a number of years I attended faithfully with him and his wife. Now I just play Scrabble on ISC and go to tournaments when I can.
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:13 am

Re: How did you get started?

Postby arenasnow » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:39 pm

[-_-] wrote:My mother and I contacted the club director to see if it was okay for someone with my social ineptitudes (I'm an Asperger's Syndrome patient... plus, I was 15 :P) to join the club, and he agreed.

Too socially inept for a Scrabble club? That's like being too unhip for a Star Trek convention... Many here are probably headed in that direction... I just scored a 41 on the Asperger's Quotient test myself not that long ago (and have never scored less than 36), where 80% of people with Asperger's score above 32 and you're usually on the autistic spectrum over 37, but it doesn't tell me anything I don't already know... Seems like most people here are both more talented and less Aspie than I am, though. Oh well...
Posts: 71
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:42 pm
Location: Syracuse, NY

Re: How did you get started?

Postby mrmcpuppyduckle » Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:21 pm

I started playing Scrabble with my grandma and then played more with my dad when I was 7 or 8. I played about once every week or so. In my teens I discovered online playing, on websites like and I didn't discovered tournament Scrabble until I was 16. I was in a Borders bookstore and the Scrabble club happened to be in session that night. They invited me to join them, so I played a game and liked it and eventually I started going regularly because it was only about a mile away from my parents' house. I played my first tournament on my 17th birthday and since then I've played in many, many tournaments where I've lost more games than I should've. But I am still around almost 8 years later, so I guess I must enjoy playing!
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 8:15 pm
Location: Yorba Linda, CA

Re: How did you get started?

Postby CanadianBacon » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:51 pm

I've been playing the game since I was a kid. Even before I started really getting into it and spending time furthering my skills, I had a bit of talent with it.

I grew up and spent almost all my life in a smallish town, so I was limited to playing with my mom. I used to play with non-standard rules (bonus squares could be reused), but after I decided I wanted to play with the real rules. Once I started doing that, that was sort of the turning point where my skill would slowly develop. The downfall of this through was that I was a much better player than my mom, so I wasn't learning anything in terms of strategy. I would just find the best scoring play and win 95% of the time.

I began playing the game on the computer once I had moved into my own place. I played against the computer on Scrabble Complete. Unfortunately the game was outdated though so words like qi za fe and ki were still invalid.

Afterwards I started playing online in a league and played in those tournaments, as well as random games. It finally gave me a chance to play against other good human players and to give myself a better idea of my skill level.

I would play a little bit of scrabble every day (sometimes a lot), allowing me to learn a lot of new words and learn from players better than me.

I ended up getting of a copy of everything scrabble, which brought to my attention one of the most useful things I've learned - the top 10 6 letter bingo stems.

I eventually learned that there was a casual group that played scrabble in my town, although a bit TOO casual; the first time I showed up we played a 7 player game of scrabble! after the first few weeks the turnout was no good, only 2 or 3 people, and in April they stopped playing altogether until fall. I did attend the yearly tournament, which had 30 people, and was 3 games long. The winner was the person with the highest combined score of the 3 games. I won first place and cemented my place an avid scrabble player.

Now I'm Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and I played at the NSA club here.
Matt Larocque, Edmonton, Alberta.
User avatar
Posts: 150
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:20 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby amykhar » Sun May 10, 2009 3:42 pm

I started playing with my mother when I was about 8 or 9. Didn't really play much after high school when I left home. But, I joined Facebook and found Scrabble there. I was promptly hooked. On the Scrabble discussion boards, I learned about tournaments, clubs and the NSA. I am not yet ready to compete. Am still studying the three letter words and a lot of the basics.

I've been playing a bit at in addition to Facebook. I think the timed games at ISC will be more conducive to getting ready for tournament play.

I think the thing that gets me the most is that when I learned to play, words like 'Fax' were not acceptable because they were abbreviations. I tend to discount a lot of words as not being valid based on the word list that was valid back in the 1980's. I'm spending a lot of time trying to unlearn things that I 'know' to be true about Scrabble.

Posts: 1
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 5:48 pm

Re: How did you get started?

Postby GamePlayer547 » Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:15 pm

My name's Ben. I live in Wisconsin now but grew up in southern Michigan. Found Scrabble on the internet circa 1992-93 on what was then called ScrabbleMOO (Multi Object Oriented) servers. That is where I found out about the NSA. That is also where I played my first Scrabble bingo (and a 9-letter at that, VIBRATION).

I've been on and off as far as being a 'regular' Scrabble player, playing as life would allow it. I am going to be fortunate that I'll be able to go to the NSC in Dayton and look forward to seeing some of you there! I do go to the Twin Cities occasionally to scrabble club #651 but otherwise not much around me (I'm about 90 miles east of there).
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:56 pm
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Re: How did you get started?

Postby joethebar » Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:10 pm

my name is joey barton (isc-joebar1970). i have been an nsa player for around 8 years now.
it was about 2002 and my brother and i always played games together and scrabble was no different. one day we pulled it out and began having a few games. the difference between this time and times in the past as kids, was that we never stopped playing this time! we realized we'd been missing out, and we both found a renewed enjoyment for the game.
i thought we were getting really good and we both felt that there was no one we knew that could give us competition. that was around the time i began searching for tournaments online and perhaps a local scrabble club?
turns out there was a tourney coming up in vancouver the following month. i was stoked.
i thought it was gonna be easy. boy was iwrong...
even the worst player was great compared to me. this was before i had played online or had any study tools to speak of. i split my games and i was hooked.
the following year, i won my division.
it has taken 7 years to get into div. 2 (i don't play a lot of tourneys) and after the nationals this year, i think i will have enough rating points to play in the expert division.
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:39 am

Re: How did you get started?

Postby squush » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:16 pm

Hi, I am Jackson Smylie, currently a 13 year old scrabble fanatic. My mom has always been into scrabble (as a kitchen table player), and pressured my sister (Tara) and me into the game since I was about 5 years old. We would often look in the OSPD for some interesting words ("oh my god, OE is a word!"). We slowly picked up a few 2s and 3s using this method. My mom would get infuriated whenever I would stick an S onto the end of a word for no reason. She would launch into a barrage of the importance of S's for pluralizing existing words.

Needless to say, I didn't play scrabble for another 2 years or so.

When I was in 6th grade, my sister participated in the inaugural Toronto School Scrabble Championship. She won. After this I started getting somewhat back into scrabble, playing a game here and there.

The next year, at 11 years old, we decided on a whim to attend the Toronto Scrabble Club (TSC) and participate in an upcoming tournament (6 games, November 2009). The field was quite strong in comparison to me (1000-1850 approx.). I went 1-5, my sister 0-6. My only win was against my sister.

I began playing at the TSC more regularly, placed 14th in the 2010 NSSC, played in a few adult tourneys, won the 2011 NSSC, played in the 2011 CNSC, and now I'm here!
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:30 pm

Return to Introduce yourself!

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users