Like many of Wordle’s thousands of players, Bill Gates is addicted to the daily online word game.
In a blog post on Tuesday, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder wrote that he and a group of friends play the game — and several of its variations, like Quordle and Nerdle — daily to compare scores. The billionaire also shared his strategy for guessing the answer in four turns or less.
“If you’ve played Wordle, you know how important it is to make your first guess strategically,” Gates wrote. “I like to start with a word that contains lots of vowels, like AUDIO or OUNCE.”
The New York Times, which bought Wordle in January in a seven-figure deal, recommended a similar game plan in February: Three of the five letters in your starting word should be vowels, regardless of whether or not you use the same starting word each day.
More recently, WordleBot — a New York Times AI bot that analyzes your Wordle strategy— says the best opening guesses are SLATE, CRANE, TRACE, SLANT, CRATE AND CARTE.
Gates’ tips go further than the Times’ recommendations. For his opening word, he specifically finds two vowels to put “in second and fourth positions, like in CAGED.” His second-line strategy then includes commonly paired consonants, like C and H, and S and L.
The billionaire wrote that he starts each day with a new word. That likely reflects his cognitive style, according to neuroscientists — who say how we play games can reflect our personalities, backgrounds, history and tendencies.
“Someone who is reflective and considered when they do Wordle [is] also more likely to take this approach to life more generally,” Catherine Loveday, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Westminster, told Newsweek in February. “Someone who makes very snap decisions in Wordle may tend to do this more in real life — going with their gut and instinct and maybe taking more risks but being quicker and using more heuristics.”
Gates’ tactical, somewhat risky game approach could parallel his career path. He dropped out of Harvard University in 1975 to launch Microsoft, and eventually left Microsoft in 2008 to work full-time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation has contributed billions of dollars to initiatives like vaccine research and disease eradication.
“Whether we invest $100,000 or $100 million, the decision is always calculated,” he wrote in a September 2019 blog post, explaining how he evaluates risks. “I spend a lot of time thinking, analyzing data and talking to experts to judge whether we can really make a difference.”
Whether you agonize over the first word or start with the same tried and true letters, Gates has another method for getting better at the game: practice. Official Wordle puzzles are only released once a day, but Gates said he finds himself wasting time on Quordle (where you guess four words simultaneously), Octordle (eight words) and Nerdle (where you input math equations) and their unlimited practice rounds.
“I’m the kind of person who will play an addictive game over and over if I give myself the chance,” he wrote.
There’s a cognitive reason for that: Wordle perfectly fulfills the “ABC of human needs,” Douglas Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, told CNBC Make It in February.
“A is autonomy. We want to feel like we’re in control of our lives, B is belongingness. We want to feel like we’re connected to other people,” Gentile said. “And the C is competence. We like feeling [we’re] good at something.”