Butts and trademarked in 1948, inspires a glow of enthusiasm in the
verbose and groans of exasperation in the less lingually minded.
The dedicated few who gather at the cafe tables at Borders in
Costa Mesa come from around the Orange County area, and most of them
started out playing friendly games. But going from playing at home to
playing in clubs and tournaments is like getting into organized crime
-- once you start, you can never go back.
The boards they use are custom-made, with a grid of recessed
squares (so the letters don't slide around) and bases like Lazy
Susans. The games are timed, with each player getting 25 minutes.
Like in chess games, once a player finishes, he or she hits the timer
to start the opponent's clock.
Everyone keeps the opponent's score as well as his or her own, and
some use customized score sheets to mark off the tiles as they're
played and keep track of left in the letter bag.
"Even though we're playing a word game, the best players are
mathematicians or people who are good at math because they look at
the probabilities of what can be played," said Gary Moss, who runs
the Costa Mesa club.
His club's players span a range of age groups and include
students, teachers, accountants, doctors and retirees.
Everyone's got some sort of story about how he or she began
"I'm worse than I ever was," said Penny Baker, modestly summing up
her 30 years of play.
She lives in Leisure World and runs a Tuesday night Scrabble club
in Huntington Beach.
"I'm not a heavy player. I have a little bit of dyslexia, so
that's why I took up Scrabble, and it's helped me tremendously."
Others, such as Pat Kovalcheck of Costa Mesa, started at a young
age and turned to clubs when they exhausted the family's capacity to
be good sports.
Kovalcheck learned the game from her mother. After her mother
died, her husband and sons bought her the game for her computer.
"Then one day my computer broke and I couldn't play my nightly
game, so I called the number on the box and asked them, 'Is there