A strike pot could be contested in any number of ways, but the most important aspects are:
- A pool (pot) of money.
- A contest that requires someone to bowl a strike.
This is one of many ways small-time gambling infiltrates bowling leagues around the world. As a bowler, you pay a nominal fee to get into the contest, and then if you win, you have the chance to bowl a strike. If you succeed, you get the money. Rules vary from league to league, but that's the gist.
A Common Strike Pot
A lot of leagues run the strike pot like a raffle. During the first game of the night, someone will walk around selling tickets to anyone who is interested in getting in on the action. Tickets are usually cheap, as in a dollar each (or five for $3, or 10 for $5, etc.), and a lot of bowlers will not only partake, but will spend a lot of money trying to get into this raffle.
Then, once everyone's had a chance to buy tickets, a random drawing is held. One ticket is pulled, and if that belongs to you, you've won the drawing. However, you haven't yet won the money.
Your next frame is going to be important. It doesn't matter what your score is at the moment, when you're up or what else is going on. If your next shot is a strike, you win the money in the strike pot. If it's not a strike, you'll typically be given nothing, or in some cases, a dollar for every pin you knock down.
The Pot Grows
When someone fails to strike, the money will be left in the pot and go toward next week's drawing. After a few weeks of no winners, you'll see bowlers shelling out more money on strike tickets than on groceries. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. The pots can get large.
Why Do This?
As with anything during a bowling league, strike pots are done for fun. It gives the bowlers a chance to win a little cash and also an excuse to be loud and obnoxious, attempting to distract the drawing winner during his or her shot.
Not everyone enters the drawing, and you definitely shouldn't feel pressure to do so. For those who play, it's a lot of fun. For those who don't, it's a lot of fun watching those who do (especially if you're fortunate enough to be in a league with a guy who seemingly only shows up to participate in the strike pot and doesn't care about anything else).
What Happens to the Money at the End of the Season?
If no one wins the strike pot during the last week of league play, obviously there's money left. At this point, depending on the decree of the league secretary, bowlers will either have a chance to buy more tickets, or the secretary will simply draw tickets until someone finally strikes and takes home the last of the strike-pot money.