Ida Shapiro took up Scrabble as a hobby because she didn’t want to play bridge.
Too many rules, the 73-year-old New Yorker says.
But she had a hidden agenda: Love.
Twenty years later, she’s still searching for that special man. But she’s found a special game and an extended family in her Scrabble club. They’ve traveled the world together, visited 13 countries just to play Scrabble.
“People ask me if I’ve won any money playing Scrabble. I have, $1,700. But I tell them I’ve spent about $100,000 to win it,” she jokes.
Last week, they came to Las Vegas to continue the game, participating in the National Scrabble Championships at the Riviera. Play ended Wednesday .
Shapiro was one of more than 500 Scrabble fanatics who participated in the annual championship, sponsored by Hasbro. Some lucky winner was awarded $10,000.
The game has wide appeal and attracts people of all ages, from all walks of life. Indeed, that was obvious just scanning the sea of humanity gathered at the Riviera Convention Center. Lifelong friendships have been forged among players. Some have even met spouses, so Shapiro remains optimistic.
“I figured it was a social game, I might meet somebody,” Shapiro says of her motivation to play Scrabble all those years ago.
She’s not a great player but she loves to play. She’s an avid reader and has a good vocabulary. It helps to have strong spatial skills so you can unscramble the letters. And it’s important to be good at math, too.
A teacher for 28 years, Shapiro is still going strong in the classroom, teaching 3- and 4-year-olds.
“They have lots of love to give. Lots of hugs and kisses,” she says with a wistful smile.
For five days, she sat at a table, playing seven games of Scrabble each day. A game lasts 50 minutes.
She had no illusions of winning; her average score is 350. Strong players average 100 points more.
Shapiro was happy to simply stroll around during breaks and watch the kids play. And if she could find someone to talk to? Even better.
“It’s nice to sit across the table from someone and have a conversation,” she says. “It’s nice not to be alone.”
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.