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Bowling Scoring

How to Score a Game of Bowling

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Bowling Scores
Erik Rank / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Most bowling alleys are equipped with machines that take care of the scoring for you, but you should still know how the bowling scoring system works. Otherwise, the scores the machine gives you will seem arbitrary and confusing.

Bowling-Scoring Basics
One game of bowling consists of 10 frames, with a minimum score of zero and a maximum of 300. Each frame consists of two chances to knock down ten pins. Instead of “points” in football or “runs” in baseball, we use “pins” in bowling.

Strikes and Spares
Knocking down all ten pins on your first ball is called a strike, denoted by an X on the score sheet. If it takes two shots to knock down all ten pins, it’s called a spare, denoted by a /.

Open Frames
If, after two shots, at least one pin is still standing, it’s called an open frame. Whereas open frames are taken at face value, strikes and spares can be worth more—but not less—than face value.

How to Score a Strike
A strike is worth 10, plus the value of your next two rolls.

At minimum, your score for a frame in which you throw a strike will be 10 (10+0+0). At best, your next two shots will be strikes, and the frame will be worth 30 (10+10+10).

Say you throw a strike in the first frame. Technically, you don't have a score yet. You need to throw two more balls to figure out your total score for the frame. In the second frame, you throw a 6 on your first ball and a 2 on your second ball. Your score for the first frame will be 18 (10+6+2).

How to Score a Spare
A spare is worth 10, plus the value of your next roll.

Say you throw a spare in your first frame. Then, in your first ball of the second frame, you throw a 7. Your score for the first frame will be 17 (10+7).

The maximum score for a frame in which you get a spare is 20 (a spare followed by a strike), and the minimum is 10 (a spare followed by a gutter ball).

How to Score an Open Frame
If you don't get a strike or a spare in a frame, your score is the total number of pins you knock down. If you knock down five pins on your first ball and two on your second, your score for that frame is 7.

Putting Everything Together
Many people understand the basics but get confused when trying to add everything up. Your total score is nothing more than the sum of each individual frame. If you treat each frame individually, it's much easier to comprehend the scoring system.

Breaking Down a Sample Score

Frame: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Result: X 7/ 7 2 9/ X X X 2 3 6/ 7/3
Frame Score: 20 17 9 20 30 22 15 5 17 13
Running Total: 20 37 46 66 96 118 133 138 155 168


Next page: This sample bowling score, broken down frame-by-frame.
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