This past weekend, I saw a giant game of Jenga at MIT. Literally. The blocks were nearly 2x4s, and the structure was taller than I am. While I did not stay to watch, it is interesting to think about a few of the different strategies that I remember from my childhood days. First of all, I used to believe that the faster you pulled the object out, the less chance a collapse would occur. While I'm not sure of my logic behind this reasoning, I most likely imagined that hopefully the structure just wouldn't have time to collapse if I pulled it fast enough (Yeah, I know). However, after the block is removed, whether quick or slow, the structure will still have the exact same properties regardless of speed. Another theory may be to reduce friction, but it is important to note that the frictional force does not rely on velocity, it relies on the normal force. The one factor that does effect the result of the turn is how straight you are able to pull the block out. By pulling the block straight out, you are minimizing the normal force, but if you tilt to one side or another, you are increasing the normal force and creating a larger frictional force.
Another concept of the game Jenga is torque. Since torque is F x r and the r in most jenga games is relatively small, the structure can often withstand the removal of blocks that may have seemed impossible. The middle block is at the center of the fulcrum, so the r would be 0, allowing players to theoretically remove all of the outside blocks while keeping a cross pattern in the middle. This is much easier said than done due to the friction caused by uneven pulls (an even perfect pulls as the wood has a large surface area) and the fact that even a small breeze can cause enough torque in the other direction to knock the tower down. A horizontal breeze may have a small force, but since the center point is technically the ground in this plane, the r would be as tall as the tower.
Hopefully, the physics of Jenga could help people improve their gameplay, but to be honest, isn't the best part watching it all fall?