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  #1  
Old 10-29-2011, 11:02 AM
Jackknifed Juggernaut Jackknifed Juggernaut is offline
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Words With Friends and Cheating

For those unfamiliar with Words With Friends, it's basically a one-on-one version of Scrabble played via mobile phone. The big difference is that the two players play remotely, so there are many ways to cheat. Players can experiment with letter arrangements and the game will let you know if the combinations is a word or not. Thus, you end up with players using esoteric words that no one knew were actual words. The generally accepted ethical way to play is that a player is free to experiment with different letter combinations, as there is no time limit on your move, but not to use outside assistance (such as Scrabble Word Finder).

I have a strong suspicion that some of my friends are using outside help, mostly because I can never seem to come up with some of the crazy words that they use.

Of course there's no way to prove this. But I thought that there may be a way to at least determine that there is a high probability that they are cheating, based on the words and letters used. I remember reading about a study on how it was determined that some Chicago teachers were allowing students to cheat on their SAT's to improve their own ratings. In some cases, it was proven that they were even changing answers for the students after the exam was over.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to determine that there is a high probability that someone is cheating at Words With Friends?
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  #2  
Old 10-29-2011, 11:38 AM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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Under your generally accepted ethical way to play, players can experiment as much as they want, so they could just be trying more possible words than you, or be more thorough at trying out letter combinations that might be words. If you're only trying out combinations you think might be words, and they're trying out every combination that has the right ordering of consonants and vowels, they're going to be looking at a larger set of possible words, and will find those esoteric ones.

Since they could potentially try all combinations manually, you'd need to know how long they were working with their tiles for a move, to have an idea how many trials they could make manually.
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  #3  
Old 10-29-2011, 12:44 PM
shijinn shijinn is offline
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are you talking about words longer than 4 letters? because if you play scrabble long enough, it's natural to have a vocabulary of words you'll never use outside the game or even know it's meaning, especially the 2 and 3 letter words.
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  #4  
Old 10-29-2011, 12:54 PM
Jackknifed Juggernaut Jackknifed Juggernaut is offline
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I'm talking about words that are longer than 4 letters. Based on the letters already on the board and those that are played next, it seems that there ought to be a way to determine how optimal a player's of a scenario is. Usually there are many words available based on the setup, and if a player is consistently choosing the "perfect" word, and he has no idea what it means, then some sort of statistical analysis should be able to give some insight into the probability that he's cheating. Or maybe I'm just being a sore loser.
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  #5  
Old 10-29-2011, 01:00 PM
Clothahump Clothahump is offline
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I play WWF and I don't use outside sources. I have some people who beat me like a big drum and I have some people that I beat like a big drum. It evens out. On some days, I'll get a really nice group of letters and sock it to them. On other days, I wind up with all vowels or consonants and have to waste a turn drawing new tiles.
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  #6  
Old 10-29-2011, 05:03 PM
Rhiannon8404 Rhiannon8404 is offline
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I suspect a couple of my friends are using some outside help as well. Mostly I think this because I know them in real life and I know their vocabulary and education. It doesn't really bother me, though. I figure it probably makes their day to beat me at a word game.
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  #7  
Old 10-29-2011, 09:56 PM
RyJae RyJae is offline
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I play with friends, family and random. I did suspect my sister in law of using outside help or an outright cheat *cheats with friends app* but when I used her phone it was clean

About 1 outta 10 in random play I will resign and usually say something in the chat like this
"I can not compete with someone as smart as you, I mean come on words like ******** and ******** means I would have to be a dirty low life with no problems cheating on a free to play game to even come close to your abilities so I resign"

I usually put up with a few words like that because sometimes I can still manage to play well since they are all about big words. And sometimes a well places zit tl can do well.
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  #8  
Old 10-29-2011, 10:27 PM
Ogre Ogre is offline
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Get used to it, or ask your friends and come to a verbal understanding about it, if you trust them. It drives me nuts too, but using word finder cheats is endemic and ubiquitous in any online form of Scrabble or Boggle. There's basically no way to catch a cheater.
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  #9  
Old 10-29-2011, 10:50 PM
Invisible Chimp Invisible Chimp is offline
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When I first started playing my dad, we were pretty even. Now I beat him consistently. My brother used to kick my ass, but finally I can give him a game. When I passed my dad, he got upset when I got lucky with a word. When I first started playing my bro, I thought he might be cheating. It's just learning how to play more than anything.
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  #10  
Old 10-29-2011, 11:23 PM
Ogre Ogre is offline
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Originally Posted by Invisible Chimp View Post
When I first started playing my dad, we were pretty even. Now I beat him consistently. My brother used to kick my ass, but finally I can give him a game. When I passed my dad, he got upset when I got lucky with a word. When I first started playing my bro, I thought he might be cheating. It's just learning how to play more than anything.
Yeah, but even that can lead to cheating. When I was first playing with a friend of mine, he was coming out with some really insane words. Made me suspicious. I asked him if he was using a word finder, and he said, "Yeah. I figured you were doing it too, from some of the crazy words I see you play."

It's fine. We then both agreed we would never use them (I never would anyway. What would be the point?), and we always keep at least two concurrent games going.

Last edited by Ogre; 10-29-2011 at 11:23 PM..
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  #11  
Old 10-29-2011, 11:43 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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You can ask without making it accusatory. "Whoa, how'd you come up with that word?".
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  #12  
Old 10-29-2011, 11:53 PM
Taomist Taomist is offline
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I've come across new words while playing, and have certainly done the 'Hrm, is THIS a word? it sounds like a word' thing and gotten lucky. My vocabulary is all over the place, as I've been reading fiction for over 40 years now, of all types, starting quite young, so I use words that probably haven't been in general use for 50-100 years sometimes.

However...there are definitely games where there is just no way in hell the person isn't using a cheat. Just no way. One of two things happens in that scenario: either I laugh as I beat them anyway with better tile placement, or I give up and play nothing but two-letter words so that they beat me so badly that it's a waste of their time.
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  #13  
Old 10-29-2011, 11:59 PM
Ogre Ogre is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
You can ask without making it accusatory. "Whoa, how'd you come up with that word?".
ETA: response deleted.

Last edited by Ogre; 10-30-2011 at 12:00 AM..
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  #14  
Old 10-30-2011, 05:04 PM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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I wish you could make it so the game would accept any combination of letters, but the other player could choose to challenge it or not. It would do away with the "throw letters together and see what sticks" strategy, and would reintroduce the more subtle art of Scrabble bullshitting.

Plus it would make spelling count-- when I play with my partner in real life, we're just about evenly matched because she's a much better all around player, but I'm a better speller so I usually get her on one or two words per game, which can be decisive. When we play an online version, she always clobbers me since it won't accept her misspellings.
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  #15  
Old 10-30-2011, 06:02 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Yeah, a zyqxuwy is totally a kind of fish!
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  #16  
Old 10-30-2011, 07:32 PM
Shirley Ujest Shirley Ujest is offline
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Yeah, a zyqxuwy is totally a kind of fish!
Yer whooshing me, ain't cha.

Last edited by Shirley Ujest; 10-30-2011 at 07:32 PM..
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  #17  
Old 10-30-2011, 10:03 PM
Edward The Head Edward The Head is offline
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I know I have one friend who will just randomly put together letters until he gets a good word that gives him the biggest points he can get. It gets old after awhile to get killed 450-200.

My brother also told me that he uses a Scrabble dictionary. He said we were allowed to and that explains how he got some really strange words.

There have been a few times when I've used an online word finder if I can't figure anything out. Even then I've had times where I can hardly make a word.

If anyone wants to play so they can boost their ego let me know.
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  #18  
Old 01-29-2012, 01:31 PM
Yorikke Yorikke is offline
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[runnerpat]reported[/runnerpat]
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  #19  
Old 01-29-2012, 01:59 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Yeah, a zyqxuwy is totally a kind of fish!
If I was an entomologist and got to name new species it would be fun to name bugs based on how high a score you could get with it.
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  #20  
Old 01-29-2012, 02:15 PM
Loach Loach is online now
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Yeah there are apps out there that will give you the words. I have one friend who is decently educated by can't write a facebook post without misspelling ten words. She crushes me in very suspicious ways.

I have another friend who played me once but never again. I hit with one word for 135 points. I was just lucky. Never came close to scoring that much again but I think she didn't trust me after that.
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  #21  
Old 01-29-2012, 03:26 PM
interface2x interface2x is offline
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There was one girl I grew up with that I used to play with. I would annihilate her repeatedly, regularly outscoring her 400-150. Then one game she started out with three bingos in a row (really obscure words like scientific terms and the like) - it was clear she'd found a nice cheat program. I think I played one or two more games and then just let it lapse and never played her again. If you're going to cheat, at least try to make your improvement look natural.
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  #22  
Old 01-29-2012, 03:30 PM
Antinor01 Antinor01 is offline
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I will admit to having used a word finder once. But in my defense, I had 4 I's and 2 O's on my board.
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  #23  
Old 01-29-2012, 03:34 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is offline
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I don't use any word finders. But I love to play, feel free to start a game with me at any time. dalej42 is my name on WWF as well.
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  #24  
Old 01-29-2012, 04:46 PM
Do Not Taunt Do Not Taunt is offline
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I don't use any word finders. But I love to play, feel free to start a game with me at any time. dalej42 is my name on WWF as well.
Challenging you now. I'm probably a decent 'living room player', but probably terrible by competitive standards. We'll see..
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  #25  
Old 01-29-2012, 05:02 PM
Alice The Goon Alice The Goon is offline
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I don't use any word finders. But I love to play, feel free to start a game with me at any time. dalej42 is my name on WWF as well.
I play a couple of Dopers, one kills me every time. I challenge you to a duel, sir! I don't use word finders, either. (and it shows)
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  #26  
Old 01-29-2012, 06:05 PM
notfrommensa notfrommensa is online now
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I just started playing with a few friends and relatives.

I used to play scrabble online, and I got to know all three letter words and vowel dumps. like aerie. I know one gal is using some sort of outside help but my record against her is like 12-2 in my favor.

They are starting learn that the key to scrabble and WWF is (generally) playing parallel to the words, not perpendicular to the words.
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  #27  
Old 01-29-2012, 07:40 PM
Hal Briston Hal Briston is offline
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It happens. I had a friend who would routinely kick my ass (and I'm no slouch at the game). One we were together and we played a live, head-to-head game. Suddenly he was struggling to put "cat" on the board. Dude...busted.
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  #28  
Old 01-29-2012, 11:15 PM
jackdavinci jackdavinci is offline
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I generally don't cheat, and I wipe out some of my opponents and am wiped out by others. But I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Even if the other person is consistently cheating and soundly beating me, the game is still fun. Nothing the other person can do will make the challenge of getting a good score from my tiles on my turn any less fun.

Plenty of people play solitaire versions of two+ player games against a computer opponent and don't complain about it "cheating".

What I think is worse is when someone forfeits because they do t think they can win. So what? Each turn is still fun. Do you really only enjoy the two seconds at the end of the game when your tally is highest?

Last edited by jackdavinci; 01-29-2012 at 11:18 PM..
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  #29  
Old 01-30-2012, 10:11 AM
borschevsky borschevsky is offline
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What I think is worse is when someone forfeits because they do t think they can win. So what? Each turn is still fun. Do you really only enjoy the two seconds at the end of the game when your tally is highest?
It's funny how different games have different etiquette for this kind of thing. In chess, it's generally considered bad etiquette to continue playing in a hopeless position. Although one difference with Scrabble is that in some cases the margin of victory is important, IIRC.

The Scrabble iPhone app has the same problem, where you can simply try different plays, and the game just tells you if your play is illegal. It also has a "teacher" function, where after your turn, the teacher will show you a high-value play you could have made. The problem with this is that often that play is still available on your next turn as well.

I agree with the suggestion above that there should be an option to play with more traditional rules, where invalid plays are allowed and can be challenged by the other player.
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  #30  
Old 01-30-2012, 10:21 AM
Enderw24 Enderw24 is online now
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I just wish there was a record keeping function. How many games have I played? How many have I won? How many have I won against this opponent? I can't believe it's not available. Why is there no record keeping!
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Old 01-30-2012, 10:25 AM
steronz steronz is online now
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I just wish there was a record keeping function. How many games have I played? How many have I won? How many have I won against this opponent? I can't believe it's not available. Why is there no record keeping!
This, plus they should give everyone ratings like in chess. I had to stop requesting random opponents because it's not fun playing someone with no vocabulary and no concept of strategy. A simple rating system would solve that problem and be no trouble at all to implement.
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  #32  
Old 01-30-2012, 10:59 AM
Skywatcher Skywatcher is online now
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Yeah, a zyqxuwy is totally a kind of fish!
91 points on "zones"?? Where did that come from?
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  #33  
Old 01-30-2012, 11:26 AM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is online now
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I guess you could just ask what the hell that word is and see if their answer is a dictionary definition, a personally-worded definition or an hones admission that they were just trying letter combinations.

I've been asked that few times and my answer has mostly been to say how I know the word or that I was just trying something that looked like it could be a word. But I even got asked this about the word 'het.' You know, like in 'het up.' That's not that weird a word. And you do tend to know the 2-letter words just by playing a lot.

WWF doesn't allow "po," though. A po is a bedpan - it's an ordinary word. At least it is in the UK, and we're using the "international" dictionary, not US. Why don't they include it?

Mostly I play on my phone while walking the dogs. Cheating would be far too much effort. What's the point, anyway? "My cheat programme is better than yours?"

I noticed today that WWF has some paying options where it'll tell you what tiles are left over and give some other hints of words to use. That seems like cheating to me too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by borschevsky View Post
I agree with the suggestion above that there should be an option to play with more traditional rules, where invalid plays are allowed and can be challenged by the other player.
There was an online Scrabble game I used to play - I think it was Scrabulizer - that did have this as an option. It is a good idea.

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Originally Posted by Enderw24 View Post
I just wish there was a record keeping function. How many games have I played? How many have I won? How many have I won against this opponent? I can't believe it's not available. Why is there no record keeping!
That is odd; you wouldn't think it'd be difficult to do.
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  #34  
Old 01-30-2012, 11:40 AM
Shark Sandwich Shark Sandwich is offline
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I play, and one thing a few of my friends and I started doing was creating a "theme" for the game. For example, when starting one game with a friend, I started with the word "martini" and sent him a message that said "Only words that had to do with drinking." So gin, beer, vomit, binge, etc. gets played. Then we get to have a hilarious discussion later about how "burrito" is a drinking word. His response was, "that's my favorite drunk food." I had no rebuttal.
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  #35  
Old 01-30-2012, 12:03 PM
Hal Briston Hal Briston is offline
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Originally Posted by SciFiSam View Post
I noticed today that WWF has some paying options where it'll tell you what tiles are left over...
Not cheating -- just a time-saver. There are plenty of times where I think to myself "I'll be able to make a great word if I can pull a 'D'...wait [counts all the 'D's on the board], damn, none left". No different than counting the tiles in a live game of Scrabble. This just make it easier to tell if there are any left or not.

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...and give some other hints of words to use.
That is cheating.
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  #36  
Old 01-30-2012, 12:31 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Judge John Hodgman has addressed the issue of what constitutes cheating in online Scrabble-like word games.
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  #37  
Old 01-30-2012, 12:37 PM
Gangster Octopus Gangster Octopus is offline
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It isn't just about the words, of course, but how you play. I have played a lot of scrabble in my day and it is obvious when I am playing someone who is not aware of the strategic aspects, like setting up TW for me or not taking it away when possible (some folks think the best play is just the highest scoring word each round). When I first met my wife we would play and I would put low scoring words on Triple word scores and I would purposely avoid giving openings as best as I could. She wasn't used to this and she called it dirty scrabble (which could have a totally different meaning, of course). But I told her it was strategic and now she regularly beats me playing "dirty" scrabble.
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Old 01-30-2012, 01:18 PM
Švejk Švejk is offline
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Originally Posted by borschevsky View Post
It's funny how different games have different etiquette for this kind of thing. In chess, it's generally considered bad etiquette to continue playing in a hopeless position. Although one difference with Scrabble is that in some cases the margin of victory is important, IIRC.
The difference is huge. In chess, what you can do is affected entirely by all the preceding moves you and your opponent played. There is no element of chance, other than the toss determining who is white. In scrabble, on the other hand, every next move is essentially a new game with at least some letters. Just because someone else is killing it and all you have played so far is crap, does not mean that you cannot come back on a next turn, or that the other players luck might not change. So the challenge is continuous and just because you are way down and winning the game is impossible, you might still be able to play a great move. This is not the case in chess, where you can predict several moves in advance what is going to happen, and you can also predict that the game is going nowhere for you or for your opponent. This means it makes sense for people to just give up when their position is terrible. For scrabble, there is relatively little strategizing and you cannot really look moves ahead because you have too little information - but that also means that the game can turn more easily without either of the players making mistakes, and that even when you're down, the next moves can still be a good fun challenge to play.
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  #39  
Old 01-30-2012, 01:24 PM
Hal Briston Hal Briston is offline
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While we're on the topic of WWF, I just got this rack and I can't quite piece together what might be there...
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  #40  
Old 01-30-2012, 01:33 PM
MadTheSwine MadTheSwine is offline
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While we're on the topic of WWF, I just got this rack and I can't quite piece together what might be there...
If you only had an A you could play drytuna.

Last edited by MadTheSwine; 01-30-2012 at 01:34 PM..
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  #41  
Old 01-30-2012, 01:36 PM
Hal Briston Hal Briston is offline
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And naturally I thought of you all when my rack was NOBAAAS.
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  #42  
Old 01-30-2012, 06:17 PM
Yorikke Yorikke is offline
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Of course, this XKCD comic can't be missed...

Joe

Last edited by Yorikke; 01-30-2012 at 06:17 PM..
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  #43  
Old 01-30-2012, 07:38 PM
Wingsnuut Wingsnuut is offline
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It isn't just about the words, of course, but how you play. I have played a lot of scrabble in my day and it is obvious when I am playing someone who is not aware of the strategic aspects, like setting up TW for me or not taking it away when possible (some folks think the best play is just the highest scoring word each round). When I first met my wife we would play and I would put low scoring words on Triple word scores and I would purposely avoid giving openings as best as I could. She wasn't used to this and she called it dirty scrabble (which could have a totally different meaning, of course). But I told her it was strategic and now she regularly beats me playing "dirty" scrabble.
This is exactly what I was going to post (except for the wife part. I have yet to play with Gangster Octopus' wife).

Up to about a year ago, I was playing with high level opponents and I would occasionally play against a "wordsmith" who had no clue when it came to strategy. I continued to play knowing that my small concise words were usually more valuable in the long run than "sequela" or "bezants". Why bother accusing someone, especially when you can't be 100% sure.

One piece of advice I've given to new players was to try to limit their words to four letters. I'd direct them to a website which listed all the 2 and 3 letter words used in WWF. Over time, they'd also learn the strategic points of the game, and that would put them way ahead of the majority of "cheaters"
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  #44  
Old 01-31-2012, 10:40 AM
Zeriel Zeriel is offline
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Originally Posted by Hal Briston View Post
It happens. I had a friend who would routinely kick my ass (and I'm no slouch at the game). One we were together and we played a live, head-to-head game. Suddenly he was struggling to put "cat" on the board. Dude...busted.
This is how I caught a guy I used to play with. His total game score would literally double when playing on WWF instead of a real board--I know the double/triple score locations in WWF are somewhat better in terms of encouraging a high-scoring game but it was just too obviously ridiculous.

I made a generic facebook post ("SOMEONE that I play WWF with is a dirty, dirty cheater.")...and of the dozen or so folks I played with, he's the only one who immediately stopped playing.
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  #45  
Old 01-31-2012, 11:42 AM
Zulema Zulema is offline
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I get some crazy words a lot with trial and error which really isn't that fair that you can just do that forever but I don't think WWF would be improved by having to challenge. A couple of times I've had a regular word and I'll stick on the leftover letters as a prefix or suffix and have it turn out to be legal. I have a few people I beat all the time and I'm not cheating so I don't know if they're just not trying, not making sure to use the bonus squares or what. I feel like they think I'm cheating.

Last edited by Zulema; 01-31-2012 at 11:43 AM..
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  #46  
Old 01-31-2012, 05:05 PM
Cubsfan Cubsfan is offline
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Dude just played "liroth" on me. He's not cheating.
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  #47  
Old 02-01-2012, 12:48 AM
BetsQ BetsQ is offline
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I don't see the fun in cheating. However, I do enjoy the ability to try out stuff that kinda sounds like it might be a word. I've learned some interesting new words that way. I'm kind of obvious about it, though, as I usually can't resist texting my opponent with something along the lines of, "Can you believe that went through? Who knew that was a word??"

Frankly, I'm still not convinced that "za" is really a word, but that doesn't stop me from using it as often as possible.
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  #48  
Old 02-01-2012, 09:22 AM
Hal Briston Hal Briston is offline
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Dude just played "liroth" on me. He's not cheating.
I thought you couldn't use proper nouns? Isn't that the last name of that Van Halen singer guy?

Last edited by Hal Briston; 02-01-2012 at 09:23 AM.. Reason: No, I'm not being serious.
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  #49  
Old 02-09-2013, 11:15 AM
wordskill wordskill is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2013
I agree with BetsQ. It's not really cheating to try things because in the virtual games, you have no chance to bluff or challenge. We have a game similar to WWF called Word Skill, in which you can find out the highest potential score before your move. It's fun to try to figure out where the word must go on the board to get that score. I wrote an article titled Word Play, Math, Cheating, and Having a Tail (or Not) that discusses this strategy and whether or not it amounts to cheating.

Ultimately, I think it depends on the expectations of the people playing. Make your own rules as long as you both agree to them.
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  #50  
Old 02-10-2013, 06:25 PM
InsomniaMama InsomniaMama is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2012
I wish there were a way to suggest corrections to the dictionary used. How is "dane" not a word? A person from Denmark.
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