Imagine it is your start, and you draw the following rack :

 

 

 

G K G L H T S  

 

What should you do ?

 

 

 

You have three alternatives.  Play, Pass or Change.  Which is best ?

 

 

 

PLAY : There are only 2 words you can play ST or SH. Both are wasteful of an S. (In general, a single S on your rack in the first half/two-thirds of the game is best used to score at least 30 points and more likely a bonus word.)  Therefore PLAY is not a good option.

 

 

 

PASS : What are you hoping to achieve by passing ? Your opponent will do one of the following :

 

Play .. and therefore give you a vowel. But if the vowel is placed centrally, you may only score 8-11 points next time (e.g THUG or KITH).

 

Your opponent may change or pass themselves. They know your rack needs something from them, in this case a vowel, so they could and should change to make their rack better. It might be they have a word like QUICK or ZEBRA which is worth playing for over 40 points, but if they can only score 16 points they may as well change and see if they can improve their rack. It follows that a PASS will by you will lead to a ‘defensive’ more from your opponent, so you will gain nothing. Therefore PASSING is not a good option.

 

 

 

CHANGE : The all consonant rack, at any time of the game, generally should suggest CHANGE (Unless you can score over 30 points or play 3-4 consonants). So what to change ?

 

There are a variety of options we shall consider :

 

Keep S and change G K G H L T

 

Keep ST and change G K G L H

 

Keep L S T and change G K G H

 

Keep H S T and change G K G L

 

 

We have decided on these specific keeps,  as there is synergy between the kept tiles. (i.e they make lots of words).

Although 'K' is quite a good scoring tile, it is also a 'hard' tile, there are fewer words that contain it.

Although G is an okay letter, it really needs IN to be ultra useful.

With these facts in mind the GGK are to be changed in every case.

 

 

Probably the best way to illustrate what might happen with these various changes is to sample 20 different pickups. (i.e 20 different changes).

 

Here are the racks if just the S was retained.

 

 

 

S + NOSGME

S + REROVE

S + OEIPOA

S + RRFILL

S + GYVAFE

S + VWEAOS

S + NOLBMX

S + LUAFOA

S + PEFISS

S + ICOYU?

S + ETOIEL

S + FSDZUD

S + PAUIEA

S + NONI?E

S + INTDOF

S + RTTEAP

S + DAYJET

S + MAGECH

S + NCFIIE

S + APATRH

 

 

 

Interestingly 4 of these racks yield bonus words (20%) .. can you work put what they are ? (Answers at end)

 

Despite changing 6 consonants, three racks have one vowels or less (15%).

 

 

 

What if ST was retained ? Again 20 changes were undertaken.

 

ST + ADEPI

ST + VPPOE

ST + AATEE

ST + NHAOI

ST + EHVAY

ST + LCOGI

ST + TZTYR

ST + JAOOL

ST + CBEID

ST + MOTSM

ST + AEUJE

ST + IQITO

ST + NIDOO

ST + VEXRO

ST + EASMD

ST + TRADO

ST + IROTA

ST + NDXAI

ST + ?AVIY

ST + OPYET

 

 

 

3 of these racks yield bonuses (these are a bit harder, so don’t worry if you can’t spot them), and two racks yielded one vowel or less. (10%)

 

 

 

What if STH or STL were retained ? Here we used the same 4 letter changes against both sets of unchanged tiles.

 

 

 

STL   or     STH

      + AECI

 

STL   or     STH

     + HZOM

 

STL   or     STH

     + OUCO

 

STL   or     STH

      + ?PGW

 

STL   or     STH

      + HOII

 

STL   or     STH

     + AECY

 

STL   or     STH

      + WDLE

 

STL   or     STH

     + RNCO

 

STL   or     STH

     + IGIS

 

STL   or     STH

      + SNEA

 

STL   or     STH

      + NELR

 

STL   or     STH

      + HXEU

 

STL   or     STH

      + AOID

 

STL   or     STH

     + CITT

 

STL   or     STH

     + WEAM

 

STL   or     STH

     + EEOG

 

STL   or     STH

     + HNIE

 

STL   or     STH

      + EEIX

 

STL   or     STH

      + IEAI

 

STL   or     STH

      + UBCF

 

 

 

 

4 of the STL racks will yield bonuses, 3 of the SHT racks yield bonuses. (Which can you spot?)

 

But, and here is the big difference between these racks and the other two changes, 7 racks have one vowel or less. Thus there is a 35% chance of have only one vowel (or less) next time. This is a considerable jump from the 10-15% on the other two changes we have analysed.

 

 

We did not consider changing 3 tiles. Such a change, is more likely than the 4 tile change to yield a consonant only rack next time, and should therefore be avoided.

 

  

 

In summary, if G K G H L T S was your opening rack, it is recommended that you change either six tiles (keeping S) or change 5 (keeping ST).  Both have a 15-20% chance of a bonus but more importantly a very high percentage of getting two or more vowels next time.

 

 

 

Please note – the sample size in each case was only 20 racks. Statisticians will argue (correctly)  a larger sample size is required, but hopefully the sample size of 20 is sufficient to prove worthwhile.

 

 

 

Bonuses :

 

S only keep : REVERSO,  ETOILES/ESTOILE, ENJOINS/PENSION/TENSION/VENISON + 16 others, SPATTER/PATTERS/TAPSTER

 

ST keep : ISODONT, DEMASTS, VARSITY/SUAVITY/VASTITY

 

STL keep : LACIEST/ELASTIC + 3 others, ACETYLS/SCYTALE, SEXTILE, LAITIES

 

STH keep: TOADISH, ACHIEST/AITCHES, HASTENS/SNATHES/SNEATHS