Playing Hangman wrong


Hangman is such a simple game yet fun.

I never realized I had been playing Hangman wrong all these years.

Not playing it wrong in the sense that I didn’t follow the rules – guessing a letter, marking it off the list, and adding it to the word if correct or placing a body part on the board if incorrect. But playing it wrong in how to go about guessing the letters for the words.

Well, apparently there’s a better way to accomplish the objective of guessing the word/phrase before the 11 moves are up.

Of course, I didn’t realize it until I came across this article on the efficient way to win at Hangman by Nick Berry on lifehacker.

He first outlines how we all typically start out playing Hangman:

As a young person, when you first started to play the game, you probably called out random letters. Once you got a hit of a couple of letters, it helped you narrow down the solution. Next, you probably graduated to calling vowels first, having learned that (just about*) all words contain at least one vowel (or the letter ‘Y’).
Next, you probably graduated to learning that not all letters are used equally. It’s rare that the letter ‘Q’ appears in a word, whereas ‘T’ is used a lot more often. Once you get just a couple of letters of in a hangman puzzle, the game becomes easier. The solution set is drastically reduced, and skills like pattern matching and word knowledge become important. It’s crucial to get that first letter in the puzzle as soon as possible. Which letter should you guess first?

But then he takes the reader on the journey of discovery of how to master Hangman which involves letter frequency in words in the English language, probability estimates, and letter distributions based on length of words. Should I note that Nick was educated as a Rocket Scientist?

It’s very fascinating read and I’d highly suggest you check it out. He even provides the order of letters for you to call out based on the length of the word to get you started. But you won’t find the total solution in the article because, as he says,

“Once we’ve hit a letter or two, however, things get too complex to display in table format. e.g. “Show me the next best letter to guess for eight letter words that have do not have an ‘E’ or ‘I’, but have an ‘A’ and a ‘T’!” We’d have a stack of tables reaching up to the ceiling for all combinations of letters present or not, and their positions!”

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth giving it a shot. After all, it’s not rocket science.

Read “A Better Strategy for Hangman” by Nick Berry.


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Thanks so much for this fun little article.




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