Words With Friends Tips and Strategy

Your Ultimate Guide to Winning at Words With Friends

words with friends played on an iphone

Thanks for taking the time to check out my Words With Friends Tips and Strategy page. As you can see, I’m a geek in many ways, not just photography. I started playing Words With Friends on my iPhone about a year ago, and I’ve been addicted ever since. In the time I’ve been playing Words With Friends, I’ve developed a few strategies of my own to share with you here today.

What is Words With Friends?

Words With Friends is a crossword game made for mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android), and is based on the popular board game Scrabble. The basic directions can be found HERE. There are a few key differences between Words With Friends and Scrabble that I’d like to point out. It’s important to recognize these differences because you might be able to use them to your advantage. 

  1. You are not playing face to face with your opponents. You could plausibly be playing against someone on the other side of the world!
  2. A game is not completed in one sitting. It can last hours, days, weeks, or even months.

  1.  There are no challenges. When you are playing a word, you can use trial and error as many times as you need, until you find a word that works.
  2.  The tile distribution and count is slightly different. See the chart below:
Words With Friends vs. Scrabble Tile Scores
Here are the distribution and score differences between the tiles in Words With Friends and Scrabble. Click on the chart to enlarge it.
  1.  While both boards are 15×15 squares, the layout is a bit different, as shown in the images below:
An empty 15x15 Scrabble Board

Wording With Friends – Ground Rules

Keeping a 2-Letter Word List

Because of some of the new dynamics mentioned above, the friends that I play with regularly and I have agreed to a few rule clarifications for ease of play. First, we are allowed to keep a list of all 2 letter words. Since we are able to use trial and error to find words, it saves a ton of time to know what all the two-letter words are. If you use a list long enough, you will probably end up memorizing it anyway.

Sometimes the makers of Words with Friends add and delete words from its dictionary. Click over to my article 2 Letter Words For Scrabble and Words With Friends to view an updated (2020) list of two-letter words.

Keeping Track of Missing Tiles

Second, we have deemed it acceptable to keep track of the missing tiles if we like – much like counting cards in Blackjack. We figure that since there can be a relatively large amount of time between turns, why not use the time to keep track of what tiles have and have not been played yet. None of us ever really do this early in a game, or even in the middle. But as the game is nearing the end and it looks like it could be particularly close, we will definitely do it. I’m not sure if there is a rule that addresses this in regular Scrabble, but we’ve made it clear that it’s ok here. I put together a spreadsheet that takes care of this for me. Click the link below and you can use it too! You will need at least Microsoft Excel 97 to use the spreadsheet.

Handy Dandy Words With Friends Letter Counter (clicking this link will download a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet)

It’s a good thing to agree on a few ground rules with the friends you play with regularly. In my group of friends, we have deemed it acceptable to keep the two-letter word list and keep track of tiles if we want, but NOT acceptable to use Words With Friends cheats, word generators or any other word lists, which are readily available online. If you and your friends agree that it’s ok to use word generators, my favorite one is wineverygame.com. I’m sure there are plenty of other good ones.

Words With Friends Strategy

As I said before, in the time that I’ve been playing, I’ve developed some of my own Words With Friends tips and strategy that I will share with you here. Hopefully it will give you an edge against your opponents as well.

Lay *Along* Beats Lay Across

Let’s say your opponent plays AROSE. You have letters in your tray that spell “POWER”. You could use the “O” in AROSE and lay the P, W, E and R downward across it, for a cool 11 points…OR…you could you could lay POWER along the top of AROSE to create multiple new words (POWER, PA, OR, WO, ES, and RE) for a total of 26 points!

Start Small

It never fails, you play a 5 letter word to start the game, and your experienced opponent puts a nice lay-along next to it, effectively scoring double for his word and single for YOUR word too. When I start a game, I like to start with a 2 letter word, and use that turn to dump my two least desirable letters. Let your opponent be the first to open the board up.

Work the Colored Squares

The best way to maximize the value of your tiles is to play them on the colored squares. On the board, you can find Double Letter (DL), Double Word (DW), Triple Letter (TL), and Triple Word (TW). I like to call the TL and TW the “High-Dollar” Squares. Always look for the accessibility of these squares on the board – even before you examine your tray. Look for plays using these squares and try to work your letters to fit those plays. Even better, try and find plays that combine multiple letter scores with multiple word scores. Let’s say you play the word PARK on 4 Blank squares. You will score 11 points. Now let’s say you play where the “P” is on a TL and the “K” is on a TW. The score for this play will jump all the way up to 57 points!

Look for Vowels Next to Colored Squares.

Let’s say your opponent plays PLANE, and there is a TL directly above the “A”. You notice this, then upon examining your tray you notice that you have a “Z”. Remembering from the 2 letter word list that ZA is a valid word, you know you can play the “Z” on the TL, to create ZA for a total score of 31 points. Now you take it one step further and notice that you also have an “E” and an “N” in your tray. Now you can play ZEN in a lay-along above PLANE, creating ZA, ZEN, EN and NE, for a total of 70 points!

Bingo Was His Name-O

When you play all 7 tiles in your tray in one turn, it’s called a “Bingo.” Not only do you get the points for the word(s) you made, but you also get a 35 point bonus! If you can mix that with a few colored squares in the right places, then it’s not out of the question to score in the 100’s on one single play! One of the keys to winning games consistently is learning how to make Bingos. It takes a bit of practice, but the more you play, the more you will develop strategies that will help you create more and more Bingos. When I first started playing, I was lucky to average one Bingo for every 10 games played. Now I’d say I average about 9 Bingos for every 10 games, and I’m continuing to improve. Read on for some of my strategies for creating Bingos.

Defense Wins Games

Just as you will be looking for plays around the High-Dollar squares, your experienced opponent will be doing the same. Don’t give him the opening, even if it means you have to play a lesser word elsewhere. Unless I know I’m going to score big with my play, I generally try to avoid opening the TW TL areas for play. Even a 40 point play might not be worth opening up one of those areas, knowing that he could potentially score 50 or even more points by taking full advantage of the opening.

S’s are Precious. And so are BLANKs

The “S” and the BLANK are important tiles in the game. The “S” is important because it can be played at the end of so many words. If you have a word in your tray that contains an “S”, then you can place it at the end of a word that is already on the board, and play the remaining tiles for your word around it. Let’s say your opponent played COFFEE. In your tray you notice the word VEST. You could play VEST across one of the E’s in COFFEE, for a total of 8 points. I consider this to be wasting your S. If you look closer, you could put the S at the end of COFFEE and play the V, E and T around it, and score 24 points, with COFFEES and VEST! Mix in a few colored squares and you can easily clear 30 points.

Many people like to employ this strategy with the “Y” as well. I personally find that there aren’t nearly as many opportunities to use the “Y” in this way as there are for the “S”, so I generally treat the “Y” as just another letter. The BLANKS can work in the same way. Not only can you use them as an “S” to connect two words, but you can also use them as the missing link for a word you are working on in your tray. I’d say the BLANK is responsible for about 50% of all the Bingos I make. As a general rule of thumb, I try not to use an S or a BLANK unless they are directly responsible for scoring at least 30 points for me.

Swapping Tiles: All or Nothing

Swapping tiles is an art. Generally speaking, I swap tiles when there are no plays that I can make that will get me more than 15 or so points, and the letters in my tray don’t figure to offer any more help in the near future. Never try to swap tiles in order to create a word that you are trying to formulate in your tray. That will only lead to heartache, trust me. When I need to swap, I like to swap ALL 7 tiles, with a few exceptions: I never swap out the following letters:

S: See above
BLANK: See above
J, Q, X, and Z: these tiles are crucial in determining the winner. Never give them up if you have them. Giving them up gives your opponent a chance to use them with the colored squares for maximum value. I’d rather play one of those tiles on a blank square just to get rid of it before I see my opponent take advantage of it on the High-Dollar squares.
“ER” or “ED”: I’m a big fan of ER and ED. These combinations are very versatile in that they can be attached to the beginning or end of many 5 letter words, to make a Bingo. I would say that those two combinations are responsible for helping me with the other 50% of my Bingos.

Keep The Letters Moving

A high tile turnover rate is good for your tray. It increases the chance of getting J, Q, X and Z, and decreases your opponent’s chance of getting them and using them against you. If all other variables are equal (points, leave, etc.), play the bigger word over the smaller word if you have a choice.

Saving Letters Is Dangerous

It’s generally not a good idea to save letters while you wait on other letters to show up for a word. I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve never done it, but I do try and keep it at a minimum. Sometimes it is just too tempting. Obviously you have the best chances of a good score when you have all seven letters to choose from on each turn. For each letter that you hold back, you are potentially limiting your score for that play. If you do choose to save letters, try and keep it at a minimum, and if the letters you need don’t show up within 2 or 3 turns, cut your losses and stop waiting.

Further Reading on 2-Letter Words

It’s important to know the two-letter words because they can be used in a pinch, or as a connector to a much larger word. For reference, I’ve written an article that I like to call The Ultimate 2 Letter Words List 🙂 (updated in 2020).


Hopefully you found these Words With Friends tips useful. I’ll continue to make additions/changes to this document as my strategy and skill level evolves. Let me know if you disagree with anything I said, or if you find any errors.

Good Luck, and Happy Wording!

words with friends played on an iphone

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30 thoughts on “Words With Friends Tips and Strategy”

  1. In playing I spelled out DIXIE I tried to add an S but it came up invalid word. The S would have covered the triple word tile. I decided to go with DIXIE since it would block my friend from using the triple tile. I couldn’t believe it when she added a word starting with S. Why did it allow it ????

  2. Hi James, I get very frustrated with Words with Friends 2 when near the end of the game it advises 0 letters left. When in fact if you click on “more” bottom left corner and go to tile bag there are sometimes 5 – 7 letters left to play. Having these letters in the game could ultimately change the winner/loser ending. Do you know why this is so???? thanks Kathy

  3. I left a message, not sure if it got thru to you? I get very frustrated with the game when near the end it advises 0 letters left. When in fact if you look at the “more” bottom left corner and check “tile bag” there are 5-7 letters left that would make a big difference to the outcome of the game. Do you know why? Thanks Kathy

  4. I have some games…101 and 95 days old, i.e. the players gave up or just didn’t respond. How can I delete these old games?

  5. Is checking the tile bag cheating? I believe Scrabble tournament rules allow for taking notes and tracking what’s been played


  6. When playing a speed game: Sometimes the message say that you can play on ( then there’s a yellow circle) in order to beat your opponent. what does it mean and do you have to pay for the extra turn?

    Also when you want to trade in some letters, if you don’t have any left, do you have to pay for the extra turns to trade letters. Thanks.

  7. Pat G I don’t see those or a clock motif. What are these, they have a number with them. I do see a yellow head out a green bent cross thing against opponents pictures. What are these

  8. What are bonus tiles? Btw I just clicked on my profile and viewed achievements and saw stuff about levels and whole host of stuff I never knew about. What is a streak. Maybe streak of wins

  9. I think the yellow flames are the number is times you and that opponent have played a turn every day. Are are applicable to a game not a player. I haven’t seen a blue flame yet

  10. Thanks for the great tips. I am hoping I can use some of them to improve my game. Hopefully I won’t run into you as I play new opponents- you would make mincemeat of me!

  11. Just wanted to thank you David for some great advice. Found your blog when I first started playing and didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Helped me tremendously. Best advice I got …play defensively! Don’t leave that TW square just waiting for your opponent to pounce on it. Thanks again. Totally addicted.

  12. This was very nice but I still do not know what the other two icons are beside the letter swap. One is called hindsight????? what does that do? and the middle one makes the board green ?????? what does that do?

  13. How does an invalid word with “Words With Friends” get counted ? I am playing with some who is constantly making words that. Are not valid but are counted in the score. For example Ja is not valid but is counted in his score always. Many times they are high scoring eordsr. Thank you.

  14. I have an opponent that wins far more frequently than I do, regardless of how defensive I play. I have a two letter start, he for sure will find a 7 letter word to play. I don’t open the board he still scores high. It’s irritating because I have a very large vocabulary and I even memorized all the x z and j words but for some reason I always lose. What other tips do you have?

  15. I am wondering why I lost a game (only entered first word) and the next day my partner entered her word. I found I lost the game after a long delay in play (overnight). Is there a time limit on play? Lois Kaplan Glickman

    Also, noted the words “resigned” from one opponent on two games — though games not completed. Did they decide not to compete or run out of some timeline? Lois Kaplan Glickman

  16. I lost a game to someoneI play frequently, in the past games list, this game has the flame, I know this shows the games played streak, but now there is an exclamation point inside a yellow bubble next to the flame icon. What does that mean. Thanks


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